Central Districts v Victoria, CLT20 2010, Centurion September 15, 2010

The big 'uns always had it in the bag

Victoria showed why it is far better to be the favourite rather than the underdog in a nerveless win over Central Districts

Do you know the way to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauot-amateahaumaitawhitiurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu?

That's the Maori name of a particular hill on the North Island of New Zealand. Apparently, it translates to, "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one."

If you're wondering whether that makes more sense to English-speakers in Maori than it does in English, you are not alone. But know this unequivocally: the incurably curious folk who publish the Guinness Book of World Records reckon that there hill on the North Island of New Zealand rejoices in the world's longest one-word official place name.

The best Australians can come up with is Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya, which, in this league, barely tips the scales at a piddling 26 letters. Taumatawhakatangi ... err, that hill on the North Island of New Zealand, weighs in at a stupendous 105 letters. Count 'em and weep.

Let's get ready to Scrabble.

Why are we meandering along this tangent? The answer to that question could be as long as the Tasman Sea - some 2800 kilometres - or the distance, as the crow flies, from Nelson, where the Central Districts Stags are based on the South Island of New Zealand, to Melbourne, Victoria. That's another 2445 kilometres.

Any way you look at, that's bloody long. So don't ask.

But, if you must, then consider the dull, thudding rhythm to which the Champions League T20 match between the Victoria Bush Rangers and Central Districts lurched into the Highveld sunset at Centurion on Wednesday.

Before the game, some of the more high-minded present dared to wonder whether it was more galling to be a big 'un beaten by a little 'un, or a little 'un given what for by a big 'un.

An interesting question, particularly in the wake of the Lions' stunning assault on the Mumbai Indians in the opening match of the tournament.

Could a plucky band of little 'uns beat a bunch of big 'uns again?

You shouldn't have to ask which of the 'uns was big, and which little. One of them hailed from a place named as prosaically as possible with a utilitarian geographical label. The other came from a state dubbed in honour of perhaps the most pompously grandiose monarch in history. One of them featured a fella called Worker. The other had a real live Hussey in their ranks.

And so to the game. As is too often the case with little 'uns, the Stags were clearly less comfortable punching than counterpunching.

They jabbed gingerly at the new ball, held back on the body blows through the middle overs, and, in the later rounds, couldn't quite find the chutzpah to cut loose and to hell with the consequences.

That fine son of Taranaki, Jamie How, tried to show them, well, how. His spirited unbeaten 77 brimmed with the standard Kiwi stereotypes of flintiness and inventiveness under pressure.

Over 18, bowled by John Hastings, was a madness of runs, 28 in all, and 26 of them scored by How by way of five fours and a six. How to win the battle of Hastings, indeed!

But a total of 165 for five didn't look large enough to hold opponents who lugged bats as big as their reputations.

Perhaps a ground which didn't boast conditions so utterly perfect for batting might have afforded Central Districts a better chance. But not Centurion, where the pitch is as consistent as the horizon on the Tasman Sea itself and the outfield flows as fast as any billabong.

So, while the scorecard said Victoria needed all but two balls of their 20 overs to clinch victory by seven wickets, the truth was that, even though they needed 12 off the last, they accelerated almost imperceptibly to victory.

The stroke that best captured their innings boomed gracefully off the bat of Aaron Finch in the penultimate over. The bowler, Michael Mason, could only stand and watch as the ball bobbed like a cork way up the grass bank beyond the extra cover boundary.

Nine deliveries later, Finch moved off the Devil's number in some style and ended the match with another six, this one off Doug Bracewell.

A gaggle of little 'uns raced across the grass to meet the bounding ball with their flip-flops and freckles and fearlessness in full flight.

If only they knew the painful truth. If only the big 'uns came unstuck more often. If only Central Districts had scored half as many more runs as there are letters in Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauot-amateahaumaitawhitiurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa