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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I chose this game because: it was an excuse to get out and drink cold beer in the sun; I live nearby; it was a rare home Test at the Basin Reserve, New Zealand's iconic cricketing venue; both teams are evenly matched; and there ain't much Test cricket for the Kiwis this summer!
Daniel Vettori. His century once again dragged the Black Caps out of the mire and helped us post a decent first-innings score. Nice touch when he waved to his family in the players stand, upon reaching the ton.
One thing I'd have changed
To be honest, the day was splendid. Great weather, albeit a little blustery, a pleasant atmosphere and some good cricket by both sides. However, the run rate creeping over three may have helped. I, and many others I'm sure, were willing something more exciting than another dead-bat to Abdur Rehman from the southern end.
Interplay I enjoyed
Without doubt the magnificent supporting role played by New Zealand's record-breaking batsman, Chris Martin. Vettori needed a handful of runs for his century yet, with the demise of Brent Arnel, the writing was on the wall. Almost in unison the spectator's heads went into their hands as the lanky No. 11 strode to the crease. Four balls from a fiery Umar Gul to survive and Vettori may have a chance. Gul charged in, the entire contingent (players, spectators, pigeons) held their breath, and Martin dutifully kept out the rest of the over, eventually allowing captain courageous to bring up three figures. I only hope people will remember Martin for his bowling talent (he should reach the 200 club) rather than his record number of ducks.
Filling the gaps
As is tradition at any self-respecting New Zealand cricketing venue, the breaks in play contained regular doses of James Speights' finest, plus "pottle" chips drowned in t-sauce. Another nice touch was the match officials allowing spectators onto the oval at the lunch break. The kids frantically bowled their rubber balls at yellow plastic wickets, the adults gathered around the wicket block and admired 22 metres of Wellington's finest piece of mown grass. Oh yes, and the kids got to keep the wickets.
The Kiwi captain's century was great. His final wicket, that of Taufeeq Umar, was the icing on the "Vettori" cake.
The New Zealand bowlers were happy to oblige with autographs, especially current poster boy Tim Southee. Pakistan's Rehman saw the funnier side of the near gales force gusts of wind - using the umpire as an anchor lest he fall sideways in his delivery stride!
Shot of the day
Vettori, with his eye well in, decided to throw caution to the wind with the hapless (but always determined) Martin at the non-striker's end. His leg-side flick for four off Gul, taken from a delivery clearly missing off, was a master stroke in improvisation. Maybe Twenty20 has helped aspects of test batting after all!?
The crowd regularly failed to register more than a two out of ten on the "Noise-o-meter", with the run rate generally showing more enthusiasm. However, this is no criticism - a largely family-based crowd enjoyed a pleasant Sunday watching Test cricket, and I suspect the wind drowned out any significant hubbub as it whistled in relentlessly from the north. The first actual chant started at a late 5:28pm, when a small group of slightly inebriated yet enthusiastic supporters bellowed "let's go Marto, let's go!" as our 36 year-old pace-man charged in from the RA Vance stand end. The best cheer had already been raised for the aforementioned fast bowler earlier in the day, as he survived a very nervous turn at bat, with his skipper nearing a century in the middle session.
A fairly conservative crowd by Wellington standards. The usual smattering of beige shirts, and ugly renditions of Black Caps uniforms from eras past. However, the guy with the grey one-day strip from the 1992 world cup did bring back fond memories of Crowe in majestic form, Dipak Patel opening the bowling (revolutionary at the time) and West Windies giving the new ball to Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. The glory days.
Times are tight, with the recession hitting New Zealand as much as anywhere. We made our own fun.
Equipment for the day: $28 admission money, ham-and-mustard sandwiches, a small bottle of water, sunscreen, cell phone, beer money. No need for anything more.
Marks out of 10
The number of times I heard calls for one-dayers to return to the Basin was intriguing. Overall though, the best moment of the day was simply sitting on the grass bank, late in the final session. With the shadows getting longer, the wind gusts becoming slightly less ferocious, the occasional squawk of Brian Waddle on a nearby radio and the gentle hum of an appreciative crowd enjoying cricket in its purest form, I realised why I made all that effort to come here in the first place.
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Ed West hails from sunny Dunedin and teaches History at Wellington's finest academy for young cricketers, and cricket tragics like himself, Wellington College. He has a cricketing pedigree that no one would be proud of, including playing for the "Golds" at school and the Wainui social team. However, he has managed to fashion a very respectable hallway cricket record. Ed spends his spare time riding bikes, drinking coffee and annoying his neighbour (who has Sky Sport).
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