Lucky Paul. You’ve all been following the story here on DWC. Lovely ol’ boy from Yorkshire. Fellow traveller. We met on the way to the cricket in Mumbai and somehow ended up watching the rest of the Indian tour together. He went trekking in Nepal, I went gadding about in Australia. “See you in Dunedin!” was the cheery farewell at Nagpur airport just before Christmas.

Now then readers, your starter for ten. Why is Lucky Paul so-called?

Yes that’s right. It’s because before every day of every match since our chance meeting in Mumbai, the day’s play has to start with a handshake. It started off as a convivial formality. It has gone on from being merely a superstition to an unbreakable institution.

Every day. Before play. The handshake. Not Masonic or Street or something similarly vulgar or odious. A standard handshake. The accepted greeting all over the world.

At the University Oval, Dunedin, New Zealand were outstanding today. From first ball to last. Brendon McCullum marshalled his troops well and will take massive pride from today’s showing. The Black Caps quicks got among the England top order early on, Tim Southee praying on Nick Compton’s lack of confidence. Neil Wagner (4-42) on debut was the pick though, ending up with the wickets of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in consecutive deliveries.
Ian Bell fluffed yet another opportunity to lead from a good position, his profligate dismissal when well set in the twenties was typical of a lot of England’s stroke play. Yorkshireman Joe showed he is human after all, getting out early as England continued to implode. A wake up call for England here; Rooty can fail.
Matt Prior and then top scorer Jonathon Trott (44) gave their wickets away before Stuart Broad’s brainless slog sweep added to left-arm spinner Bruce Martin’s glut of wickets. Steve Finn and James Anderson gave their side’s total something approaching respectability before Anderson miscued to Wagner to leave Martin with 4-43 on debut and England 167 all out.

The Kiwis’ response wasn’t in England’s script either. The returning Finn and Anderson were supposed to blitz the openers as they did in the shorter format two weeks ago. The bowlers looked as ineffective as their batting counterparts. Hamish Rutherford played serenely while Peter Fulton stonewalled near faultlessly. Rutherford, the young debutante would finish the day unbeaten on 77 and New Zealand 36 runs behind.

Late afternoon and the home team, against the expectations of their loyal supporters sat on the banks, were cruising. England, with an hour or so still to go, were firmly in the doldrums. Their vast away following wracking their brains to think of similarly chastening away days.
The shadows started to lengthen, the South Western wind cooling the late summer sun, the scoreboard read seventy five without loss.
Paul frowned, casually turned to me and said;

“Henry. We never did the handshake earlier.”

Aw bugger.