My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

And that brings us to the end of another year …

On this day last year, I think I was probably feeling dejected and miserable, and honestly wondering exactly when something good was going to happen in my life, so I heard about the idea of starting a “jar of awesome” and decided to give it a go for the next year.

All you need is a jar, a note pad and pen, and you’re set to record every highlight, lowlight, notable event or just something you want to remember, that happens in the year ahead!

The best part is getting to the end of the year and tipping out the contents of your “jar of awesome,” and reminding yourself of things that you had probably forgotten from right back at the start of the year that had happened!

Things like remembering the honour and privilege of sharing breakfast with the best bowling and batting partnerships in test cricket at the moment … well, I think they are, anyway …

To moments that I will probably never forget, like meeting three of the loveliest Red Pandas at Wellington Zoo!

There are always going to be lowlights though, like being at the lowest point in your unemployment journey and contracting the shingles virus because of it.  I’m just grateful that I didn’t contract herpes zoster ophthalmic and my eyes are both still as they were!  Although I still have the scars, but sometimes scars are a good reminder of just where we have come from and what we are strong enough to fight through.

From that lowest point in my year, I have been able to find first temporary employment, and then full-time permanent employment, working with people who just want to work hard and do the best job they can do for our managers!

So getting back to my original point of this blog post, if you want to try something different for 2018, start your own “jar of awesome” or whatever you would like to call it … and let me know how you get on, too … and see what surprises and memories are in store for you at the end of the year!

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NZ v Windies  live blog from the Basin Reserve, Wellington

I’m going to try and add observations from day two at the Basin Reserve, mainly cause I need to get back into blogging again … 

First of all, I want to know what Chris Donaldson was saying about me as he drove the team van past the Basin Reserve as I was waiting outside … I know it was about me as he looked at me at the same time! 

Also, I was glad Tom Blundell walked past me on his way to the nets as I was able to complement him on a good first day of test cricket! And I even got a reply from him. It’s funny; he plays for Wellington at the Basin every season and yet that’s the first time I’ve spoken to him.

But why are some of the West Indians wearing beanies during their warm ups?! Is it really that cold for them in summer in New Zealand? 

The Windies  had a very competitive game of football to start their warm ups too …

Oh, and the “Taylor Squad” are really nice and friendly too! 

Blog deleted everything so I’m going to have to remember my lunch time update … 

Nice wee session for NZ with Ross Taylor getting to ten thousand first class runs, plus a half century, as well as a half century partnership with Henry Nicholls! 

NZ 181/3 at lunch.

Oh, and Nicholls is pretty speedy between the wickets too!

The day two pitch at the lunch break … 

That winning feeling when you get your flat white before the Black Caps next order of 8! 😉 

Gutted for Ross Taylor to be dismissed 7 runs short of a well-deserved test century. I gave him a standing O anyway! 

NZ 267/4 at the the break. So pleased for Nicholls to bring up a half century in that session too. Always been a fan of him in the middle order. 

Been wanting Tom Blundell to get the chance for a bat, all day, and now I’m nervous for him …

Well, that’s been a very entertaining, and brisk, 50 run partnership between de Grandhomme and Blundell! 

So great seeing Colin de Grandhomme scoring freely and getting to a half century as well! 

And a thoroughly entertaining century from Colin de Grandhomme!

50 runs on test debut! Simply outstanding Tom Blundell!!! 

What a brilliant day of test cricket for NZ! 447/9 at stumps – can’t wait for day 3!!! 

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Basin Reserve tour ticked off the bucket list …

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Is there a better feeling in the world than a bright, sunny Spring day, looking down from the heavens across the lush green outfield of the Basin Reserve?!

Well okay, not quite the heavens, but the dizzy heights of the media rooms in the RA Vance Stand certainly feel like you can touch the sky …

How did I get there, you ask … Well, you can get there too, if you take a tour of the Basin Reserve courtesy of the NZ Cricket Museum, which I was privileged to be able to do today!

Personal highlights for me included the “Bat Room” in the Cricket Museum, where there are rows and rows of historical and souvenir bats from NZ and international cricket history.  I have forgotten exactly how many bats are in the Bat Room, but if you get the chance to see it, you won’t be disappointed!

Another highlight was walking through the corridors beneath the RA Vance Stand, walking past the indoor nets, many photographs of the Basin Reserve through the ages, along with the many portraits of Wellingtonians who went on to represent the New Zealand national cricket team …

Another interesting observation for me, and being the Black Caps “number one fan,” another highlight was seeing the players’ dressing rooms … and taking in the quite marked differences between the away team’s changing shed and the home team’s luxurious, in comparison, home base!  Even just the fact that the away team’s room had a single plain entrance-way door, whilst the home team gets a double-door with security access to gain entrance!

Continuing on with the personal highlights was taking the “batsman’s walk” through the players’ pavilion, across the elevated pathway, down the stairs and onto the hallowed turf of the Basin Reserve …

I mean, how many talented cricketers have walked these steps over the decades?!

I could’ve stayed at the Basin Reserve all day today, especially considering it was such a glorious hot Spring day in Wellington, but all good things have to come to an end, I guess, and I just have to say thank you to Jamie and the NZ Cricket Museum and Cricket Wellington staff for making things like Basin Reserve tours possible for cricket fans and history fans to enjoy!  I had such a brilliant time, and highly recommend the tour to anyone else who is interested, if you ever get the opportunity to go along!  28 Oct - Basin Tour20a

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Breakfast with the Black Caps … 2017 edition

“Can we join you?” Trent Boult asked as he stood beside our breakfast table this morning in Wellington.

Like really, Trent, I’m going to say no?! was what I felt like replying, instead stammering out a, sure, no problem, or words to that effect, and then sitting back with my cup of coffee and watching as Tom Latham, Jeet Raval and Tim Southee collected their choices from the breakfast buffet and sat alongside him.

No, I don’t usually make a habit of having breakfast with million dollar men, but sometimes you are honoured with invitations to attend sponsor and supporter breakfast events when the New Zealand Black Caps are in your town for a test match, this time during the South Africa tour of 2017.

But have you ever actually finally had the chance to sit down with players you have watched and supported and admired the skill of for years, and then not had anything to say?  That pretty much summed up my morning, as the men opposite me tucked into their breakfasts and joked with each other, and other attendees who approached them.

It was a very cool experience, though, all things considered to chat to the likes of Tom and Jeet who you only ever see with helmets on in the middle of a cricket field.

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NZs test opening batting partnership

After breakfast was eaten, it was time for the formalities of the morning, starting with a brief summary slideshow of the cricket season matches against Bangladesh, Australia and South Africa.  Although, as Tim remarked, it seems to be a batsmen’s game, judging by the highlights that were selected to be screened!

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Brilliantly MC’d by Willie Nicholls, social media and communications expert, videographer, and twelfth man extraordinaire, it was time for the “question and answer” part of the morning and I have to say, some fascinating and interesting insights and stories were shared by the players, particularly their “cricketing heroes” and “how you got started in cricket” stories, although it’s good to hear there’s less of the “do that again and I’ll smash you!” going on between Tim and Trent these days!

How about that headband, though, Trent?!

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Trent Boult playing for a Bay of Plenty development side in 2006 

It was also great to hear the players’ thoughts and insights into things like county cricket and playing in the IPL.

I have to say a huge thank you to NZ Cricket, in particular James and Perri, for setting up and inviting me to this event, as well as WN and the players for waking up so early (especially those of them who aren’t morning people … *cough* Tim!) to share breakfast and stories and laughs with us.  I’m really hoping the Wellington weather warms up (a lot!) and dries up even more over the next few days, and wish you all the very best of success and enjoyment over the next week of test cricket at the Basin Reserve.  And if you see me sitting on the terraces, guys, don’t be a stranger; give me a wave or a hello!

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NZs test opening bowling partnership

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Getting back to what’s important …

At the end of the day, cricket is what we love and cricket should be what brings us together, not drives us apart! 

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Why do we have a media beat-up before every single cricket tour in this country?!

Because the media hates success, that’s why and they can’t stand the fact that the Black Caps are playing well, and climbing to the top of the rankings, and so they try and create drama and rifts and discord that is non existent!  Time and time again, before every cricket series starts in this country for the last few home summers, the media has tried to “blow up” a huge non-story (in this case, why wasn’t Ross Taylor called into the squad for a one-off T20 match when another player was ruled out with injury) and it’s all because they want the public’s attention not focussed on the players, who are playing extremely well at the moment and succeeding, and they’d rather create a barrier between the fans and the team and management.  Why?  Because the media can’t stand the fact that the Black Caps are at the top of the rankings in nearly every form of cricket, and Mike Hesson has a LOT to do with that!  They’d rather drag the man down, rather than congratulate him and get behind him to support him.  And that truly is sad, NZ media people!

I don’t know why everyone’s upset that Ross Taylor wasn’t called into the Black Caps squad for a one-off “hit and giggle” T20 against South Africa this Friday when Martin Guptill was unfortunately ruled out due to a hamstring injury!   For a start, he’s not as young as he once was and a T20 is the ideal opportunity for the selectors to bring someone new in to the line up to give them some international experience.  Hence the fact that Glenn Phillips has been called into the squad to cover for the opening batsman spot.

I mean, it should have been Tom Blundell, in my opinion, but that’s another story …

Also Ross Taylor isn’t actually an opening batsman so why on earth would he be brought in as cover for an opening batsman’s spot!

If I was Ross Taylor, why would I be upset at missing a one-off T20 match when I have five One Day matches and three TEST matches to be fit for!  That’s where the real glory lies!

Don’t fall into the media’s plan of making you hate NZ Cricket and in particular, Mike Hesson, people!  They hate anyone succeeding, remember, and will do their utmost to drag them down at any opportunity, including by creating rifts that aren’t actually there!  Don’t fall for it!

NZ Cricket in conjunction with Mike Hesson, Mike Sandle, Craig McMillan, Shane Jurgenson, and others in the support team, have brought the NZ Black Caps to the top of the rankings in almost every cricket format!  They have to be doing something right; and the media doesn’t like that because they can’t criticise them when they’re doing so well!

Don’t fall into their trap of believing that there’s rifts and discord – just get out there and support the team, while it’s doing so well!

 

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This is what we should be reporting on and celebrating today …

Kane Williamson

104 not out!  144 minutes, 90 deliveries, 15 boundary fours.

NZ v Bangladesh, Basin Reserve, Wellington, 16 January 2017

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Kane Williamson’s run scoring wagon wheel, courtesy of http://www.cricinfo.com

I felt incredibly blessed and fortunate to be able to be seated at the Basin Reserve in Wellington this week, as the New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson, not only guided his side’s run chase on towards victory over the Bangladesh cricket team, but he also managed to score his fifteenth test century in the process!

When Kane walked to the crease at the fall of the first wicket in the run chase, the side was in danger of losing their way in reaching a relatively small target of 217.  Kane needed to get himself settled at the crease, on a pitch that had already seen a number of runs scored and wickets taken over the last four days, then establish a partnership with Ross Taylor after the second wicket fell at the other end of the pitch, and look to score runs reasonably quickly as there were only a finite number of overs left in the day’s play.

The fact that he did all this is just another indicator of his incredible cricketing mind and amazing skill and technique in being able to take whatever the Bangladeshi bowlers threw at him, and judging by the above wagon wheel and noting how many runs Kane scored onto the legside of the ground, you can be sure there were also a number of short-pitched deliveries thrown in there for him to deal with also.

I actually found myself thinking when Kane was on about 60 runs that if he played well enough, he could actually score himself a century on that afternoon.  It seemed every run and moment from that point was captured by the ever-growing crowd on the embankment and terraces as everyone, it seemed, was willing him onwards to the target.  Not only the target of a test match win, but the target of a fifteenth test century.  You had to feel for Henry Nicholls who was Kane’s team mate at the other end of the pitch who, upon Ross Taylor’s dismissal for a very well played 60 runs, had to try and balance between scoring runs for the team and ensuring his captain received enough of the strike in order for him to reach his goal.  In fact, I could just imagine Kane walking down the pitch between overs and saying to Henry, just have a go, mate, and let’s go and have a beer (to paraphrase something Jimmy Neesham once said!)

Another reason to love Kane Williamson.  Ever the team player, he was more intent on reaching the final target for the team, than worrying about whether or not he’d be left stranded on 99 not out!

My view of that historic moment

But he did it, and the very next ball achieved his ultimate goal of winning the match for the team, as the Black Caps reached 217/3.  There were no histrionics, or lavish displays of joy and excitement as Kane reached both milestones either; just a quiet smile and confidence in himself and his team to come through five days of testing and intriguing cricket victorious!

And so I say thank you.  Thank you to the New Zealand Black Caps for five days of victorious test cricket, overcoming when most around the world at written them off, but mostly thank you to Kane Williamson, for allowing me to watch you go about the business of scoring test centuries, and winning matches for your team.

Courtesy of the Black Caps support team, the moment captured when Kane Williamson scored his 15th test century!

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NZ v Bangladesh, test series, 2016/17

Being unemployed has its benefits, despite suffering from JHFS (that’s Job Hunting Fatigue Syndrome, for the uninitiated!)  
One of those benefits is being able to visit the Basin Reserve when the New Zealand Black Caps are training for a test match the next day.  
Highlights from this morning’s visit included:
  • Getting totally blanked by Shane Jurgenson as he walked past me, despite me saying hello and his name … okay, so maybe that’s not a highlight!
  • Spending half an hour standing at the end of the practice nets, watching Tim Southee, Matt Henry and Neil Wagner perfect their bowling craft.
  • Neil Wagner leaving the nets to do an interview and seeing me, and waving and calling out hello!
  • Pretending not to eavesdrop as Bryan Waddle and Ross Taylor chat through the net fencing in front of me.
  • Wonder just why Dean Brownlie has grown that beard to be so long and scruffy!
  • Seeing Henry Nicholls leave his gear at the nets and wander off to do something, then fifteen minutes later, hear Tom Latham asking those around him where Toey had got to and being able to inform him just which direction he had disappeared to.
  • Observing the on-field advertising being applied by just a few of the many hands making light work of the pre-game preparations.  It’s a hive of activity at the ground in the days before a test match!
  • Finally being able to introduce myself to Willie Nicholls from the Black Caps media team.
  • Taking note of just how many people use the NZ Cricket Museum windows as a mirror as they wander past!
  • Shaking the hand of Don Neely, cricket historian extraordinaire!

 

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Close encounters of the furry kind …

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For my birthday last year, I was very blessed to be gifted with a “close encounter” opportunity at Wellington Zoo.

For those who may not be able to figure out what this means, a “close encounter” is the chance to get up close and personal with selected zoo animals, for a fee which goes towards the work at the zoo as well as the conservation fund to protect the animals in the wild.  For my close encounter, I got to meet the Wellington Zoo’s delightfully cute and adorable red panda family!

I have felt an affinity for the red pandas since the day Reka, a former tenant of the zoo, escaped from her enclosure and made her way to my family’s property in the southern suburbs of Wellington, and so I was very excited to be able to feed and pat a red panda in person … or in animal, as the case may be!

We were guided and taught expertly by Anna, who works with the red panda at the zoo, as we first called on Ishah, the eldest male of the group, who at first was rather apprehensive at intruders in his enclosure, but soon warmed to us when he detected the delicious fruit we were holding in our hands for him to jump onto our laps and eat from.

Don’t you just love his black sleeves?

After a short time as Ishah didn’t seem to be very hungry on this day, we moved next door to visit Sundar and Khosi, immigrants from Hamilton and Auckland Zoos respectively, who will hopefully be able to breed (on the one day of the year available for red pandas to mate) and increase the red panda population soon.

Sundar and Khosi were extremely excited and keen to have visitors, and were clambering over our laps even before we had vittles for them to eat!

Despite the red pandas not having too much of their trademark stripey tails, due to shedding their thick winter coats for the “summer” season, it was still a fantastic opportunity to see up close such beautiful and trusting animals.  And to feel their long claws used for expertly climbing the narrowest of tree branches, digging into our legs as they searched our hands for more fruit.

All good things have to come to an end, sadly, and it wasn’t long before the fruit bowl was empty and Sundar and Khosi were checking for any final stray scraps, before saying their good byes and heading back into the trees, to groom themselves after eating and to have an afternoon sleep …

Thanks again to everyone at Wellington Zoo, especially Anna, Ishah, Sundar and Khosi, for giving me such a fun and fabulous encounter with three beautiful and friendly red pandas!

P.S. I did ask if I could take one home, but sadly, it wasn’t allowed!

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Good things take time …

Chappell-Hadlee Series game two debrief:
I read something very interested on Monday, which still applies today, and I think needs to be taken into consideration before so-called fans start slamming our New Zealand Black Caps players after trying their utmost to win this week:
1. We just lost our best batsman in Ross Taylor barely a week out from the series due to injury.
2. Our middle order is extremely inexperienced, boasting 84 ODIs between them.
3. We’ve recently lost the experience of Grant Elliott to calmly guide a run chase, as well as not having Corey Anderson or Luke Ronchi’s experience.
4. We are playing an Australian team at home desperate to give their public some results.
But on the flip side, if you are wise, you can clearly see the positive points too:
1. Martin Guptill’s form continuing and him striking the ball cleanly and elegantly.
2. James Neesham showing just why the selectors gave him the enormous responsibility of filling in the number four role in Taylor’s absence, and despite everyone’s uncalled for negativity about speed and the fact that he wasn’t ‘bashing the ball every second,’ his and Williamson’s partnership was actually keeping NZ ahead of the required run rate the whole way they were together. And they easily put on the same score that Warner and Smith had in the first innings.
3. Tim Southee also showed again how much his experience and abilities were missed in the first match, through his wisdom and skill to bowl to individual batsmen, Steve Smith included.
 
I know people don’t want to believe it, but this is a team that is rebuilding. We’ve lost hugely in McCullum, Taylor, Vettori, Elliott, Anderson, McClenaghan (to name a few) being unavailable through injury and retirement, and if you thought they were just going to be able to continue on where the above mentioned players left off at the end of the last season, you would be mistaken.  
There’s no way anyone can expect Kane Williamson to be the same captain that Brendon McCullum was, and to have the same knowledge and skill and experience in setting fields and rotating bowlers, for example, in his first couple of games in charge.  
And there’s no way you can start this ridiculous call for players to be “dropped” because of one or two failures early on in their careers (FYI I really hate that word, and I don’t use the word ‘hate’ lightly either; fans are always very quick to bandy about such-and-such should be dropped after one or two games, when the players in question haven’t even been given the chance to find their feet in international cricket and be allowed to gain the experience to let their skills shine!  I mean, there’s people out there who figure that Henry Nicholls has had more than enough time to forge a test career and has had his chance and should be “dropped” (there’s that word again!)  For goodness sake, the man’s played NINE test matches!  Nine!  That is nowhere near long enough for a player to have gained valuable experience playing in different conditions and against different opponents in order to build a cricket career!  
No doubt the media this morning will be full of the so-called experts slamming our team for disappointing them, when they really should take a step back, not be so reactive and think about what went right for the team and what they worked on from the last match, and get behind them and support them for the next match!  I don’t care who you are, no one anywhere performs anywhere near their best when they are constantly slammed and criticised and not given the chance to learn and gain experience.
Sorry for getting so worked up, I’m just so passionate about this team and watching them hone their skills and craft, and I get so annoyed with the constant negativity and people not allowing them to forge their own paths and careers.  Sure, it hurts when the team loses (we all hate that) but you have to look at the big picture sometimes, and realise this is all working towards a better team, with a huge season ahead of them, and we’d all do well to get in behind them and sit back and enjoy the journey with them!
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