Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

New Zealand v England, first Twenty20, Auckland

Surreal like a Salvador Dali

Twenty20 like modern art? It was at Eden Park

Alex Braae

Comments: 3 | Text size: A | A
Ronnie Hira delivers the ball, New Zealand v England, 1st T20, Auckland, February 9, 2013
Ronnie Hira: did everything he could to help his side win, but alas © Getty Images
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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.

Team supported
New Zealand, though I wanted to see another Eoin Morgan masterclass.

Ominous sign
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.

Key performer
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.

Over-the-top moment
The laser lights, smoke machine, epic quest music and fireworks that preceded the players entering the field. People, please. This isn't pro-wrestling.

Close encounter
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.

Crowd meter
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.

Surreal moment
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.

Celebrity spotting
Kiwi comedian Dai Henwood was at the match. He isn't as short as he looks on TV.

Entertainment
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.

Overall
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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Comments: 3 
Posted by bobbo2 on (February 11, 2013, 13:14 GMT)

@yorkshirematt. You have to love the game for what it is when your team is so inconsistent. Now if NZ win the toss in the second game they need to bat. No doubt the pitch will be a road. Given England's strength is the batting why would you put them in on a road with tiny boundaries. I felt that was the game before the first ball was bowled. Unless the pitch is a marsh, bat first! Same applies in park cricket

Posted by Munkeymomo on (February 10, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

I'd love to go out to watch some cricket in NZ. Especially to one of the smaller grounds where they still have grassy banks to sit on. Looks a beautiful country and the fans are a good laugh when they come to the UK. Now just need to save up enough money for the plane ticket!!

Posted by yorkshirematt on (February 10, 2013, 1:28 GMT)

Nice to read one of these fan reports with no mention of anything to do with wanting team India to win and anything other would mean the whole day and money for the match ticket was wasted. NZ fans are proper cricket lovers.

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