My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

A picture says a thousand words!

So, I really don’t need to say anything with this kind of photo …

A winning team is a happy team!

In case you missed it … and I don’t see how that could happen if you know anything about me, or have listened to the news at all today … the New Zealand cricket team BEAT Sri Lanka in the second test in Colombo, Sri Lanka overnight!

Well, not only did they beat them … in my opinion, they completely outplayed the hosts on all five days of the second test match in what I would dare to say was a complete team performance!

To start with, there was a vast improvement in the batting of the first innings for New Zealand.  There were a couple of blips on the scorecard – what test would be without them? – but when you have two or three players step up and bat responsibly and with patience to score record-breaking centuries and half centuries *cough* Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Daniel Flynn … this is always going to set the rest of the game up positively for the rest of the side to take control.

I don’t think I can say enough about the New Zealand bowling attack at the moment either … especially when you consider players like Daniel Vettori and Chris Martin, who have bowled superbly for New Zealand in past tests and years, weren’t even in the playing squad, and in Vettori’s place, weren’t even in the country!

Seeing bowlers like Tim Southee, who has been dropped from the team, not to mention the touring squad, more than once this calendar year, come back and bowl with such intelligence and skill, backed up by Trent Boult, who I reckon is the true hero of this bowling line-up for this match, bowling tirelessly and accurately, and Doug Bracewell, improving his line and length with every game, out-think the Sri Lankan batsmen not once, but twice, in the match, is immensely pleasing for fans of the game, and of the team!

And in case you’re thinking the Sri Lankans are a team of bunnies who were easy to dismiss, just take a look at some of their players’ statistics:  Sri Lankan Test Squad

And the batting and bowling efforts of our team were MORE than ably backed up by some sensational fielding displays from the likes of Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson!

All that’s left for me to say is … THANK YOU for rewarding our faith, belief and continued putting up with negativity from the media and fans who only seem to want to support when the going is good 😉 … THANK YOU Black Caps and well done on a stunning team effort!

The hard work isn’t over, of course, and I think the team will know this 😉 … It’s only a short break before heading across to South Africa, where hopefully with the proper warm-ups and training and practice, we can see more records tumbling and more winning smiles from our captain and his team …

(photo courtesy of Martin Guptill)

But for now it’s THANKS and a very Merry Christmas to our Black Caps … and their loyal supporters!  🙂

Sri Lanka v New Zealand test match scorecard from Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 2012

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First Class cricket in New Zealand – who says it’s boring?!

I sat back to watch the Hell Wellington Firebirds latest round in the Plunket Shield tournament (the New Zealand domestic men’s cricket first-class competition) against the Canterbury Wizards at Mainpower Oval in Rangiora, on Monday this week … well, okay I use that term loosely; given that I live on another Island to Rangiora and given that sadly, domestic cricket in New Zealand doesn’t get the attention from the media that it has enjoyed in the past, I sat back to watch the on-line scorecard through the parent website, http://www.blackcaps.co.nz !

The picturesque ground that is Mainpower Oval

It didn’t start off in the best of ways for the Firebirds captain, Stephen Murdoch when the Wizards won the toss and decided to have a bowl first.

The Wellington opening batsmen, Josh Brodie and Michael Papps, started the innings relatively solidly, but then Canterbury introduced their lethal bowling weapon, otherwise known as Andy Ellis!  Slightly tongue in cheek with that comment, you’ll notice, as even though Mr Ellis is a very good bowler, I wouldn’t say he’d be that terrifying to face for the likes of the Firebirds’ internationally experienced top order.  Needless to say, Ellis took control of the innings and claimed 6 wickets for 58 runs!

At the time that the Wellington final batting pair were put together at the crease, I unfortunately had to leave the scorecard and go to a meeting.  Before I did, however, I said to myself, would it be too much to ask that Andy McKay and Mark Gillespie NOT get out until I can check the scorecard again?

Now I’m not saying I have any special powers or gifts – he he – but when I checked the scoreboard on my smartphone after my appointment, Mark Gillespie had scored 77 runs!  And he and McKay had given their side a very respectable run tally to defend of 239; I think I even stopped dead on the pavement and stared in awe and shock at my phone (must’ve looked really silly to anyone watching – ha ha!) : News article on batting heroics of McKay and Gillespie

The day ended on a positive note for the Firebirds, claiming two of the Wizards wickets and leaving the bowlers hopeful of a good day the next day.  Sadly, the Spring weather forecast put paid to any play at all being possible on day two and so it was left to the Canterbury batsmen to come back on day three to advance the game a bit.

This they did, starting with an innings of 79 from Peter Fulton, but mainly due to Dean Brownlie’s innings of 133 runs.  The best of the Wellington bowlers was Gillespie himself, with figures of 4/74 from his 24 overs he bowled.

After gaining a lead of 62 runs, Fulton (being the Captain of the Wizards) declared the innings closed and the Firebirds set about restoring the fans’ faith in their batting abilities in their second innings.  Which they definitely did, with Brodie and Papps taking the side to stumps on day three without losing a wicket and with Papps himself sitting on 95 runs overnight.

Coming back for day 4, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the game would fizzle out to a dull draw.  Not to be the case, as Brodie batted well for his innings of 74 runs, but Papps was the stand-out, scoring a double century on what used to be one of his home grounds (finishing with a score of 206 not out).  Luke Woodcock chipped in with a handy 45 runs as the Firebirds gave the Wizards a rather generous declaration of their innings, requiring them to score 303 runs off 61 overs.  Which would have been fine, if Fulton hadn’t been in such great form with the bat and scored a quick 104 runs, ably assisted by Shanan Stewart and Tom Latham’s half centuries, to get the home side home with 6 wickets to spare!  (Of course, it needs to be added that Wellington were without their two frontline bowlers for the second innings with Gillespie having a sore neck and McKay having a side strain … and the fans hoping that neither injury is serious!)

So really, how could anybody describe those last four days of first-class cricket as boring and not needing a close eye *cough* more radio and television coverage perhaps? 😉

And did you know there have been 20 centuries scored in the Plunket Shield this season SO FAR, starting with the first match back in October when two players scored three centuries between them?!  If the Black Caps’ selectors are in any doubt as to where to find a few batsmen for the upcoming tour of South Africa, they don’t have far to look 😉

And just to highlight one such candidate, the Wizards Captain himself, Peter Fulton’s innings so far in the Plunket Shield:  29, 13, 102, 108, 79 and 104 – not bad at all!  🙂

The Black Caps website summary of the match

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So, what I SHOULD have said was …

Have you ever been in a situation where you just have to answer, pretty much without thinking about what you were saying, and then afterwards think to yourself, “Oh, I so should have said that instead?”

Happened to me yesterday, in fact …

I get this message from radio announcer, Steve Joll, from our local radio station, The Breeze, asking if I’m available to have a chat later in the week about the Hell Wellington Firebirds and being a fan of cricket.

Now, if anyone actually knows me in person, you’ll know that I’m horrendously shy and absolutely do not like being the centre of attention at all … which is why I love cricket so much; you can just sit in the stands or terraces and enjoy the game without having to draw attention to yourself.  So naturally, I was apprehensive about anything like talking to someone particularly on the radio waves and making people notice me even more.

I tentatively agreed and waited to hear back as to when Steve would call me up to chat about cricket on the radio.

Not expecting that he would ask me to meet him at the hallowed Basin Reserve, on a morning that the Hell Wellington Firebirds were having a training session, at all!  Of course, it was a good opportunity to also see how the grass was growing after the resurface and drainage project had been completed at my favourite cricket ground:

Artistic panorama of the Basin Reserve

(It’s definitely looking great by the way, and we’re all looking forward to being back for a Boxing Day HRV Cup match against the Central Stags later next month).

Anyway, after marvelling at just how crisply Jesse Ryder was hitting the cricket ball in a net session, let alone in a match, I met up with Steve, who had a chat and then we rounded a corner and Grant Elliott, captain of the Hell Wellington Firebirds, was waiting for us!  And what’s more, he gave me a replica HRV Cup playing shirt!!

Chat with Grant Elliott

Thankfully, Steve very nicely edited the whole encounter and the only part that’s really embarrassing is how bad I sound on a recording! Ha ha!

Oh, and lying awake all night that night, going over in my head exactly what I should have said and didn’t!

Like, I really wanted to say that actually my current favourite player is Andy McKay for the Hell Wellington Firebirds.  I mean, apart from being a really, really good bowler, anyone who dresses up as The Stig for last year’s Fill the Basin …

The Stig lends a hand for Fill the Basin 2011

and whose walk-out theme song for whenever he’s required to bat for the team is the theme from MacGyver, definitely deserves my respect!

And I really wanted to say THANK YOU to Steve and Cricket Wellington, Kirsty in particular, for organising the whole thing and being so generous – it’s going to be a fabulous summer of cricket, which this fan is very much looking forward to enjoying as much as possible of it!

So, meanwhile, down at Westpac Stadium, the Hell Wellington Firebirds’ opponents this week were the defending champions, just back from the Champions League competition in South Africa, Auckland Aces … and just quietly, the way these Aces are playing at the minute, they are the team to beat in the HRV Cup this season!

A windy, but good night of cricket in the Capital!

Donning my newly-acquired supporters’ top, my friend and I settled into our seats with another, albeit on the small side, good-natured crowd to enjoy the Friday night cricket action.  The Hell Wellington Firebirds’ innings started out so promisingly, Jesse Ryder smashing the first two balls faced to the boundary for 4s.  But that’s when the champion side of the Aces showed and slowly but surely, they chipped away at the batting line-up … a few times helped by some rather interesting calls from the umpiring team … leaving a gallant Cameron Borgas to score 50 off 43 balls, but not gaining the support from his teammates to achieve the total they wanted (and yes, we did get the chance to hear MacGyver too, sadly … well, only sad because Andy McKay should never need to bat in a 20 over match; the top order should be doing the job instead of him!)

Chasing 117 to win, Lou Vincent (and it is great to see him batting again in New Zealand, just as an aside!) went on the offensive and hit 14 runs off Shaun Tait’s first over, scoring 45 runs himself before succumbing to the pace of Tait towards the end of the innings.  But by this time, the result was never in doubt and the Aces cruised to victory with 2.5 overs to spare.

Definite highlights of the game were Colin Munro smoking a ball from Scott Kuggeleijn literally out of the Stadium!  I don’t know how far he hit that ball, but it’s definitely in the running for biggest 6 at the ground so far!

Also a highlight for me was seeing Shaun Tait bowling, particularly when he demolished Lou Vincent’s stumps towards the end of the innings!   Thanks for making the trip across the Tasman, Shaun (and Cameron) – two Aussies I don’t mind cheering for from now on, definitely!

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So this is what winning feels like :)

I have to say, over the years and through many cricket seasons, following and supporting the Wellington Firebirds has been a definite test of patience, endurance and learning how to set reasonable expectations for what transpires over the course of a season.

Hence why yesterday, which marked the first home game for the Firebirds in the form of a 20/20 fixture against the Canterbury Wizards (which forms part of the New Zealand domestic 20/20 competition known as the HRV Cup, for those not familiar with New Zealand domestic cricket), I was more excited to witness an enthralling game of cricket, rather than put any thought into which team I wanted to win.  I mean, obviously I would always want the Firebirds to be victorious, naturally being my home team, but I just wanted to enjoy the cricket on show for the evening.

And it was set up to be a very good game of cricket, just quietly.

Looking down the starting line-up for the Firebirds read like a “who’s who” of international cricketing fame and prowess … Grant Elliott (37 ODIs for NZ), Andy McKay (19 ODIs for NZ), Jesse Ryder (18 tests, 39 ODIs, 20 T20s for NZ), Mark Gillespie (32 ODIs, 5 tests for NZ), Michael Papps (8 tests for NZ) and then the likes of Luke Ronchi, Cameron Borgas and of course, Shaun Tait with their Australian domestic and international experience between them.

It’s not often you could say that the Firebirds go into a match as “favourites” but, even with the likes of Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Shanan Stewart and George Worker, to name a few, the Wizards would have been within their rights to have claimed the under-dog status.

Wizards openers and Firebirds take to the field!

Although, they definitely didn’t play like under-dogs as they won the toss and decided to bat first at the Westpac Stadium … despite the threat of Shaun Tait bowling in excess of 145km/hr at them!  Brad Cachopa and George Worker set up the batting effort nicely, with a solid opening partnership which included smashing 31 runs off Andy McKay’s 3 overs that he bowled, racing to 50 runs off just 6.2 overs!

When George Worker was eventually dismissed for 23 runs, after the spin bowling of Luke Woodcock was introduced by the Firebirds, Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie hit cameos of 34 and 11 respectively, to assist Brad Cachopa (67 not out) and the team to reach a very respectable total of 147 for 6 wickets.  The score could, however, have been considerably more, had Shaun Tait not come in and bowled the last over rather fiercely, and successfully too – claiming the wickets of Henry Nicholls and Logan van Beek off respective deliveries (he unfortunately missed the hattrick wicket) and finishing with rather tidy bowling statistics of 4 overs, 2 wickets for 14 runs conceded.  Definitely worth the price of admission in itself, to witness that kind of FAST bowling!

Okay, so the Firebirds’ renowned batting line-up were set the task of scoring 148 runs off their 20 overs to win this match.  And as we watched the teams warming up during the innings break for the second half of the game, and it became clear that Jesse Ryder and Michael Pollard would be opening the batting innings for the home team, I’ll admit to quietly hoping and praying that Jesse Ryder would get a good score and be able to withstand the immense pressure to perform that the media and cricketing public place on him every time he takes the field for his province.

Hearing the solid crack as the ball hit Jesse Ryder’s bat as he faced up to the first delivery from Tim Johnston and the batsmen crossed for an easy single, made me realise just what kind of batting form he was currently enjoying and that just maybe my prayer would be answered …

Jesse Ryder smashes another ball over the boundary!

There was a slight hiccup in the innings as the Firebirds lost the wickets of the Michaels (Pollard and Papps!) for not much, but Cameron Borgas, batting in the No. 4 position, steadily built an innings with Jesse Ryder, doing exactly what he was supposed to do in the situation and feeding the strike to the in-form batsman.  The pair brought up a 50 run partnership in reasonably quick time and although Cameron Borgas only scored 24 runs, it was off 24 deliveries and had built the momentum for Grant Elliott to finish the job with a fired-up Jesse Ryder, who carried his bat through the innings (for those of you not aware, this means that he opened up the innings coming in at the No. 1 position in the order, and was not dismissed by the side bowling) and scored 90 runs off 57 deliveries (‘d call that a “good” score, wouldn’t you?), striking 4 boundary fours and 5 sixes which cleared the boundary very quickly and very firmly!  (One of which was caught by a gentleman in the crowd, one-handed and holding a cup of beer in his other hand!  I think he was pleased with himself!)

The fact that the Firebirds reached their target after only 17 overs of their allocated 20 makes me realise just how brilliant the innings of Jesse Ryder’s was; especially when he was approaching a milestone himself (he could probably have scored a century of runs) but instead of taking risks and trying to quickly score boundaries to assist him in this, he instead chose to assist his team and, as the Wizards were rightly or wrongly protecting boundary-scoring shots at this stage of the innings, expertly guided the Firebirds to their target.  90 runs achieved, but worth 100 to his team, I would say!

The only thing I was disappointed with for this match was the support from the public.

The Friday night cricket concept is worth persevering with, in my view, and it’s a fantastic night out of entertainment, especially when the weather is so fine and perfect as it was this week, but I can’t help wishing the Stadium seats had been FULL of cricket fans, able to enjoy such skilful and exciting cricketing talent that those of us who did go along, thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated!

I hope the powers that be put a little bit more effort into filling the Stadium next Friday (16 November) when the Auckland Aces come to play cause, let’s face it, is anyone else fascinated and excited at the prospect of Shaun Tait charging in to bowl at Lou Vincent et al, and the Firebirds’ batsmen, including Jesse Ryder, facing off against a bowling attack that was competitive and somewhat successful in the recent Champions League in South Africa?!

Of course, that’s next week … this week, our Wellington Firebirds are winners and just maybe, 2012/13 is the season of the Firebird!  😉

Keep the winning happening, Firebirds!

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Lunch with the Firebirds

Well, I wouldn’t exactly say it was lunch … because pizza isn’t my food of choice, and I certainly didn’t feel like seeing if I could eat a pizza the fastest!  Ha ha!  Needless to say, there was blood, sweat and tears involved … literally!  One of the contestants was crying after eating a “roulette” slice of her Hell Pizza … and another contestant’s nose was bleeding come the end of the race!

I’m not actually sure there was too much sweat involved, actually, particularly as it was quite a cool Spring day at Midland Park in Wellington.

Nice timing, Jeets – look directly at the camera, why don’t you?! 🙂

Cool, but at least it was sunny and Australian imports Shaun Tait and Cameron Borgas can at least say they’ve now experienced a Wellington southerly … even if they didn’t get to experience the howling wind gales and sideways rain!

Ok, Shaun’s quite tall … or maybe I’m just a hobbit!

It’s funny – I always feel all shy and self-conscious going up and talking to random strange men, all because they happen to play cricket and represent my city … or my country, in the case of the Black Caps … but I have to say, all the Firebirds squad members that I had the nerve to say hello to, were incredibly nice and polite and didn’t mind random strangers walking up to them and asking for photos, or just randomly joining their conversation groups!

And say what you like about Australians, I found nothing to hate about the couple I met today 😉

Friendly Aussies!

PS Don’t worry Andy, I won’t let on to anyone that you’re scared of facing Shaun in the nets … oops!  😉

MacGyver and me!

Thanks have to go to the DJs from 91ZM who acted as mc’s / referees / judges and general telling everyone what to do people … along with the sponsorship from HRV and Hell Pizza obviously, for helping to put together a good afternoon where Wellington could meet the Firebirds!

And I even got a few freebies to take home too:

I’m actually really looking forward to a fantastic game of T20 cricket on Friday night, when the Firebirds take on the Canterbury Wizards at the Stadium … not least because I’m hopeful that a lot of people decide to make the most of what will be a fine night in the Capital and get down to the ground to support our team … but also because of the exciting and immensely talented cricketers that are going to be hopefully putting on a good game as well!

I mean, aside from the fabulous skills on display in the Wellington team … Canterbury can not be written off either, with the likes of Dean Brownlie, Hamish Bennett and Ryan ten Doeschate, to name but a few!

It’s going to be a fantastic night – so if you haven’t got plans for Friday night yet, get down to the Stadium for a 7.00pm start!

the Big 3!

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Great start to the weekend …

In case you’re wondering, I’m being sarcastic with my post heading 😉

To start from the beginning, I enjoyed a nice bit of a lie-in on this Saturday morning, my decision made easier by the sound of rain outside … finally got up and dressed and brunched (made my own variation of Eggs Benedict, in case you wanted to know!) and turned on my pc to check out the news from overnight and the day.

The first thing I discovered was that apparently it’s not okay to express a bit of displeasure at a bowler being denied a clear wicket appeal.

Jesse in trouble again

I’ve been watching and listening to cricket for a good few years now (when I can, of course, given that I don’t have access to Sky Sport for live TV coverage, and commentary on the radio is slim pickings … but more on that later!) and I’m sure I’ve seen and heard many, many bowlers over the years expressing some kind of displeasure when a wicket decision is not given in their favour.  It’s just human nature, isn’t it, to be striving so earnestly for something and when you don’t get it, be bitterly disappointed?

Unless of course your name is Jesse Ryder and then, naturally, we have to turn it into a MAJOR big deal and make the guy feel even more of a cricket outcast than we’ve already made him!

It seems if he’s not batting brilliantly for his team of the moment (as he did in the first round of Plunket Shield cricket this season, scoring centuries in both innings of the Wellington Firebirds’ match against the Central Stags) we have to be  quick to instantly pounce on the first minor indiscretion and  make him feel like he shouldn’t really be bothering trying so hard to get his mind, life and cricketing game back on track!

Come on media, cricketing officials, and cricketing fans alike – give the guy a break, and cut him a bit of slack, and instead of roasting him, encourage and support him in his endeavours!  I myself have known several people to go through the same kind of struggles he has obviously been through in the past and I would just like to say how proud of him I am for firstly, being so open and upfront about it all, and secondly, doing something about it and (so far) succeeding!

Needless to say, I should’ve stopped my news scanning there, this morning, and saved myself the disappointments that were to come …

Now, as I mentioned before, I am one of the (few, it seems) people who don’t have the privilege of being able to afford a subscription to Sky TV and therefore, I have to rely on other means of communication and media to keep up to date with my favourite sports team.  Particularly when they are currently embarking on a tour of Sri Lanka and there is nothing nicer for a cricket fan, than being able to sit back in the evenings and turn on the radio for a dose of ball-by-ball commentary from a test match.

Alas, it seems I will be thwarted in my need for keeping up with the state of play in the coming test series, as the costs have been deemed too high:  No test commentary

On this occasion, I guess I can’t really blame NZ Cricket as the Sri Lankan board was the one setting the pricing and setting it out of reach of one of the participating countries.  Kind of seems a bit ludicrous, if you ask me, for one of the competing teams to not even be given easier access to keeping their fans in contact with the games!  I’m sure if the boot was on the other foot and it was the Sri Lankan team touring New Zealand, our radio and TV networks would be pleased to make sure not only the pricing was right, but also the timings were right so that their fans at home could get their cricketing fix throughout the tour!  It seems money really has become the most important thing in the world …

Speaking of money, I read my way through to the end of this article and hidden away at the very end, were three sentences which made my cricketing heart sink right to the bottom of my boots:

Meanwhile, White confirmed NZ Cricket had pulled its funding for live internet streaming of Plunket Shield commentaries this season.

The Radio Network was flooded by complaints from listeners last year when it ceased commentaries from Plunket Shield venues, a popular feature of its summer programming in years past.

NZ Cricket stepped in earlier this year to pay for live internet streaming of commentaries, but White confirmed that that had stopped.

What the …?!!

So, exactly how are the loyal fans supposed to keep track of where their favourite teams’ games are at throughout the summers of cricket?  Oh, that’s right, we’re all supposed to have web-capable phones these days, aren’t we, so that we can look up the scoreboards on the cricket website and know what’s going on that way.

What about the people who can’t afford this kind of technology, or who just aren’t interested in having a cell phone for a start?  I’m sure there are many, in particular older, cricket fans, who are totally missing sitting back and listening to the sound of Bryan Waddle, Jeremy Coney, Ron Snowden and the like, describing to them, in great detail exactly what is happening on the field in front of them!

But technology aside … there is no comparison between reading a scoreboard on a screen, and hearing somebody actually describing the 25 boundaries Jesse Ryder stroked on his way to scoring 174 runs against the Central Stags last weekend … or hearing somebody describe the weather conditions in Rangiora to assist Neil Wagner in claiming 4 wickets against the Canterbury Wizards …

And don’t get me started on whether I’d rather hear the sound of someone describe a cricket match in precise detail … or the sound of never-ending whinging callers to a talk-back programme!  I guess this is cheaper though, so I lose 😦

I just don’t understand how it can cost so much to give the fans what they want, which is to provide a bit of VOICE to the sound of leather on willow in New Zealand this summer!

Oh, that’s right, we won’t even get the sound of leather on willow either this cricket season … until our teams come to their home venues, and we coincide our days off so that we can spend them at the grounds … which I’m going to do anyway, in case you’re wondering!  I’ve already got my Cricket Wellington membership pass ready to go – have you got yours?!  😉

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Book Review: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s no doubt about it, Lucy Maude Montgomery is a stunning author!

I decided it was time for me to revisit her Anne series, after not reading them for probably close to 20 years, and found myself immediately drawn into Anne’s world of Avonlea, and Green Gables, and the usual childhood of getting into trouble, saying the wrong things, and coming through the other side stronger for it.

If you’ve never heard of Anne of Green Gables, or you’ve heard of her and never read the series, I highly recommend you find yourself a copy (hopefully of the entire series of 10 books!) and enjoy her adventures, as only Lucy can tell them!

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