Archive for February, 2013

Shot Of The Day

Yes it’s another picture of Queenstown. Yes there’s cricket in it again.

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Look closer.

That’s Greg standing at short mid wicket. Charlie diligently keeps wicket. The bowler is new Elstow CC recruit Ollie. The batsman off-driving? Yours truly.

This was how we spent the lunch break. In New Zealand, where they treat cricket supporters like grown ups (Yes BCCI, that barb was meant for you.), you can wander on to the field of play and inspect the wicket, you can let the soft, closely cropped outfield grass brush your toes, or, like us, you can attempt to emulate your heroes by having a go yourself.

The photo captures my first international boundary. The ball kissed the rope so I reckon it must be my first international boundary. I’m happy with myself here so I apologise for the smug title of this post. It’ll be back to doubt and self loathing soon enough though I’m sure, but at that moment I was, like Colin Zeal in the Blur song, so pleased with myself.

Ah ha.

Greg I met in Kolkata at the third Test, he and his girlfriend and Jackie are following the Test Series here too. A lovely couple, it’s been great to catch up with them. The photographer, to whom I’m very grateful is Keith, another acquaintance from the India tour. Splendid fellow. Charlie is the chap from Essex I met up north who’s undertaking his first England tour overseas. Good player, he’d do a job at The Warren. Ollie, I met him and his charming girlfriend Gemma today. Ollie looks like a cross between Jesus and Serge from Kasabian. And plays a bit like them too.

What an enticing prospect for the Barry Fry Stand regulars….

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’ve overdone the photos and sketches a little bit recently on DWC. I think. The problem, and what a problem it is to have, with New Zealand is it does rather demand you keep taking them.
Along the way many of the people I’ve encountered have shrugged incredulously when I’ve told them I’m following the fortunes of my national cricket team to the far reaches of the globe.

Why, or as is more common over here, warum?

And then I show them pictures like these.

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Ach so, alles klaar.

I’d been looking forward to the Queenstown match for a while, ok, it’s a warm up game rather than a Test Match, but I’d been told great things about the ground here. Word even reached me it might even be more picturesque than The Warren, the home of the mighty Elstow C.C.

Dear reader, I couldn’t possibly say.

England finished the day 357-7, Ian Bell finished on 127-7. Some of his cover drives rivalled the vista for serenity. As stated previously here and among fellow Doubting Thomases elsewhere, the talent has never been in doubt.
Alastair Cook looked in complete control before edging behind for 60 and Joe Root, England’s wunderkind, in keeping with the Teutonic talk from earlier, perished just shy of his half century. It was great to see Matt Prior back in an England shirt and his quick firing partnership with Bell gave his team some momentum after the New Zealand XI’s bowlers threatened to derail their progress.

Day two should see England ram home their advantage. They have the runs on the board and a bowling attack yearning to feature in the forthcoming Test series, as well as put down an early marker for inclusion in the Ashes side in the summer.

Omer’s Odyssey

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The view across the bay from St.Omer Beach towards Town Pier and Marine Parade, Queenstown.

Queenstown, Mountains…. One Nil!*

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Good evening. The pictures you are about to see are the most serene, amazing, dramatic and graceful exhibition of photos, possibly in the history of this blog.

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Uuurgghh-urrgh-urrgh, ha ha. Well Emlyn, I have to agree, they’re quite Remarkables.

*Hello Eats!
I guess you’re all bound to want to watch one of the great man’s finest hours now, right?
Go on then….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOtL1m1o_ok

Dream On

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have no idea why.

I used to get this a lot on Sunday nights. And I will again soon as my adventure begins to draw to a close. Firstly, what the hell do I do with my life once the booziness and badinage of this trip has warn off and all the highs of the last few months have been coldly filed into the memory bank?
Even then, I’ll probably hate what I end up doing anyway and it’ll be back to those bleak thoughts. The thought of another Monday, another week’s fruitless trudge for dismal reward.

Could it be that? Or, following my dalliance with 5 Star luxury the night before, my bad karma catching up with me.
Or my unceremonious return to hosteling. Current gripes? Good looking lasses with blokes out of their league (If that’s the current trend, how come I’m missing out?).
And big groups of do-gooding types (teachers or church groups, that type of thing) hogging the facilities, the rest of us consigned to kitchen corners as they loudly and lengthily prepare their Last Suppers.
And the fact that my current billets are right next to the adjoining creaky wooden stairs and the nocturnal cattle herd (a unique selling point for any hostel, you’d have thought) that use them for sprint training.

As I was trying to count sheep (lots of them down here admittedly, I got two thirds of the way through I reckon) and wrestle with the Black Dog a single, beautiful thought fought its way through the darkness, like the band’s greatest fan* straining through the stubborn drunken phalanx of tottering bodies to get their spot beside the stage. Something I read from Mr Derek’s article in the Telegraph an hour or two earlier;

Saturday was England’s first ODI series win against New Zealand for twenty-one years.

Brilliant. That really is brilliant.

This says three things to me. Firstly, under Alastair Cook, England are establishing a welcome habit of breaking long-standing records. Witness, firstly the Test side’s dramatic series win after a quarter of a century in India in December. And now the latest triumph in New Zealand. For all the Kiwi fans protestations, New Zealand are traditionally tough competitors at this form of the game and to win here is a sign of England’s growing confidence, a sign of a hitherto un-hinted at long term planning, player selection and tactics as firstly the Champions Trophy then, belatedly, the World Cup approaches. Keep on winning lads.
Secondly, it shows a further, worrying decline in New Zealand cricket. Blackcaps supporters, granted are quick to jump on both success and failure bandwagons as soon as they’re hastily assembled, but losing their way, at home, in One Day Internationals should sound alarm bells that have previously been ringing at Test level. It pains me to see this kind of second team (if you’re ever allowed such a thing, especially internationally) to me go through this. Their hardcore support deserve better.
Lastly, this has the makings of a very good limited overs England side. I like the make up of it, I like the longevity of it and I like the hunger of it. Young tyros bursting to show off their talents on the world stage mixed with canny performers who know this format inside out topped with the cream of world cricket talent and a collective urge to prove they are the best in the world. This is the beginning of an exciting chapter for this team.

A happy idea indeed. Forget counting sheep, I allowed my self to slip into subconsciousness with thoughts of stirring victories and a positive future for English cricket.

Sweet dreams.

*Like me at a Wait For Jude gig, for example. Hello Scott, Gav, Greg and axeman Pete.

Viewing Record For England ODI Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 3, Lost 1, Won 2, Drawn 0

“BJ or Root?” proclaimed the coarse Kiwi fan’s banner unfurled in Eden Park’s East Stand. In the battle of the innuendo monikered, Yorkshireman Joe continues to provide satisfaction for England.

Since having been given his head late last year, the young allrounder has been superb in all three matches and was fittingly there at the series’ climax to cream the winning runs through mid wicket and seal the ANZ ODI Series for his team. While the latter stands proud across all formats of the game, Watling’s limp dismissal early on rather set the mood for his side’s loss by five wickets as England’s fast bowlers once again set up victory over the Black Caps in the first half hour.

There was no afternoon delight for the home supporters. James Anderson’s swinging deliveries and Steve Finn’s pace (9-3-27-3) simply ripped through the New Zealand top order. Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor’s stubborn fifty partnership, then captain Brendan McCullum’s spanking of 79 from 68 balls threatened something of a second coming. But when the Kiwi captain holed out to Anderson off the bowling of Graeme Swann, his departure signalled the premature finish to New Zealand’s innings, 185 all out from only 43.5 overs.

Root, as he has done all series, kept the British end up. Finishing undefeated on 28, his iron fisted resolve again took England home. England’s top three; Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, who top scored with 46, and Jonathon Trott set up the victory. Eoin Morgan then looked in great touch for his 39 from 24, but lacked the staying power to complete the task. After Joss Buttler couldn’t finish off New Zealand, Chris Woakes’s late introduction gave Root a hand. Job done for England.

Flashpacking

A highlight from my last World Tour was a night or two after months on the road in the Leela, Mumbai courtesy of a good pal of mine, Tesco Nige. On greeting me at reception, he promptly looked me up and down disapprovingly before frogmarching me, backpack, bags and all over to the concierge with the words; Here you go, can you wash this please?

This trip’s Leela moment has come via Gareth. He’d got a spare bed in his suite in Auckland and, bless ‘im, said I could crash there for a night.

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After last night in the AC-free, box room with Trampo, and several weeks of rubbing shoulders with half of Germany in confined spaces this is manna from heaven. I am hugely grateful the big-hearted Yorkshireman.
I even promised to never say anything approaching derogatory about Rugby League or Tetley’s Bitter ever again. Good on yer Gaz, good on yer.