Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

New Zealand v Pakistan, ICC Champions Trophy, 2nd semi-final, Johannesburg

Sanitised but entertaining

An English fan sports an Austrian cricket cap and Hong Kong rugby shirt while supporting New Zealand

Michael Bailey

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Ross Taylor catches Imran Nazir, New Zealand v Pakistan, ICC Champions Trophy, 2nd semi-final, Johannesburg, October 3, 2009
Rossco's career falls into place © AFP
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Players/Officials: Ross Taylor
Series/Tournaments: ICC Champions Trophy

Choice of game
This game fit my travel plans and the decision to watch it was based on my optimism that I would get to watch England - which was on course until their implosion against New Zealand on Tuesday, a result I found out from the Namib Desert, where I was. Going into the match I was hoping for a New Zealand victory.

Team supported
I think New Zealand play well as a team and there are not so many big egos in the side. For me there was added interest to see how Ross Taylor has developed as an international player. I first saw him play when he was in an MCC team that toured Europe in 2002. And when he had just broken into the New Zealand team in a Test in Centurion in 2007, where he gave his wicket away with a soft run-out.

Key performer
Grant Elliott rode his luck to a match-winning 75 not out. The chance that Younis Khan put down would have seen him dismissed for 42. His 75 and partnership with Daniel Vettori were definitely match-changing.

One thing I would have changed about the match
I would have liked to have seen either Brendon McCullum or Shahid Afridi have a big knock. McCullum got a start but fell very early. Alternatively, I'd have left Naved-ul-Hasan out of the Pakistan side - his bowling at the death was little short of profligate.

Face-off I relished
I had hoped to see a contest between fast bowlers Shane Bond and Mohammad Asif, but with Asif not playing, his understudy, Mohammad Aamer, had a chance to shine. And he did that by visibly outperforming both Bond and Naved.

Accessories
I had my camera with zoom lenses as well as a pair of binoculars. And thanks to the catering in the box I was in, the viewing was greatly enhanced - we toasted the winning runs with some ruby port.

Wow moment
Taylor's slip catch inches off the ground to remove Shoaib Malik off the bowling of Ian Butler - it was one of two very good catches he took.

Player watch
Ian Butler received a fair amount of barracking from the Pakistani supporters down in front of me, especially after his first over had gone for 13. They were less vociferous when he took his four wickets.

Shot of the day
McCullum hitting the second ball of the New Zealand innings for six was the shot of the day for me, ahead of Taylor's giant six out of the ground off Afridi.

Crowd meter
The crowd went wild over every Pakistan boundary but was less gracious when New Zealand started to up the rate towards the end of the game. They started leaving after Rana's erratic over during the batting Powerplay. The crowd had filled up after the start, so the first tier of all stands was relatively full as the game moved on. The upper decks, however, were less populated. The atmosphere was slightly flat and sanitised. A few hand-written "Boom Boom Afridi" banners were pretty much the only banners on display, many preferring to show their support with sponsors' cards. One Mexican wave did go three or four times around the ground, but there was no electric atmosphere.

Fancy-dress index
I think me turning up in a Austrian cricket cap and Hong Kong rugby shirt was about as exotic as it got.

Entertainment
In the innings break some supporters were picked to play a game with cash rewards for throwing down the stumps from various distances. The music from the PA system was the usual eclectic blend, although I still have to work out the logical reason for playing "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga at a cricket match. And of course there were the local dancers, who performed to the beat of the drums for most wickets and boundariess.

ODI v Twenty20
I still prefer the ODI format. The game ebbs and flows more and I feel there is a slightly more even contest between bat and ball. Although scoring rates are rising across the board in cricket, I still prefer to see the tactical nous of the captain come through in his ability to contain the chasing side. For me a low-scoring affair, with the team batting first preventing the team chasing from reaching their target, is one of the most exhilarating contests in cricket. Both formats have a role to play - in particular in the development and expansion of the game - but ultimately the balance between ball and bat needs to be preserved.

Overall
In terms of the quality of the cricket, the fielding performance of the Pakistani side was a slight letdown. Several regulation misses at attempted run-outs, and a regulation catch dropped. Some bowlers looked tired at the end of a long season. The top-order batsmen did not control the match, but fortunately the middle orders of both teams took charge.

Pakistan fans were out in strength, New Zealand v Pakistan, ICC Champions Trophy, 2nd semi-final, Johannesburg, October 3, 2009
Where's the Kiwi support? © AFP
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Marks out of 10 7. While the cricket was solid and the game ebbed and flowed nicely, the experience of the match was not one that will live permanently in my memory. It was a bit flat. Since the game was on free-to-air television, the crowd was smaller than it should have been.

The purpose of the Champions Trophy
It is sad that the Champions Trophy has abandoned its original goal - of bringing top-level cricket to an Associate Member of the ICC - and sadder still that licensed merchandise is not locally produced, and that many of the games are poorly attended. I was particularly disappointed to see that the licensed merchandise was manufactured in China, when the local textile industry could have gained from the event. Once again, anti-ambush marketing measures were visible, although it was good to see that vendors wandering through the stands were still allowed to do so.

Keen on writing on the Champions League for Cricinfo? Find out more here.

Michael was born in Somerset during the county's halcyon era of Richards, Botham and Garner, and settled in Austria in 2000 after studying at St Andrews University (Scotland). He was secretary and later chairman of the Austrian Cricket Association and a board member of ICC Europe between 2002 and 2008. He watches cricket around the world when not watching, scoring or playing in Austria.

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