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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Being a German, I can usually only watch cricket on a screen. However, I figured that's not the real deal. So I booked a flight to Sri Lanka, got me tickets for the World Cup, and here I am - just loving it. Two days ago, I saw Brendon McCullum's whirlwind 123 and today I saw Pakistan take on the Kiwis. And what a game it was!
I first came in contact with cricket when I spent a year in New Zealand, so I will always support the Black Caps. Until Ross Taylor got run out, I thought the Kiwis had a chance to pull off a remarkable chase. Well, not today! But hey, I've already got my tickets for the semis, and I'm sure I'll see the Kiwis in action there.
When you just concede five runs off three overs, you have to be a key performer in a T20. Of course, New Zealand dropped a few chances, but they lost the game because they didn't score more runs off Mohammad Hafeez's offbreaks.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
I really don't get it - why do you have players like Yasir Arafat or Adam Milne in the starting XI? They don't bat, they only bowl one over, and are not the sharpest of fielders. Are they just there to fill up the squad sheet? Surely a BJ Watling to bolster the batting order would have been a better choice for the Kiwis.
Face-off I relished
To see Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi bowl live was just amazing. Before the game McCullum had said he would attack those key Pakistani players, so I was looking forward to this match-up. Against Afridi, though, McCullum struggled. He managed only one four. He played Ajmal a bit better. Two reverse sweeps and a nice cut past extra cover were pleasing to the eye. But in total, the spinners won the day.
I didn't know it at the time but the wow moment of the match was the third ball of day. Hafeez's regulation edge went straight to Taylor's hands but he dropped the sitter.
I was sitting (well, until Afridi walked in to bat, after which I had to stand to see the rest of the game) on the scoreboard embankment, so when Nasir Jamshed pulled Kyle Mills to deep square leg, I saw the ball come right towards me. Rob Nicol settled under it and I was certain that he would catch it comfortably. But what do I know - he palmed the ball over the rope for six. That's when I knew it was going to be a long day at the office for the Kiwis.
Shot of the day
McCullum's effortless six off Hafeez is right up there, but the shot of the day goes to Jamshed. Milne's short ball came with some pace but Jamshed swivelled, timed his shot perfectly and sent the ball over the fine-leg boundary. As easy as you like, and it looked graceful as well.
Compared to Friday, the ground was really full. It wasn't a sellout but the grass banks were crowded and the atmosphere was quite carnival-like. Three bands with drums and trumpets were going at it the whole match. For the first half, you could sit and watch the game. After Afridi walked out to the middle, it changed. Everybody wanted to see "Boom Boom", so we all had to stand. During the New Zealand innings, if anything, it got crazier. One band was moving across the grass banks and wherever they stopped, the people started dancing like crazy. They were nudging and carrying each other on their shoulders. I believe they didn't even see half the Black Caps' chase. Then again, they looked like they were really having some fun.
ODI v Twenty20
I haven't seen Test or one-day cricket live at a ground, so I can't compare it to T20s. I believe I would prefer the purer forms of cricket but this T20 circus is really something. The atmosphere is great, the cricket really entertaining, I'm looking forward to my next game on Thursday - Sri Lanka v New Zealand.
Marks out of 10
9.5. The game was tight, a lot was happening, the atmosphere quite outstanding, and it was the second cricket match I saw live at a ground, so I should really give it ten. But the Kiwis lost, so there's a 9.5 for you.
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