When I was eight, and still dreaming of a career in the baggy green, I would burst into tears whenever I got out. Fortunately, I outgrow the habit by the age of 10. Watto, even at the age of 34, greets every dismissal as if still in the throes of that impending juvenile trauma. He bristles with purpose, but it’s a purpose with no team solidarity; his sporting will is entirely self-centred.
Pirlo long ball to Baggio, who finishes exquisitely. This is basically pornography for football nerds.
BIG DATA! Picking a winner in a golf tournament is more difficult than combing an annoyed cat. Fivethirtyeight.com, however, have figured out that Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal has apparently increased Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth’s chances by 3% in the British Open – go deep and go figure.
The Ashes are inexplicably the Most Anticipated Test Series in cricket. It’s rarely close, and most of the world-class play and players have been provided by the Ockers in recent years, despite England’s awkward flirtation with competency for a while there.
Deciding which of these great sporting nations to get behind is a real quandary for NZ sport fans.
Culturally, the series is an absolute ripper, with the moustachioed, swearing, we-drank-85-beers-each-on-the-plane-over-mate crowd from down under taking on Mother England in their own St John’s Wood Home Of Cricket in a game they invented, but have been pretty woeful at ever since. This year’s series is harder than usual to predict with the World Champions looking strong as always, if slightly old and tired. They’re playing New England, fresh off an extraordinary series against our lot, showing an uncharacteristic rip, shit and bust approach.
So who to support if you’re a New Zealander? Again, this series is going to be starting at really good viewing / tweeting times for the NZ couch / TV / laptop crowd – Graeme has already made the case for getting behind England, but here’s (gulp) the case for supporting Australia. And having a really thorough shower afterwards.
First, it’s better for the BLACKCAPS if Australia wins. We are fourth in the world in Tests with 99 points, while England are just two points behind on 97 in sixth. We get to have a crack at the jandal-lickers (who are second on 111 points) in five Tests this summer, so have plenty of chances to haul them in. Also, if Australia get through an Ashes summer with the creaky / old Clarke / Haddin / Watson crowd, there’s a better chance they’ll get picked to play us, and I fancy our chances against them.
You also have to factor in that England are feckin’ unbearable when they win. Queen Victoria, who has been dead for over a century, is sick to the back teeth of whizzo tales of 2005 and how Freddy hugged Brett Lee that time, and then was drunk on an open topped bus, and it was KP wot won it at the Oval. If England won it again, having been pummeled in Australia last time, you’d never, ever, hear the end of it.
If we can get over the under arm, surely the poms can get over 2005.
Conversely, England losing at cricket is my favourite thing on Twitter. From the snippy, stiff upper lip gallow-tweeting from the press box, to the fans who veer between ‘we’re the new 1980s West Indies’ to ‘we’re worse than Micronesia’, often in the space of a few overs, this is Twitter entertainment at its finest. If things don’t go to plan in the first Test or two, the ‘Bring back KP’ drums will provide a snappy backbeat to the misery and woe.
But let’s be clear – you don’t have to like or even respect the Australian players in order to want them to win. Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, David Warner, etc have a long track record of the idiotic and rude, encompassing bad sportsmanship and a criminal lack of humility, self awareness and irony.
You won’t get any argument from me that they’re hard to love, but some – some – of them are great to watch. Mitchell Starc, even though he annoyingly bowled our skipper third ball in the World Cup final, is a top fast bowler and top viewing. Same goes for Steve Smith. Same would have gone for that noble Rhino Ryan Harris, but for his body letting him down at the final hurdle.
Haddin – yes, it’s OK to think he’s a dickhead.
Anyway. It should be a cracking series and we can watch safe in the knowledge that the BLACKCAPS ae riding a wave of performance and personnel and playing the best brand of cricket going at the moment. These aren’t aspirational teams for us, these are our peers. Let’s take the high road and get behind our trans-Tasman cousins, if only for purely selfish reasons.
Things get cooking at number four. McEnroe, the master, smashes a racquet, then argues he hasn’t smashed it. Then a guy smashes all his racquets and has to abandon the game, while number one smashes about nine in a row, not even bothering to get them out of the plastic. It’s hardly Pete Townsend smashing guitars-level rock ‘n’ roll, but still satisfying action.
Let’s face it – sports fans are bloody nerds hey. This Power Rankings list for NBA court markings shows just how easy it is to succumb. At first I was all ‘this is a shit list, just for nerds,’ then I was all ‘HOW can they put the magnificent Memphis Grizzlies court markings at a lowly 17 ???!?” You were warned.
A: “Ok get through the first couple of balls. Jeez that was quick. Ok knuckle down here. Oooh that girl’s quite pretty-Oi stop it, concentrate. Watch the ball. Shit that came off the bat quite nicely. I wonder how long it is til lunch? These pants are a bit tight, maybe I should get some new ones. Watch the ball. NO KANE NO. Come on mate there’s no run there, jeez. Oooh it’s lunch, I wonder if there’s cheesecake?”
Absolutely tremendous footage of an All Whites v Newcastle United friendly from 1985 at the Basin bloody Reserve. Peter Beardsley, 9, features and I like to think there was a piece to camera post-match, with kids leaping around pulling faces in the background.
In years to come, dads will tell their kids about the Accumulation Period. It went like this. At around an ODI’s 20th over, the batsmen would decide to only score runs by lapping down to third man, the dibbly-dobbly bowlers would lazily chuck down (sometimes literally) 6 overs each on a nagging length at 4.5 an over – everybody woke up at around 35 overs to rack up an imposing 280.
The accumulation period – bad for watching cricket.
For fans, it was a chance to get things done. If you were at the ground it was time for (mostly liquid) refreshment, and starting, participating in and resolving fights before batsmen started hitting out again. If you were watching at home it was possible to get in the car, get a few jobs done and get back to the couch via the bottler and the drive-through without missing too much.
The accumulation period – good for chopping beer
Those days are over. Post CWC15 going batshit is the new accumulation period, 400 is the new 300 and bowlers are the new cannon fodder.
The Influence Of T20, big bats, pitches friendlier to batsmen than liniment and boundary ropes slinking from the fence like a Shane Warne walk of shame are all being blamed for turning the Once-Dying Format into an experience like watching eight hours of highlights.
If this England / BLACKCAPS series was a blue light disco, the batsmen were the ones who necked a cask of screwdriver in the car park and spent the night dancing and pashing, while the bowlers sat alone, looking moody, thinking about how they can’t feckin’ stand Come On Eileen.
Big bats – a scourge on the modern game.
So is this what it’s going to be like from now on, with death bowling required for 50 overs? Limited overs innovation has given us new-ish bowling tricks like the wide yorker and slow bouncer to limit the damage – but they don’t seem to be working on the feather bed pitches, in this series anyway.
There’s talk of changing the ball, the ropes, the bats and the power play format, but cricket is notoriously slow to change its rules (which is a good thing when compared to Rugby, who are always up for a bit of Touch, Pause, Shambles). sportreview.net.nz suspects future re-balancing of bat v ball will come from bowlers, captains and coaches working out new plans or indeed, groundsmen having mercy. Big scores and big hits sell tickets, I expect ICC leadership or action is unlikely to swift or potentially effective.
Anyway. You probably remember Kevin Pieterson from being England’s all time Test run-scorer. And from Piers Morgan’s Twitter account. Trust issues between KP and former team mate / current England director of cricket meant his involvement in this series has mainly been online, where he’s been putting his hand up loud and clear.
Man who once scored 158 at the Oval to win the Ashes returns to pose about in puce chinos.
A clear message to Straussy – KP’s fit and ready to go.
Football eh? The beautiful game. The footwork. The tactical intricacies. The drama. The partying alongside a shirtless Chuck Blazer in a sweet Dubai mansion that you own.
With all the he-said, she-said and unprecedented large-scale arrests, it can be hard to keep up, so here’s sportreview.net.nz’s guide to the key players.
Football’s answer to both Baron Silas Greenback and Tony Soprano. Inexplicably voted FIFA president time after time, due to world class Teflon coating shielding him from multiple and prolonged corruption allegations, not to mention all sense of shame or irony.
Blatter promised to stamp out systemic corruption in football, but then prioritised commissioning a feature film showcasing his contribution to football, turning Tim Roth from Mr Pink to Mr Stink at a stroke. Resigned after a corruption-related arrests of his henchmen senior officials, who are now lining up to dob him in faster than Alex Ferguson losing his temper. Still serving as FIFA President.
Suspended and sacked CONCAF President now under arrest. Great mates with Blazer, Chuck. Brilliantly, was totally sucked in by this Onion article. Has promised to name and shame FIFA wrong do-ers. To the highest bidder.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. If your sport is going to end up down a cesspit of sleaze, it may as well be lead by a gargantuan American called Chuck, all belly, beard and cheesy grin who’s no stranger to a strangephotoop.
A keen blogger, Chuck worked his way up from chief CONCAF wheeler dealer to FIFA’s marketing supremo, while lining the Blazer pocket the whole way. Once the IRS took him down, he was only too happy to roll over like Stephen Gerrard defending the centre circle. He and Bernie Madoff are going to get on famously in prison. Recommended long read.
No-one knows anything about Prince Ali except that he’s a prince and seems as dynamic as a Dido album. But because he ran for FIFA president against Sepp Blatter, he became a folk hero. For five or six minutes.
This post has been has been in my drafts folder for an embarrassingly long period of time. So here goes, this will probably be the world’s last Cricket World Cup roundup published, a record sportreview.net.nz is ‘pretty comfortable’ with.
You don’t need me to tell you the tournament was more feel-good than the kids from Stand By Me taking on Alien and taking the big ugly down. I was working as Digital Manager for New Zealand Cricket during the cup and got to to to the opener in Christchurch, some of the pool play matches and the three knockout matches. Here’s how it went for me:
Christchurch was all nerves. Could we carry on the form from home series when it really counted? Would Malinga come back and mess us up? No, as it turns out. It was comprehensive stuff on a feckin freezing day, in front of a boisterous crowd, who took the ‘best streakers’ trophy at a canter from the outset.
Later in the tournament when the talk was of us not batting first and setting a total, I was thinking of this match, when we did just that – just the casual 330 odd.
Even though this was us v Sri Lanka at Hagley, it felt very different to the previous matches, with the ICC roadshow underway – the coverage was different, as were the advertising hoardings and extremely sponsor heavy entertainment. The big show had arrived.
The match had been sold out for months, and people turned out in droves for the opening ceremony on a magnificent Thursday summer’s evening. I know it’s easy for me to say, breezing in and out for a few days, but I thought Christchurch was lovely, the gaping holes in the middle of town aside. Everyone I met was very excited about the tournament and what it meant for their city. Marvelous.
Uncharitably, on tournament eve I had the pleasure of watching the Crusaders losing their opener to the Rebels in a suburban bar and watching three quarters of the people walk out on the final whistle, but you’ll remember I am not a very nice person.
I wasn’t there, but holy crap. After England’s pretty reasonable start, Tim Southee just broke them and pretty much ended their tournament. Those inswingers that threaten to collect stumps he bowls every match, did. Again and again. Then Brendon McCullum laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament, seemingly intent on re-modelling the Cake Tin with the ball. It was absolute carnage and it was over in a flash, apart from the world’s most awkward tea break. Brilliant.
Serious press pack for the Aussie match.
This was a Big Week. All the Aussie media you’d been reading for years were suddenly alongside you watching the net sessions. The big guys had come to town, and my god Eden Park was up for it. If you’ve ever been to a rugby match there, imagine that only heaps, heaps louder. Tim, then Dan, then Trent took them down big time, and a new generation of Australian cricketers were warmly welcomed into New Zealand’s comedy villain hall of fame alongside Greg Chappell, Greg Matthews, various Waughs, various Shanes, etc.
Those guys leaning over the barrier did their national duty by giving Mitch Johnson comprehensive verbal arseholes.
Then we batted, and there were a few lows. The first was McCullum getting whacked in the arm, halting his steady dismantling of their attack. The second was when we started losing wickets. The third was when we kept losing wickets. My view in the stand* was directly behind Starc’s arm and I can tell you he was swinging it shitloads, to use the technical term, in the warm-ups, god only knows how he was to face in the match. Anyway, Boult and Williamson’s pep talk when Trent got out there has been well documented and you know how the match ended. Seriously, I could hardly type, my fingers were shaking that much.
No I’m not a major fan of music at the cricket, but between the winning roar and the presentations, they played Boston’s More Than A Feeling, one of my favourite ever songs, as the sky started to turn a deep red out to the west. Haven’t felt a sport-related warm glow like that in a while.
And – this was my partner’s first game of live cricket. Imagine that!
This was the first time I’d worked at a BLACKCAPS match from Seddon Park in my NZC role, somehow I’d managed to not get just down the road yet. It’s a fantastic venue, still my favourite in New Zealand, the hipster boutique ground who got there before everyone else.
Seddon Park. Lovely.
This match will be remembered for Guptill’s hard-fought ton, Southee smacking the winning runs high onto the bank, those fecking flying death bugs, but probably most of all, Brendon’s hail mary dive into the fence to try and save four. It racked up 300K odd views by the time the match had ended and is still the second most viewed video on the CWC15 site. Just FYI those video screens are covered in little light covers that are actually reasonably sharp, that would have really hurt, team.
The Alternative Commentary Collective‘s call this day was one of their finest, off the back of the killjoy ban from the ground. I forget whether they were on the mushies or the buckies this day, but whatever it was, it worked.
West Indies The team described this as the toughest match, mentally, one we were expected to win against a fairly unpredictable opposition. We needn’t have worried – Guptill’s 237 is the most destructive thing I’ve seen since Keith Robinson.
It’s funny looking back how on the edge we were, midway through the first innings people were questioning the scoring rate and saying we had to hit out, or we’d miss out. That turned out to be bollocks. Guptill’s innings, and our total, were colossal and despite some West Indian flurries, we did it comfortably. See you in Auckland, then.
There’s some fair competition of moment of the tournament, but Dan’s catch is pretty up there for me. When you think about what he’d done to get himself back, the phenomenal shape he was in that allowed him to leap like that, and land like that, you have to hand it to him. Watch the clip again, see how delighted his team mates are for him.
This is the chap sent up on the stadium roof to retrieve Martin Guptill’s six.
The last time I saw us play South Africa at Eden Park was back in 1992, when Greatbach smacked one onto the old grandstand’s roof. The chaps from that campaign went from one end of the country to the other repeatedly to promote this tournament, but now we were here, it was all about going one better, really. Personally, I was shitting myself we were going to get Pakistan and that I Wouldn’t Be Able To Handle It, but South Africa it was, complete with de Villiers, Amla and Steyn. Ahem.
The match started in one of the weirdest atmospheres I’d experienced. Not only was the packed-in crowd slightly subdued (it’s harder to sledge the South Africans than the Aussies, especially when they were dominating us), and the weather appeared to be hosing down literally everywhere in Auckland but Eden Park, teasing us relentlessly before it finally arrived.
After McCullum’s assault, where he knocked Steyn out of the attack, it settled into the tense run chase to end all run chases. I was watching Twitter and seeing folks talk about their hearts beating fast – mine wasn’t I just felt a bit circumspect. When you’re working during the match you’re kind of concentrating on doing your job, with a little bit of work-wise ‘what if we win / what if we lose’ in the background. Your inner fan kind of gets pushed right down, suppressed deep inside. Well, that inner fan came back at me big time with two overs to go, when the pit of my stomach fell out completely. My hands were shaking and my heart was going like an elephant that’d slipped its chain. I’d never felt anything like it.
The form in a press box is that you don’t celebrate, you’re there to do your bloody job and be neutral. I restricted myself to a few quiet fist pumps as Elliott was dropped, then Dan hit the four to start the last over. All that went right out the window when Elliott hit THAT six, I was up, screaming, thrashing the air with both fists. As was everyone else there. Then I got to type my favourite tweet ever for the @BLACKCAPS:
I would have tweeted more at the time, but I was busy with hugs. Apologies to press box traditionalists, I’m sure things will return to normal after this summer.
These guys were out playing and taking photos on the Eden Park pitch about an hour after the Semi Final ended. They got in trouble.
Nerdy trophy photo op.
I got to go to the final. I was there to do some filming for our website, and was lucky enough to be with the squad for the last couple of day’s build up. As always, I was impressed with the way the BLACKCAPS go about things. It was training for the World Cup Final at the world’s second greatest cricket stadium, but you could have just as easily been at the Basin or in Hamilton, going by the team’s attitude.
My impression is the hard work’s been done already and we’re just here for finishing touches. Put that down to the hard and meticulous work the coaching team do in the weeks, months and years beforehand. Everyone’s (seemingly) relaxed, everyone’s carrying on as per normal. There was a pretty epic McCullum v McCullum battle in the nets the day before the match, this is a team that even puts on a show for the people who come to watch them train.
Baz and MC chat while Bangladeshi photog Shamsul expertly wanders through, ruining everyone else’s shot.
As for the final – we all know what happened hey. The MCG itself really is awe-inspiring, there’s simply a wall of people everywhere you look. I have to say, the three balls that Starc bowled McCullum were three of the most electrifying I’ve ever seen, everyone knew this was our big gun taking on theirs and they were both going for it straight away.
There were moments of hope, before the opposition got control – they played bloody well, in fairness. As for us, it turns out our team are as gracious in defeat as they are in attack – listen to Brendon’s press conference post-match, to me it’s virtuoso stuff.
Back in January when we beat Sri Lanka at the Basin in the Kane Williamson double ton / record partnership with BJ Watling Test, someone said to me isn’t it so fantastic we’re excited about Test cricket with the World Cup around the corner? That was true, but I’m hoping there’ll be a lot more people getting excited about all things New Zealand Cricket after this tournament. The team and management set out to change the way they played and the way they were perceived after the ’45’ innings against South Africa back in 2012, and on the back of this summer, I think they got it just right. And there’s so much more to come.
This tournament was amazing because of the BLACKCAPS, their play, the way they carried themselves and the way we all got around them on the way to the final, the bloody final. Fair play to all involved in the planning and playing of this campaign, winning the final against a very hard-nosed outfit in their backyard aside, which would have been the fairy tale to end all fairy tales, we did fantastic. I hope you’ve got it all kept on your MySKY, this summer is worth a few replays.
This is the most successful ODI team NZ has ever had. In so many ways.
My view for the final.
Cool ’92 display deep in the bowels of the ‘G.
Some dork in the MCG. Photo credit: T Boult.
*The Eden Park outdoor press box was the most magnificent press box I’d ever sat in in all my time in cricket. Up in the gods you’ve got the whole ground laid out in front of you from almost directly behind the bowler’s arm. I took in two of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen, in any sport, from up there. It was a bloody privilege to be there.
The sportreview.net.nz design panel feels the ‘Beaver flag’ would unite New Zealand around a feel-good, ‘aw shucks™’ design that says we can achieve anything, but we’re not going to bloody go on and on about it.
The NZ Flag Consideration Project Secretariat Team, not so much.