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First-person reports from the stands
For the last 10 years I have gone to nearly every ODI held at Eden Park, especially since there haven't been any Tests since 2006, and I was very hungry for some live cricket action. Australia would have been hurting after the defeat in the first game, their first ODI loss since their tour of India in November last year. Add to that the uncertainty over the availability of New Zealand's Mr Fixit Daniel Vettori and I was leaning towards a close victory for Australia.
Having lived in New Zealand for the best part of 17 years, coupled with my distaste for the Australian team and their attitude, I was backing New Zealand all the way.
Vettori went from being a doubtful starter to Man of the Match with another performance that reinforced how dependent the Black Caps are on him. His 49-ball 70 combined his usual touches of innovation with some clean striking. He was also excellent with the ball, snaring the big wickets of Brad Haddin and Ricky Ponting in his ten-over spell of 2 for 43.
One thing I'd have changed
It was disappointing to see Ross Taylor miss the match due to injury. This would have been a great opportunity for him to back up his captain's innings in Napier with another responsible knock.
I had some tasty chicken kebabs from my local bakery, along with my trusty old club cap and a walkman radio with which to listen to snippets of Bryan Waddle's insightful commentary.
Face-off I relished
I was looking forward to the battle of the captains and was slightly disappointed when Vettori triumphed easily over Ponting. Having brought himself on as soon as Ponting arrived at the crease, possibly remembering Ponting's nervousness against spin at the start of an innings, Vettori almost immediately forced him into an error: Ponting failed to get to the pitch of a flighted one and skied a simple catch.
There was also the eagerly anticipated clash between Mitchell Johnson and Scott Styris, the instigators of some nasty scenes in Napier. However, the first ball Johnson sent down to Styris sailed way over Brad Haddin for five byes. Johnson was then dispatched for two fours to complete a harrowing over.
After a sluggish start, Haddin, who had had made his way to 53, stepped out to drive Vettori, only to have his powerful shot snapped up with amazing reflexes by the bowler. Haddin's one-handed take to remove Brendon McCullum was a close second.
One player everyone wanted a piece of was Johnson. He copped rough treatment from the crowd through the game, due to his antics in Napier. He gave some back by kissing the Australian badge on his shirt - which just got him a further barrage when Ponting placed him at long leg in front of the ASB Stand.
Shot of the day
A ball before he was dismissed, Mike Hussey casually picked up a Shane Bond delivery clocked at 150kph and flicked it over midwicket all the way into the empty South Stand. The shot was all timing and showed that Hussey's ODI form is thriving.
With Eden Park undergoing major renovations for the 2011 rugby World Cup, the South Stand, Panasonic Stand and the terraces were all out of action. It was thus unsurprising that the ground was a sell-out, given the history of close contests between the two teams. It was surreal, however, to see all the fans on one side of the ground, while on the other there was not a soul in sight due to the construction.
"Johnson's a w*****" was the overwhelmingly popular chant of the day, which spread across the ground like wildfire regardless of who started it or where it began.
The crowd was certainly backing the Black Caps, but was generally courteous enough to respect good cricket by the opposition, except in the cases of Ponting and Johnson. Vettori and McCullum, New Zealand's superstars, got the loudest cheers while they played and the loudest groans when they were dismissed.
There were five hairy Chewbaccas from the Star Wars series, who managed to keep their heavy costumes on, even on such a hot day.
The music was a mix of past and present, with Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel and Elton John, interspersed with modern artists like Lady Gaga and hits such as "Who Let The Dogs Out?", plus some classic Kiwi music from Split Enz and Crowded House.
There was a catching competition where contestants could elect to go for a $50, $100 or $150 prize by trying to take a catch, the difficulty of which was proportional to the prize money chosen. Two got lucky with great catches, while others were far off base. Unfortunately it lost credibility at the end when the announcer, Leighton Burtt, the Canterbury fast bowler, gave each contestant $50 for "having a go". So much for winning being important.
During the rain delay, it was amusing to hear Rod Stewart's version of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" Living in Auckland means we see the rain all too often, particularly at international cricket games. There was also "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" - a question every Aucklander has asked him- or herself at some stage.
Marks out of 10
9. A 10 would have been likely had Eden Park been its normal capacity, and if New Zealand had managed to sneak a sensational victory, considering at one stage they looked like being rolled.
The match was an excellent advertisement for one-day cricket at a time when many are predicting the demise of ODIs at the hands of Twenty20. It had some great spells of bowling, as well as the usual devastating batting, but the fielding efforts from both sides were truly exceptional. I cannot remember a single dropped catch or glaring miss in the entire match. It was also great to see the Australians under pressure for the second game running, after having strolled through the home summer against Pakistan and West Indies with very few questions being asked of them. We wanted a contest and we certainly got one.
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