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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
The boss was riding a good wave and gave me the day off, so I saw no better way to celebrate his charity than by spending it watching the cricket in the summer sun with a few mates. The match itself promised to be a ripper with both sides full of Twenty20 crowd-pleasers, including a number of current Black Caps, capable of showcasing the power, audacity and fast pace which the abbreviated format brings to the table. Add a cold beverage or two to the equation and the stage was set for the ideal summer's evening.
As a local I couldn't support anyone but Otago in this one, although in hazarding a guess as to who I felt would triumph, my buck was on the Northern Knights, but only just. An attack riddled with the quality and big-match experience of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Graeme Aldridge and Brent Arnel simply seemed too stacked not to favour, but Otago had Brendon McCullum and a batting line-up which stretched to No. 10!
With barely 13 overs played it seems ridiculous to pick a key performer. Anton Devcich exemplified just how important slow bowling has become to Twenty20 cricket as his left-arm offies suffocated Otago from ball one. He managed to complete his spell before rain joined the party, with figures of 3 for 23. A special shout-out has to go to Mother Nature who made her presence well and truly felt, with a number of crippling showers which eventually stole the show.
One thing I'd have changed
I would have picked up the University Oval and dropped it somewhere in the Caribbean, free of the wind and rain which consistently make a mockery of the word summer in these parts. But seriously, to be fair, the game would have gone ahead without a hitch had it been staged at 2pm - rather than 5pm - when there was barely a cloud in the sky and the sun was out and about, so an earlier start would have been desirable.
Face-off I relished
The match-up I was really looking forward to was McCullum v Southee. They are two real characters in the national side and a pair who always have a word or two to say, so there was guaranteed to be some niggle and a bit of banter as they squared up against each other on the domestic scene.
Out of all the fielders in the Knights side who have the potential to provide a magic moment, the Marshalls, the Watlings, the Williamsons, it was Scotty Styris who managed to evoke a crescendo of wows from the Oval crowd. As Jimmy Neesham swept cheekily behind square, the Styris threw all 36 of his years to his left to pull off an absolute screamer.
I managed to weasel myself into a decent position near the pitch to see Styris win the toss, let out multiple fist pumps and send the Volts in to bat. Him and McCullum obviously get on quite well and shared a few friendly jibes afterwards.
Shot of the day
McCullum, New Zealand's Twenty20 poster boy, got the match underway with a hiss and a roar as he took two steps down the track and absolutely murdered a decent length delivery from Aldridge over cow corner.
At the beginning the Oval was absolutely packed, with many sitting themselves up on the grass embankments and a decent few sitting in the stand. Probably around 1500 people, which is outstanding for this time of year in Dunedin - not one of the most fashionable summer destinations. Unfortunately, the rain set in before anyone could properly get into the game. As it stopped and started multiple times, only the dedicated few, or those smart enough to bring umbrellas remained.
The lad or lady manning the PA system must have been a local because they were quick to dust off a number of rain-oriented tunes. Very cheesy, but summed up play appropriately.
Had the heavens not opened up, the early stages of the innings promised a really decent match. What I find entertaining about Twenty20 is the power and ingenuity on display, as well as the importance of thinking quickly on your feet. Although only 13 overs were played, the game wasn't the worst exhibition of these qualities. The on-off nature of the game messed with the pace of the scoring as batsmen were forced to re-establish themselves following interruptions and wet run-ups reduced a bit of commitment from the quick bowlers, but all in all the standard of cricket wasn't a letdown. A large crowd was just beginning to hum as the first drops fell and the cricket association had obviously gone out of their way to supplement the Twenty20 format with entertainment and merchandise stands. So it was disappointing for all parties that the game was inevitably a washout.
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A history student and budding sports writer, Sam Wilson lives for opportunities to spend a lazy day in the sun watching New Zealand's summer code over a nice chilly beer. He is a painfully inconsistent middle-order batsman when Saturday rolls around, so prefers to take pride in his backyard cricket form. As a staunch Kiwi, he is still revelling in their recent smash and grab over their neighbours across the ditch.
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