First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
What better way to finish a three-month stint in India than seeing a World Cup match? I couldn't think of one so I planned a trip to Nagpur to observe the ANZAC battle for Trans-Tasman bragging rights.
A quick look at the two flags would leave you very puzzled as to why neither team wore red and/or blue, but I was kitted up in green and gold and was firmly behind the team whose flag displays white stars on their Southern Cross.
World Cup prediction
South Africa have been my tip for the trophy, but now that I've tipped them they will have no chance, so Australia (patriotism being my key source of logic) or more likely India, with Pakistan being the dark horses to reach the semis.
I ensured that I was equipped with my Indian survival kit - sunscreen, insect repellent and hand sanitiser. Apart from those, a hat and sunglasses proved to be worthy companions on the day.
Brad Haddin played an explosive innings and was the one batsman during the match to really play aggressively from the beginning. Whether dancing down the wicket to lift the ball over the infield or piercing the covers with his stylish drives, he gave the Black Caps no chance of restricting Australia.
One thing I'd have changed
I would have given New Zealand an extra 150 runs and see how Australia went about chasing. If anyone still follows the "double the total after 30 overs" rule, then Australia were on track for around 360. I would of course demand to have the option of returning the New Zealand total to 206 should Australia not have made the runs.
Face-off I relished
I have been a long-time admirer of Daniel Vettori and New Zealand's ability to create strong leaders. Still a very underrated spinner, and his battle against Australia's spin-resistant middle order was going to be exciting. As it panned out he didn't really have a chance to bowl at them when under pressure, instead he opened the bowling and didn't have any impact on the imposing Haddin-Watson combination.
Before the Australian innings, both teams mixed and embraced to share a minute's silence for those who have suffered in the horrendous Christchurch earthquake. The silent huddle was formed by ambassadors of two countries which have endured all nature can throw at them in the last six months, and it assured all that the ANZAC spirit is still very much alive.
Shot of the day
Shane Watson's swipe through wide mid-on was the defining shot of a man-mountain in full swing. I say "through" because it was certainly not over anyone - the ball's path peaked at one metre above ground level and nearly carried the boundary for six. It had everyone in the crowd nearby ducking for cover.
The stands were by no means packed, however what they lacked in population, they made up for with noise. The loudest were without doubt the locals who came to worship their favourite game, and they cheered every drum beat, single and wicket.
One of the great sights often occurring at Australian sporting contests overseas is the emergence of an AFL jumper. Today a Hawthorn Hawks fan was wearing his yellow and brown with pride as he cheered on his countrymen in the middle.
The World Cup theme song got a very good run over the PA. I still have no idea what it means as I don't speak Hindi (or Hinglish for that matter).
Banner of the day
Often these are hurriedly written on paper by spectators who have sourced a permanent marker, but my favourite was a banner which had been planned for weeks. Hyundai's "4" and "6" posters all had slogans on the back. Deciding against witty or comedic words, the writers opted to educate the players on how to play the game. The two posters which I was handed outside the ground included the phrases "catch the ball" and "that's called a straight drive". Perhaps they were inspired by England's fielding effort at the same ground during which it seemed that neither Kevin Pietersen nor James Anderson were aware of what to do when the ball is hit in the air.
The only thing more bemusing than the calculation of the "Castrol Index" (I don't know what it is either, just that Shane Watson is 180 odd and that Australia was 100 points ahead of New Zealand by the end of the game) was the ticketing. Despite booking tickets months in advance, my comrades and I were forced to wait outside a plastic shack before the game until one man and a laptop arrived via rickshaw. When coupled with the dramas in Bangalore and Mumbai, maybe ticketing is something the ICC needs to rethink before the next World Cup.
ODIs v Twenty20
Twenty20 has given a much-needed boost to the domestic level of the game, however at an international level ODIs are still a more interesting and exciting format.
Marks out of 10
10. Australia played well but need to learn how to rip through a tail. It has become a worrying trend during their time in India. The atmosphere was pretty good once the stands filled halfway through New Zealand's innings. I would definitely suggest a cricket game to anyone wanting to get a full experience of India.
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