My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

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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