Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

New Zealand XI v England XI, Whangarei

Sunshine, holiday and an NZ win

What more could you ask for?

Alex Braae

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New Zealand XI's Tom Latham plays a sweep shot against England XI, New Zealand XI v England XI, T20 Tour match, Whangarei, February 6, 2013
Tom Latham: made up for a dropped catch with a match-winning knock © Getty Images
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Quote of the day
"Conditions are fine and clear, perfect weather for cricket. Pitch looks good. Whangarei, you look good." And on that slightly creepy note, the PA announcer got the game underway.

Choice of game
Whangarei is a two-hour drive from Auckland, and today being Waitangi Day means New Zealanders get a public holiday. I thought it would be a great chance to see the mighty English give our 2nd tier players another whipping, in preparation for doing the same to our 1st XI.

Team supported
The New Zealanders, though really this was about the spectacle rather than the result. When the result turned out to be a nail-biting win, I suddenly found myself to be very patriotic.

Opening salvo
England got off to a lucky start, with a french-cut boundary off the first ball. Matt Henry was unlucky not to have Alex Hales caught on the boundary when Tom Latham dropped a sitter much to the mirth of the crowd. He fielded the next ball with ease, to exaggerated cheers.

One thing I'd have changed
Surely it is time for DJs at cricket grounds to stop playing "Gangnam Style". Everyone over the age of 12 in the crowd sat through it with mute resignation, though the kids went mental doing the invisible horse dance.

Face-off I relished
My main interest in this match was to see who from the NZ XI would put their hand up for selection. Hamish Rutherford and Latham both pressed for a place in the Black Caps top order, setting up a win in the process.

Wow moment
Hales struggled in his brief innings, and it only got worse when Michael Lumb flicked the ball to Henry at fine leg. Hales sprinted to make his ground but was undone by a stunning direct hit. The crowd knew it was out, even if the umpires had to have it confirmed.

Close encounter
Eoin Morgan swivelled and hooked Henry to the boundary just in front of where we were sitting. The ball hitting the picket fence made a very satisfying thunk.

Shot of the day
It could have been the straight six Jos Buttler hit out of the ground, or one of the many beautiful shots Morgan played. However, for me, it would have to be the first boundary hit by Rutherford - a delicate, subtle cut through backward point. Not only did he bisect two fielders standing metres apart, he also beat the boundary rider perfectly. It was one for the purists, and showed that Twenty20 isn't just hit and giggle.

Crowd meter
Cobham Oval is one of the boutique cricket grounds that New Zealand specialises in, and a crowd of a few thousand made the grassy banks seem packed. Generally, people were fairly sedate, enjoying the interesting match on a sunny day. There was one guy who entertained himself with terrible rhyming puns. "Ronchi Donkey!" "Dernbach? More like Dirtbag!" Hilarity ensued.

Redemption of the day
After putting down the sort of catch boundary fielders dream about, Latham took his revenge by battering the English bowlers all over the park. His innings was the difference between the teams, and it was a shame he got himself out with a stupid shot just a few runs short of the target.

Fancy-dress index
For some reason the cheerleaders were dressed as Native Americans. Why? Who knows.

Catch of the day
If it were possible to take a captain's catch, Stuart Broad would have done this today. He pulled off a stunning, running, diving one-handed effort to dismiss Colin Munro, almost swinging the game back into England's favour.

Mixed message
When the announcer called for last orders over the PA, causing a minor stampede to the beer tents, the message up on the big screen was a public service announcement, saying "Ease up on the drink."

Sledge of the day
Jade Dernbach went up for a long solo appeal for lbw, and sustained it even after the batsmen had crossed for a single. "Cut it out bro!" shouted the man sitting next to us, in true Kiwi style.

Marks out of 10
9.5, because in cricket perfection is always just out of reach.

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Alex is an anthropology student and cricket fanatic living in Auckland, New Zealand. He spends his days studying amateur participation in sport, which from a career perspective is like wasting time researching why people waste time. He blogs here

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