Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Twenty20, Christchurch

Shouting for Southee

Put over 25,000 Christchurchers in a stadium for New Zealand v Australia and what do you get?

Zac Neill

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Brendon McCullum scoops again, New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Twenty20 international, Christchurch, February 28, 2010
"I'll have a scoop of that": McCullum goes all Dilshan © Getty Images
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The game
As Christchurch was only blessed with two internationals this season, not much was going to stop me getting to the ground to see this one. I was predicting an Australia win after they overpowered New Zealand in the first Twenty20.

Team supported
Being a born and bred Kiwi, and the fact that the opposition was the team most hated in all of New Zealand, I was rooting for the Blackcaps well and truly. But having said that, I wanted a good contest. And heck, I got one.

Favourite player
Mr New Zealand Cricket, also known as Dan Vettori, was the player I wanted to stand out most in this match. As a fellow legspinner, I was also excited to see Steve Smith live in action.

Key performers
One of the focal points after most games is who got the Man of the Match award and who deserved it. Today's was clear cut. Brendon McCullum was arguably the best on the ground not only for his magnificent 56-ball 116, but for his athleticism in the field. What was most impressive about his innings was how he paced it. It took him a hard-fought 33 balls to get to his 50. But when he went aggressive, he didn't go back. The crowd were chanting his name for the next 17 deliveries he faced, which took him to his hundred.

Not to be forgotten are two other men who had a big say. Firstly, Tim Southee for his death-bowling efforts and his catch to remove David Warner, and secondly Cameron White for his monstrous 50 off only 21 balls.

One thing I'd have changed
Warner's dismissal. I think that supporters of any team want to see this guy really get going. Unfortunately for him and Australia, he only showed a brief glimpse of what he is capable of before being dismissed.

Wow moments
The first was McCullum's ridiculous scoop-and-roll for six. His most effective use of the shot was one where he picked an almost yorker-length ball from Shaun Tait and deposited it almost straight over the despairing Brad Haddin's head for six. It left me and my mates wondering why anyone would want to be a bowler in present-day cricket.

The second was Vettori's decision to bring Southee on at the death. When he came into the attack he had figures of 0 for 28. But it turned out to be a master stroke, and his next two overs (and the Super Over) were some of the best death bowling I had ever seen.

The third was the bizarre spectator who decided to run onto the field. He was not naked and he had no interest in shaking hands with the players. He simply turned to the boozed-up crowd, lit a cigarette and had several puffs. The crowd went nuts and "You are a legend" chants followed his departure.

Crowd meter
It was like no other: 26,148 screaming fans created what was surely one of the greatest atmospheres in world cricket.

One Mexican wave went round the crowd five times, and even on the fifth loop there were spectators throwing bottles and other such items in the air.

The peak of the excitement was easily the 20th over, bowled by Southee. The stands were shaking with fans jumping up and down and chanting his name and clapping.

Banner of the day
One fan made humorous additions to a whiteboard: "[Steve] Smith is looking a bit Warne out", and "Ingram, where the bloody hell are you?" And there was a "Haddin, you cheat" sign that the management eventually took down.

Entertainment
This was the only part of the experience that let me down. Twenty20 has been built on a reputation for being a spectacle. Although the action out in the middle was some of the best I have ever seen, there were no cheerleaders, no fireworks - no fire at all actually. Just speakers pumping out some new-age pop-rap thing that got the crowd reasonably pumped up, but seeing as this only happens once a season I felt more of an effort should have been made.

Marks out of 10
10. The atmosphere, the game, the tension and the Super Over all added up to be one heck of an evening.

Zac Neill is a 14-year old who loves New Zealand with a passion. He enjoys a good cricket joke, but would occasionally like them to be about something other than the New Zealand batting order. He only has three years left until he is off to university, where he plans to take journalism in the hope that one day he will become a sports journalist.

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