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Links on Friday

Mascots are generally soul-less husks, but the New York Mets’ Mr Met brings a raw honesty to his work. He’s been fired, of course.

I’d just bought a flat but the moving-in day was the Tuesday of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. I get picked on Sunday. I’m speaking to the chairman of selectors and I say, ‘That’s great, but I’ve kind of bought a flat and I need to move in on Tuesday, do you mind if I turn up on the Wednesday?’ I’d made up my mind that I was going to do everything on my own terms. He was probably thinking, ‘Who’s this guy?’

Long, raw and fascinating interview with Mark Butcher on his bizzaro life as an international cricketer. The ‘few beers in a pub garden’ interviewing style here really works.

SIGNAL from Revel Co. on Vimeo.

Nothing worse than social media criticism – but consider England, responsible for cricket’s existence, being mocked by the game’s governing body with a GIF featuring  a reality TV (presumably) unknown. Cheap effort for clicks from a digital team who’re otherwise kicking arse at making footage and exclusives available online fast.

Michael Clarke and his part in my sore shoulder

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Brown’s Bay’s Freyberg Park, basically Lord’s with knee deep grass.


As average cricketers go, I’m pretty much middle of the pack. After playing through school, club cricket at Uni and a magical Guinness-soaked season in Ireland I haven’t bothered an oval in any fashion until late 2015, when I’ve had the honour of  representing the mighty Mairangi Vice in East Coast Bays cricket club’s Bays Big Bash comp.

It’s an eight a side Twenty20 comp designed for chaps who’ve played a bit in the past but are too hectic with kids / jobs / laziness to play at the weekends, and are also probably mostly injured. There’s a few rules designed to get the game done before dark like short run ups and only bowling from one end – it felt good to be playing with a proper ball again. Our team was made up of Dads from around the neighbourhood and around the world, with South Africa, England and India as well as NZ represented, we were a happy unit.

Most Monday nights I’d drift off to sleep replaying the one that really came out of the middle of the bat with a satisfyingly wooden-sounding Tchock. Or feeling more useless than Darren Lehmann’s thesaurus  because I’d dropped another catch.  Either way, playing again has been bloody magic.

Trade Me definitely enabled the excitement before season one. I needed a new bat and won the auction for a Slazenger V900 bow, a nice piece of willow that was definitely wider with bigger edges than the ones I was used to back in the day. I was a bit devastated to see Michael Clarke’s name on the back of it, and even more so when I scored a new bag, which also turned out to be endorsed by my least favourite cricketer ever. That will learn me and I look forward to getting my Shane Watson pads next year.

My Michael Clarke bat, Michael Clarke bag, his reaction at my kit.

I consider myself mainly a bowler, yer medium pace out swing, off cutter, obvious slow balls kind of carry on, but my memories didn’t really match up with what my arm refused to do any more. We were playing with white balls that swung alarmingly for the first four overs, then immediately transformed into pieces of dry soap, and it took me some time to get into a decent rhythm and get those effort-ball-leg-side wides out of my game. A few wickets came but I was never the game changer I envisaged on the drive to the ground. Batsman’s game, innit.

In game one this year, full of confidence after a hasty net the day before I somehow managed to rattle up 65 not out. In my mind it was Guptill at the cake tin. The reality was probably more paddle crab with bat.

You can always tell what kind of backyard a batsman has from his go-to shots. For me, the target areas were straight down the ground to the back fence, slashing between point and the covers into the large shrubs and nothing on the leg side, where the windows were. I did manage to work a kind of golf shot to cow corner into this limited set of shots and somehow managed another three 50s this year to my utter delight and furious eye rolling of my partner and kids.

The real shocker was in the field, I could not take a catch to save my life. Everything went great in practice but get me out there with a real live chance and I went to pieces, mournfully throwing the ball back, apologising to the bowler and muttering all the swear words I know to myself for the next few overs. I have no excuse, and if I get to play again, I’ll be out there doing proper practice pre-season. Hopefully.

Full credit goes to the umpires who put up with us, Louis at East Coast Bays and the Mairangi Vice fellas themselves for their enthusiasm and reliability. I’m sure I’ve done something to my shoulder, and while I’m busy not doing anything about it during the winter I’ll have those happy memories of a straight half-volley sailing over the boundary or actually getting a yorker right for once. It’s been amazing fun.

Managing to live without Blues v Rebels on a Thursday night

Norwegian commentator always applicable

Helpful tweeter pointed out that Joh’s actually one of ours but TWEET STILL STANDS.

Links on Friday

Brendon McCullum’s all-time Test XI. All the great aggressive batsmen are there (except Baz himself). Sir Viv is captain and Tim n Trent are the seamers. An extremely solid line up this one, and I’d expect Kane to slip in at number 3 or 4 in the next few years.


Team GB’s psychological training for Rio included finding your bag at the airport, apparently.

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These ‘sneakers’ would look more at home parked on the driveway than on your feet – there are worse, much worse, in the 20 ugliest sneakers of the past 20 years.

Missing the games already? This is old but well worth another look – Irish sailing commentator has no idea and abuses Australians, pleasingly.

Links on Friday

Asterix and Obelix taught me wild boars were something you chased for a little while, then magically transformed into a roast. Asterix and Obelix lied.

If you’ve watched Kane’s cover drives and Guppy’s lofted straight drives and thought you could do that, you are wrong. It’s a bit bloody different when you’re out there with an actual bat facing an actual ball, even in sportreview.net.nz’s old-man’s T20 league – real life tends a bit more… agricultural. Pete Langman on the shots we *actually* play.

Game Of Life is for losers.

Links on Friday

Lord’s with lights looks amazing. And they’re only bloody telescopic.

Hunter took at least another two minutes lining up his putt, then struck it quickly. He missed the putt by about a foot and, charging after it, let out a howl as he winged his putter into the pond. The geese started honking and Hunter ran back to the cart, pulled the 12-gauge from his golf bag and fired over the geese, and they lifted off the pond like a sparkling cloud of gray and white feathers.

This is what it’s like to play golf with Hunter S. Thompson on acid.

When your centre forward suffers a horrible injury, there’s nothing more reassuring than a tweet of them thumbs aloft in a hospital bed, enjoying the food – and so: a brief history of sportsmen in hospital beds.

The pigs are all like ‘this kind of shit happens all the time – oh look, lunch is here!’:

It’s the end of the World T20 as we know it

The semi final was lost in the last five of our innings and the first five of theirs. There’s a fair amount of luck involved in T20 – another day, those full tosses we hit down fielders’ throats would have cleared the rope and Roy would have been caught first over, chipping Anderson to short third man. That didn’t happen and there’s not a lot of time to come back in twenty overs, even if Sodhi’s two wickets teased that a good old fashioned England collapse was just around the corner. They were better on the day – and have done a fair old reinvention job on themselves. Cuss it all.

The painful bit is that going into today’s match it felt like only our second major international trophy was there for the taking but there’s a lot to be proud of – Sodhi and Santner top the wicket taking table, we look supremely organised and Kane Williamson has slipped into the captaincy with aplomb. We probably needed a few more batsmen to be in really good form going into the finals to be fair, but we weren’t far away.

This was a tough tournament to play, with more time spent in airport travel lounges than the nets, and surfaces more reminiscent of early 70s football penalty areas than cricket pitches, but we handled it well, until today. From the couch the team culture looks as strong as ever, and a challenging trip like this will bring the group together.

So are we a proper T20 side now? During the great BLACKCAPS revolution of the last three years, we’ve climbed the rankings in Tests and ODIs, but been nowhere in the shits and giggles format (but then we’d hardly played it lately until this summer).  It felt like we SHOULD be better at it – half the team is playing the IPLs etc and we’ve got no shortage of big hitters and crafty bowlers. It looks like we get it at last but now we probably won’t play too much of this format until the six months before the next WT20.

Ah well. It’s kind of the beauty of this tournament that it’s over fast and we can flush the dunny and move on, as a great man once said. Now there’s a long break until August, when we play South Africa there in two Tests and we’ll get to see what a Kane Williamson BLACKCAPS Test team looks like. Can’t wait.

Plenty of room on the WT20 bandwagon

In the WT20, things happen faster than John Key binning his Lockwood flag pin. The ICC are usually renowned for spreading tournaments out over several decades, but for this one a fast game’s a good game and you can be on the plane home before your phone has finished charging. Just ask South Africa or Bangladesh. This year is a bit special too, a WT20 in India, home of the DLF Maximum and whatever’s happening here, is cricket’s New World Order in  its lair.

Pre-tournament, the BLACKCAPS were talking their chances down as meticulously as they work out a bowling plan. A T20 tournament on the low sub continent wickets in a group with three Asian sides and Australia and without the really recently-retired skipper / talisman and the best T20 batsmen ever? Piss off.

The were wrong. Inspirational team selection, young spinners taking it to the opposition, batsmen sticking to plans on tough wickets… going into the opening match with three spinners was a master stroke that took  the hosts’ pants down. I’ve checked and we were the only team to play the opening match without their traditional two spearhead bowling attack – and this is how it’s going to be, gang. When one of the world’s deepest cricket thinkers takes the reigns alongside the smartest coach in the business, you know things are about to get really, really pragmatic.

It’s turned out OK though. When your senior bowler has spent the tournament in hi-vis but is still happy to make a video for the folks back home, that’s some serious team culture. Could you imagine McGrath doing the same?

We’ve traditionally struggled on these pitches, but this time we have a plan. The batsmen have been doing whatever it takes to get us a total, cashing in with the hard new ball before knuckling down when it turns into a cushion with a seam later on. The young spinners have looked like world beaters, while the seamers have played with intelligence and some fire, mastering one of my favourite aspects of T20, bowlers playing their overs like a hand of 500, all slower balls, cutters, slow bouncers and effort balls.

The win in the opener, playing the hosts in one of their strongholds in the format they’ve invested so much cash and emotion in, was one of our most remarkable wins ever in sportreview.net.nz’s opinion, and we made it look easy. We strangled the Aussies in the Himalayas before taking down traditional Bogey Team Pakistan (are we over 92 yet?) comfortably. All three wins have been exemplary examples of Not Panicking and sticking to your plans.

We should keep the momentum up against Bangladesh, before most people go home and we’re left with (hopefully) two big games. With the sub continent teams struggling, this is an open tournament – we’re as organised as anyone and should be confident taking anyone on. We’re well capable of winning a Big World Trophy and do it in such foreign conditions, even in the purists’ least favourite format, would be quite an achievement.

Pretty much every game from here is crucial to the tournament’s outcome, so dream big NZ – get on board the woeful viewing times and get excited (but not so excited as to wake the rest of the house). We’re in with a great shout of winning this, especially because sportreview.net.nz is predicting a NZ v Aus final and sportreview.net.nz’s prediction track record is shithouse, bluntly.

MD Crowe – The Spinoff tribute

The fine crew at The Spinoff let me write about Martin Crowe on their website, alongside a few people I am in awe of. Behold:

As a cricket-berserk youngster, never happier than when cleaning a thigh pad or something equally unnecessary, many of my best early memories were formed sitting on a couch and watching Martin Crowe bat. All his peers made the most of their homespun techniques (think Jeremy Coney’s elbow-y drives or Andrew Jones’ leaping, leaning backfoot play), but Crowe was the real deal. Endless summer days were spent happily indoors, obsessing over his old-school bat-on-the-ground stance, dead still until the last minute before leaning on a straight drive, or crashing it over the Basin’s outfield practice wickets, or manhandling a pull over Eden Park’s short boundary with those gargantuan forearms.

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Here’s the great man hitting balls into the crowd during the 2014 NZ v India Test at the Basin along with the ’92 team as part of a World Cup promo. You could tell he was delighted by the simple act of putting bat to ball and you’d better believe he middled them, hitting balls further than anyone up on the bank. And look at the way he walks, like a dancer or big cat. That’s how proper athletes walk.

He started out as a boy in that streetwise, mustachioed 80s team, before becoming the team captain; an old gun in the young guns. I drove to Eden Park with some mates to see the team play South Africa in the 1992 World Cup, where his wonderful dobber-attack restricted the mysterious visitors to just 190, before prototype pinch hitters Greatbach and Latham pummeled 114 at a then-unheard-of run a ball. He and Warren Lees out-thought the world that summer, and he out-batted them too.

He was intense, and very Auckland in that brash, 80s fashion. Ex-Grammar, all headbands, necklaces and immaculate hair that disappeared on him too soon. He wanted things to be better, whether it was the New Zealand cricket team or the way we watched it on TV, and worked hard to make it so. He got a fearful dose of tall poppy treatment and you could tell it stung. I’m glad he appeared laid back and at peace strolling through the 2015 World Cup as the virtual guest of honour, with everyone wanting to just shake hands and say hi. His ICC Hall of Fame speech was as graceful as his back foot drive.

Martin Crowe was a world-class New Zealand Test batsman and we haven’t had many of them, really. He was a top man too. Like a mate said on Twitter today, if you’re too young to remember Hogan, make sure you watch Kane Williamson all you can. Guys like this don’t play for us too often.

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