My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

Wellington won!

Yes, you read that title correctly :p

It has been a long-running joke in sporting circles in New Zealand over the years that Wellington sporting teams have “always been the bridesmaid and never the bride,” as the saying goes.

However, bookended between a stunning New Zealand Black Caps T20 win over Bangladesh in Mirpur on Wednesday evening, and a sadly washed-out Black Caps first One-Day International match against Sri Lanka in Hambantota on Sunday … and punctuated with a domestic HRV Cup T20 win to Northern Districts over Otago in Dunedin on Saturday … the Wellington Firebirds completed a satisfying victory in a Plunket Shield 4-day match over the Central Districts Stags at the Basin Reserve in Wellington!

Wellington v Central Districts scorecard

The game didn’t start out very promisingly, with most of day one being washed-out by Spring rains hitting the Capital city.  However, somehow 60 overs were bowled and Central Districts were looking well placed at 208/6 at the end of the day.

Fortunately for Wellington, Mark Gillespie (6/77) and Brent Arnel (4/77) had other ideas and the Stags were bowled out in their first innings for 289 on day two and the Firebirds were able to start their advance to chasing down this total, ending the day at 149/2.

The first innings for Wellington was highlighted by three fantastic batting performances, ironically the lucky number of which being 62, with Michael Papps (does this guy know how to bat, or what?!) and Steve Murdoch putting on a second wicket partnership of 100 runs, while Jeetan Patel batted through to the end of the innings to score another First-Class half century also.

I have to also say that I actually really enjoying having the opportunity to watch Doug Bracewell bowling, live and without the pressure of bowling for New Zealand.  His 4/60 in the first innings and the manner he went about bowling to get these wickets, was definitely another highlight of my cricket-watching weekend!

Day three was also highlighted by a lively and enthusiastic number of fans watching from the famous embankment at the Basin Reserve, and the “international football” guys who situated themselves at the northern end of the ground for the afternoon were greatly appreciated for their lively banter (and clean, respectful banter, at that!) to and with the players on the field!  Although, I’m pretty sure Sir Richard Hadlee and Jeremy Coney weren’t actually playing on the weekend, guys 😉

Sunday, and the final day of the match, and this fan wasn’t actually feeling the best and looking like giving another afternoon of cricket-watching a miss … particularly cause watching cricket at the Basin Reserve in November and December isn’t the warmest thing for the fans, with the Spring winds whipping through the ground; however, I am so glad I put on my puffer jacket and made the effort to take my seat on the Terraces, not least because I had the opportunity of chatting with the Chief Executive of the Cricket Players’ Association towards the end of the day 🙂

Special note must be made of Ben Smith’s (not the All Black!) maiden First-Class century (133) for the Central Stags, as well as Carl Cachopa (54) and captain Kieran Noema-Barnett (32) batting well to be able to declare rather generously, and set the Wellington Firebirds a target of 310 runs in about three and  a half hours remaining in the match.

For a fan who has watched many Wellington run chases in the past seasons, it was most gratifying to see the top order for the Firebirds go about reaching this target in such a positive manner, and when Steve Murdoch had to retire on 30 runs (3 runs short of a milestone 2000 runs in First-Class cricket, I might add!) after getting hit on the side of the face by a really nasty bouncing delivery (from the sound of the ball crashing against his helmet, which was heard loudly from the sidelines, I am very glad he ‘only’ came away with soreness, bruising and swelling) … captain James Franklin, along with Michael Pollard and Luke Woodcock, continued the positive batting mindset, scoring 61, 65 and 56 respectively.

Ironically, during the tea break on this last day, I had been lamenting with the curator at the NZ Cricket Museum that Luke Woodcock didn’t seem to have a lot to do in the team these days, with Jeetan Patel being the preferred spin bowling option in 4-day matches, and Mark Houghton being preferred sometimes over him in limited overs games, so I was exceedingly pleased when he scored his 31st half century and, together with Jeetan Patel (who in the past has been criticised for his batting technique and ability to stay at the crease) followed up his half century in the first innings with a well-fought 24, including two cover drives for boundary-fours to win the game for the Firebirds!

So, despite feeling really, really cold; hungry (the game finished just before 7pm) and needing to use the bathroom by the end of the match, all these things were put into the shade by the happiness of knowing the Wellington Firebirds had won the game, and were currently sitting at the top of the Plunket Shield points table (Okay, so some teams haven’t started their Plunket Shield season yet, but still!)

When you’ve been the bridesmaid for so long, being the winning team … and seeing so much promise for the season ahead, is immensely satisfying!

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Book Review: Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables
by Budge Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this “prequel” to the series about Anne of Green Gables!

I felt Budge Wilson completely captured the life and times of Anne’s “upbringing” before meeting the Cuthberts, so aptly and well … although there were times when I thought Anne spoke a little too eloquently for a 5 year old 😉

But still, that’s what we have come to expect from Anne Shirley, isn’t it?  🙂

And the stories and adventures that Budge wrote into Anne’s eleven years before we catch up with her at Avonlea, were perfectly fitting to how LM Montgomery wrote the stories since her adoption by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.

All round, a beautiful and delightful read and recommended to anyone who loves the Anne books as much as I do!

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Something was missing!

Well, New Zealand finished their One-Day series with Bangladesh … in Bangladesh … last night, and despite another valiant effort, in what must be horrible conditions for playing cricket to 100% of your ability, the Bangladeshis were victorious again, taking the series 3-0.

Although, you have to say they deserved to win, after chasing down 307 runs to win the final match!

I mean, as a New Zealand fan, you could be forgiven for thinking Anton Devcich (note the extra C in his surname, commentators!) and Tom Latham batted exceedingly well to put on 46 and 43 runs respectively each, to get the team score started nicely 🙂

Tom Latham took his opportunity!

Tom Latham took his opportunity!

And then Ross Taylor came in and played a masterful innings, scoring 107 runs off 149 deliveries, which included 9 boundary fours and 3 sixes hit as only Ross Taylor can hit them!

Fabulous batting Ross!

Fabulous batting Ross!

He was more than ably assisted in his quest for runs by Colin Munro, who himself scored a stunning 85 runs (which included 7 fours and 2 sixes of his own!) and the pair put on a century partnership to take the team total to such a formidable target.

One thought, anyway …

Who would have guessed that the Bangladeshi batsmen would come out and bat so fearlessly and belligerently to totally dominate the New Zealand opening bowlers, Kyle Mills and Adam Milne (the latter being shown up for his inexperience at times, but in my opinion, this can only make him a better bowler for the future).

It was quite sad really that Shamsur Rahman got himself out four runs short of what would have been his maiden One-Day century!

But the likes of Naeem Islam (63) and Nasir Hossain (44) made sure his efforts weren’t in vain as they seemingly easily guided their team to the final total.  Although, I do wish Nasir could change his name – ha ha!  I found myself wondering every time his name was mentioned, hang on, isn’t he retired already, my brain only being able to think of the English captain for so many years, Nasser Hussain!

For all that this final match was fantastic to watch, from a cricketing perspective, I still felt there was something missing!

And then I realised it, as I watched Nathan McCullum dive across at short cover to field a delivery and stop a single in his usual energetic and acrobatic fashion … this was the first match in a very, very long time in which Nathan was the only McCullum on the field!  I don’t know the exact statistics but how long as it been since Brendon McCullum was not able to take the field for his country, who he loves playing for so dearly and doing his best for?!

Brendon had already withdrawn from this final match of the series, having to return home to get urgent treatment for his ongoing back injury.  It made me quite sad to read Paul Close, the team physio, quoted in a Cricinfo article:

Brendon’s back needs careful management – it’s flared up and is giving him significant pain. The best course of action is getting him home for rehabilitation as soon as possible.

The fact that this man has been playing and doing so well, as a Captain if not with his batting skills, for his team for so long and he has been in such pain, makes me quite sad that critics and ‘part-time’ fans can ridicule and harass him as much as they do.  Behind his back, of course, through things like social media and radio talkback (I wonder if these same people would ever dare to say what they say through these means face-to-face with Brendon?!)

Do these critics really think that it doesn’t hurt Brendon every time his batting gets worked out by opposition bowlers and he is dismissed for a low score and he can’t contribute to helping his team to win?  For that matter, do these critics think it doesn’t hurt ANY of the New Zealand players each time they come so close and don’t quite get the victory?

Is there really any point to constant bickering and moaning and whinging?  How is this encouraging or uplifting to anyone, let alone a national sports team who is trying and doing their utmost in the sport they love to try and improve and win games?

I already miss Brendon McCullum not being available to join his team in their quest for winning ways, and I can’t wait till he gets his back issues sorted out and can be back in black for New Zealand!  Get well soon, Brendon!

And just to prove that this tour has not been a wasted effort from our boys, a few highlights include:

  • Kane Williamson’s 114 and 74, and BJ Watling’s 103 in the first test
  • Doug Bracewell’s 3/96 in the first test
  • Half centuries from Peter Fulton (59) and Ross Taylor (54) in the first test
  • Neil Wagner’s 5/64 in the second test
  • Corey Anderson’s maiden test century (116) in the second test
  • BJ Watling scoring 70, Kane Williamson scoring 62, Ross Taylor scoring 53 and Ish Sodhi 58 in the second test!
  • Tim Southee coming back into the team with 3/34 in the first One-Day International
  • Although he was overshadowed by Jimmy Neesham’s 4/42 in the same match!
  • Grant Elliott scoring 71 and Corey Anderson 46 in the first ODI
  • Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham picking up 4 wickets apiece in the second ODI!
  • Ross Taylor showing us the start of things to come, with 45 in the second ODI
  • Anton Devcich (46), Tom Latham (43), Colin Munro (85) and Ross Taylor (107*) in the third ODI
Love this team!

Love this team!

I hope the guys can have a little fun in the T20 coming up on Wednesday … and then build positively on the above as they head to Sri Lanka – with the support of the true fans back home in New Zealand willing them on to winning ways again 🙂

Third ODI between Bangladesh and New Zealand – scorecard

Brendon McCullum heads home with back trouble – article