First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Eden Park is within walking distance of my house. If I didn't go to this match, how could I look myself in the mirror and call myself a cricket fan? It makes for a strange cricket field since the ground is normally used for rugby. As such, it is about as circular as a lumpy potato. The straight boundaries, especially, are childishly short.
New Zealand, though I wanted to see another Eoin Morgan masterclass.
Stuart Broad is significantly taller than Brendon McCullum, when we saw them standing side by side at the toss, and as has been shown repeatedly in American presidential elections, the taller man always wins. It could be a rough summer for New Zealand fans.
Figures of 2 for 42 hardly look spectacular, but they don't reflect the contribution made by Ronnie Hira for the Black Caps. His wickets came from seriously clever pieces of bowling, he took a solid catch and was generally electric in the field. He even scored desperate runs at the death. A true T20 specialist, he clearly appreciated the value of every single run.
Face-off I had hoped for
When McCullum and Ross Taylor were batting together, my inner sadist hoped Taylor would run his new captain out.
The laser lights, smoke machine, epic quest music and fireworks that preceded the players entering the field. People, please. This isn't pro-wrestling.
A sweet old lady sitting in front of me was nearly sconed by a Luke Wright maximum. Fortunately, the ball dropped just in front of her. I wasn't looking forward to the prospect of diving in the way. At least, I'll pretend here that I would have done that.
Stay classy, Auckland
Circling the skies above the ground just before the match was a plane flying a banner for a local strip. No, I'm not going to say which one.
Extreme fan loyalty
A huge shout went up around the ground when McCullum's name was read off the team sheet. An even bigger cheer went up for the next man on the list, a certain former captain. But that was nothing compared to the noise when Taylor came out to bat. People noticeably started leaving after Taylor got caught cheaply.
Quote of the day
From the lawyers a few rows behind me, trying to understand cricket: "He dropped a catch! But this is his day job! What would happen if I dropped a case?" Truly, a perfect analogy.
Drop of the day
Taylor put down a Luke Wright skier after getting right underneath it, to huge groans from the crowd. To make matters worse, the next ball went for four, and the one after that for six. Fortunately, Hira spared Taylor the blushes by taking a clean catch off the next one. Exciting over.
Shot of the day
Morgan's sweep off Mitchell McClenaghan for six gave the crowd at fine leg a terrible shock when they saw the ball flying towards them.
Feeding off the constant sensory overload, the crowd became a single pulsating organism. How much of that buzz was manufactured and how much was spontaneous is academic. The vast majority of people seemed to be having a fantastic night out.
But after the chase devolved into a forlorn hope, the crowd went quiet and subsequently thinned. As a chap behind me pointed out, it was much easier to pick out the English fans after all the Kiwis had gone home.
The new sponsors of the Black Caps are a bank, so it logically follows that their new mascot is a dancing money machine.
Adding injury to insult
In the final over, McClenaghan tried to play an ill-advised ramp shot off a 139kph Jade Dernbach thunderbolt. He only succeeded in taking it in the stomach. McClenaghan got his revenge by shouldering the next ball for four.
Kiwi comedian Dai Henwood was at the match. He isn't as short as he looks on TV.
There are no other sporting events quite as weird as a Twenty20, especially one played to a constant soundtrack of bass music. The event was one part spectacle, one part costume party, and for much of the night, cricket was just the background.
The Samba band that played at half-time would have been brilliant, unfortunately they were drowned out by the music playing over the sound system.
T20s v ODIs
To be honest, I'm a bit of a T20 skeptic, though the atmosphere mostly worked tonight. The boundary porn that we witnessed lends itself well to the vibe of T20, and the crowd certainly had more fun here than they would have at an ODI. It makes me feel old, but I can't wait for some Test cricket.
Marks out of 10
6. In the end, not a very close or tense match.
A pretty strange experience, though not necessarily in a bad way. It was sort of like dancing enthusiastically to Bon Jovi, which incidentally happened in the 11th over.
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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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