The 1st entry 9/2/15
Hi everyone and welcome to the first edition of my World Cup Diary Blog. My name is Adam and I am a cricket fan in general and a Scottish cricket fan in particular. The good people at CricketEurope have kindly let me have a column all to myself following my (mis)adventures as I follow Scotland around New Zealand and Australia for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
So, here is a little taster of my plans and what I hope to relate to you lovely readers.
I will be out in Australia and New Zealand for the entirety of the competition seeing thirteen games in total which include all of Scotland's group games, the opening match between New Zealand v. Sri Lanka, and also Australia v. New Zealand, England v. New Zealand, South Africa v. Pakistan as well as the Quarter Final in Melbourne, Semi Final in Sydney and the Final in Melbourne.
It’s quite a trip and is guaranteed to be an adventure and a half, full of meeting new people/characters and the random mishaps they bring, as well as catching up with old friends who I haven't seen for many years and family reunions with family members I haven't seen for even longer.
The two month trip promises to be bigger than the world cup itself and as a Scottish cricket fan I will be in the unique position to be able to view the tournament in its entirety from firsthand experience right from the first ball of the competition to the last moments of the crowning ceremony of the final and, hopefully, the perennially hoped for upset of a major nation by Scotland.
I have been saving for this trip for the last eight years and have been looking forward to it as a holiday/adventure and hope to supply something that reflects the excitement and enthusiasm I feel towards the tournament.
So my column style feature will be in the form of a daily diary which should allow ample scope for reporting on the experience of watching Scotland’s games from a more personal perspective without having to muck around with all that tedious fact checking that a match report requires. But it's not all about the cricket as I will be relating the daily adventures of travelling to the games, adventures from days off/being a tourist and catching up with people not seen for years and new friends made along the way.
After all, the World Cup is not just about the cricket.
Well, not all the time anyway.
So, I hope you can join me, if not in person then in spirit, and I hope you enjoy my World Cup Diary.
The 2nd entry 10/2/15
Who are you supporting in this world cup?
That’s a question I get asked a lot owing to my heritage - born in Australia where I lived for 20 years before moving to Scotland where I have lived for the next 20 years - which, I suppose, can lead to some confusion.
Adding to this mix is the fact that a lot of Scottish people who like cricket actually support England, and on a bilateral series format, so do I. As incongruous as this sounds it is actually true mostly because I watched Nasser Hussain mold an England team from supposedly worst in the world into proper world challengers during the mid to late 90s and accidently became emotionally involved in the makeup of the team. I put this down to a by product of successfully integrating into being British.
As for other Scottish cricket fans supporting England ... well, as illegal as this is, there is a clause in the law which says that Scottish people can support England if Scotland doesn’t have representation that competes at the highest level on a permanent basis.
This works in a cricketing context as Scotland, like 90% of cricketing nations, aren't allowed at the big table with the full members. (As soon as Scotland becomes a full member test nation England can kiss Scottish support goodbye. Although, we may retain a keen interest in how they fare.)
This clause was also in full effect for Tennis. Before Scotland had Andy Murray (win or lose = Scottish) Scottish tennis fans supported Tim Henman (win or lose = English).
But rest assured, there is no confusion of where my support lies when it comes to cricket support at the World Cup. I will be supporting, as I always do in these multi nation cricketing world events, New Zealand.
Ever since the ‘92 world cup New Zealand captured my heart and my imagination. A talented team that played above the sum of its parts, their run to the semi final was exciting and innovative. I've always given them my support since then in Worlds Cups and enjoy them playing well during the comp before getting knocked out in the semi finals.
Perhaps that will happen again this time but I actually think they have the best chance ever of going on and winning the world cup with some dynamic players coming to the fore at the right time. I've even put my money where my mouth is by placing a bet on them to win the world cup at an actual bookie. I now have a whole British pound invested in them (at odds of 7/1 I stand to gain a whole £7 PLUS my original pound back !!! World cup 2019 here I come!!!) and so will be cheering for them at all occasions (except when they play Scotland. Then, despite my financial investment, I’m cheering for Scotland, obviously).
As for my Australian heritage, living in Scotland for 20 years has seen my ties with Australia weaken to the point where I don't feel invested in their national team while simultaneously; my identity with Scotland has grown. So I will be supporting Scotland at all times.
And as for supporting England, well, there is a clause in the clause to the law that says that Scottish people can't support England at a World Cup. If they won it you'd never hear the end of it. Oh no, can't be having that. So I will be supporting Scotland at all times.Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
The 3rd entry. 11/02/15
When the 2007 World Cup was about to start and I was all packed and ready for my 2 week Caribbean excursion to watch Scotland’s games through a coconut rum soaked/heat haze blur I remember being slightly annoyed that there were these things called practice matches going on. If only I’d known they were being played I could have gone out a little earlier and caught a few of them and had an even more amazing time. But I never saw them listed in any of the match guides and had to settle for watching them on a comfy couch in my cold living room with a hot cup of tea instead.
This World Cup, however, I found myself out in Australia a few weeks before the competition began properly celebrating 20 years of marriage to my very understanding and lovely wife. When I announced to her that the warm up matches had been listed and the venues named and that we could actually make it to the Australia V. U.A.E. match at the legendary M.C.G. she seemed less than enthused about it. Apparently spending all day and night watching a sport she couldn't care less about on our last full day together before she heads back to the wintery depths of Scotland and the ordinariness of work isn't something that she found appealing. I mentioned this to my Melbourne friend Myles and he mentioned that he'd rather go work in Scotland in the deep winter than watch a game of cricket at all.
So I was surprised to find that Myles had organised the day off his work and Wife was going to come along to the game with me after all. Perhaps it was the fact that the tickets were free that swayed them.
A morning jaunt to St Kilda to enjoy cakes and coffee also placated them for the long and strenuous effort of sitting around watching cricket all afternoon and evening and got the day off to a very pleasant start.
The last time I was at the M.C.G. was for the 1992 World Cup Final and it was impressive then but it’s even more impressive now. Redevelopment has seen it become the coliseum it always wanted to be and now the massive lights don't seem to tower as huge as they did before.
I explained to my captive audience all the rules and regulations as they came up and Myles seemed to be getting into the groove of the game
It’s a great game for chatting and talking things over in between the action and we all had a great laugh as the afternoon wore on.
The highlight came when a towering 6 seemed to zero in to the exact place we were sitting. From the moment it left the bat it was coming right for me. I stood up, readied myself, called “MINE” for it ... but alas, I couldn't get far enough back or high enough to get a full hand to it and it skimmed my fingers before crashing into the seats behind us (clipping a young girl of about 8 years old on the arm).
It was probably my one and only chance to catch a game ball and it literally slipped through my fingers !!!!
Somehow Myles ended up with the ball and he handed it to me with a cheesy grin and a friendly “There you go mate.” But his smile disappeared when I took it off him and threw it back to the waiting fielder and then we spent a long time talking about the etiquette of the game and I think I lost his interest again.
By the end of the game we had watched Australia compile a quality total and skittle U.A.E. out for a fraction of that total in 30 overs and I had converted a couple of haters of cricket into people who had a better understand of the complexities and subtleties of the amazing game.A meal in Chinatown wrapped up a pretty perfect day and I feel like the World Cup has already started.
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
The 4th entry 12/02/15
Today is the day of the opening ceremonies for the World Cup 2015. I had loose plans of going along to the Melbourne event and joining in the fun after I kissed the wife goodbye and put her on the plane and before I had to go catch my own flight just before midnight.
Today is the day of the opening ceremonies for the World Cup 2015. I had loose plans of going along to the Melbourne event and joining in the fun after I kissed the wife goodbye and put her on the plane and before I had to go catch my own flight just before midnight.
A bout of dehydration has seen me awake most of the night with nausea and diarrhoea. When the alarm goes off I’m awake but a shell of the man I used to be.
It’s the wife’s last day with me before she return to Scotland and to normal life. We had plans to get a nice breakfast and a good lunch but that plan’s out the window now as I can barely keep down a tiny sip of water.
Breakfast is replaced by a trip to the chemist where I get various pills to stop me exploding from both ends.
Lunch is in a vegetarian burger chain with a pun name (Lord of the Fries) that the wife was keen to check out. I’m still unable to contemplate eating anything and can’t even look at her while she eats hers without the risk of any unpleasant technicolour yawns escaping from my insides.
By the time I’m putting her on the bus to the airport I can at least pretend to act like I’m feeling better but that all comes apart at the seams as I watch the sky bus pull away and I’m left feeling awful with a stomach that won't settle down, bowels that won't behave and an empty feeling in my heart now that I won't see my wife and best friend for almost two months.
For the first time in the eight years I’ve been planning this World Cup trip I question if this adventure was such a great idea after all.
I head back to my Melbourne mates Myles’ flat and crash on his couch for a couple of hours. When I awake I feel the best I have all day and decide to try and eat a slice of dried toast. It takes me an hour to finish it.
Myles comes in and makes dinner. Chicken kiev for him and another slice of dried toast for me.
I bundle up my luggage and Myles bundles me up and before I know it I’m back at Southern Cross station on the skybus out to the airport to catch a midnight flight to Christchurch.
I’m sure that there are some opening ceremony celebrations going on somewhere tonight but I can't muster any interest for them whatsoever.
I’m tired, wiped out, ill and missing my better half.Cricket World Cup opening ceremonies are usually rubbish anyway.
I don't have a great relationship with time. Organizing things in time is not my strong point. But when I first touted this trip to my Mum and Stepdad, Murray, over a year ago they seemed keen to join in. Not so much for the cricket but more because they live in Cairns in north Queensland and "It's stinking hot up here at that time of year and we'd like to explore New Zealand where it will be cooler."
Plans were hatched, loose itineraries made and tightened up and I kept them informed of every movement and flight times every time I added a new one keeping everything in line so as to avoid any misapprehensions over time, times, or timing.
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when, two days before I was due to arrive in Christchurch at 5am (in the morning) a casual email exchange with Mum indicated that she thought I was due to get in at 5pm. (sigh). I resend her the itinerary again highlighting that I leave Melbourne at midnight and arrive Christchurch 5am (in the morning).
I receive a reply the next day saying that they won't pick me up at the airport after all (too early even for those early risers) but it becomes clear that she thinks I'm leaving Melbourne at 11:55 on the 12th of Feb and arriving in Christchurch at 5am on the 12th of Feb.
Well, at least I know where I get my bad relationship with time from!
A day of dehydration illness sees me unable to reply in plenty of time and as I board the flight I'm still unsure if my Mum even realises that I will actually be arriving at 5am (in the morning) on Friday the 13th.
Upon landing in Christchurch I get a taxi to the hotel and find Mum awake and pleased to finally see me. She explains they spent most of yesterday morning doubling between the airport and the hotel hoping I would be somewhere before rechecking the itinerary and figuring out that unless I'm a time traveller I won’t be arriving for a while yet.
My dehydration illness has subsided enough to let me stomach a cup of tea but I keep to dry toast for breakfast just to play it safe.
It's been over a year since I last saw Mum and we chat for hours before Murray (Stepdad) appears and even more hours before Mase (effectively my sister from a completely different mister), whose flight arrived after midnight, climbs out of her bed to join the conversation.
It's not the most conventional family reunion but it is a Quality one and laughter abounds especially as we all struggle to make our mobile phones work in New Zealand.
An afternoon drive to Akaroa in the Banks Peninsula sees plenty of cricket chat on the way. The general consensus is that Scotland have no chance of making the quarter finals but I bravely fight our corner with great heart explaining that if we pick up a victory over one of the big nations (hopefully England) and beat Afghanistan (like we should) and Bangladesh (like we can) there is a mathematical chance we could progress ... but scepticism rules.
Akaroa is nestled in the remains of an extinct volcano and on the drive home Murray tells us all about the geology of the area. I'm asleep before he can point out the second "interesting" rock and when I wake up we are back at the hotel where I'm surrounded by a sleeping Mum and Mase who were clearly as interested in talks about rocks as I was.
A quick dinner and an early night is called for, after all, tomorrow is a big day of cricket and cheering as the world cup opens with New Zealand V. Sri Lanka.
My prediction ... New Zealand to win.Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
It's the first day of the world cup and I wake up excited about going to the first game of the tournament.
It's 8am (pretty early for a guy like me) and I feel like the dehydration sickness has left me far behind and I'm good as new. I skip to the door of my hotel room (which is essentially a shed with a bed in it (perhaps my Mum's backpacking days aren't as far behind her as I thought) and swing the door wide to be greeted by a fine, sprinkling mist. My heart sinks as I look to the overcast skies and see a blanket of cloud covering everything from horizon to horizon. By the time I make it to the rest of the family's deluxe apartment (wait, what! how come I'm the only one sleeping in an outhouse?) the rain has ended and my hopes for a good day rise. This weather reminds me a bit of Scotland and that memory drives me to layer up.
Four layers later, two of them jumpers, I enter the deluxe apartment I begin to wonder why Mase was allowed to sleep in here (is she the favourite child?) and find Mum still asleep. This is not a good sign as she is usually up with the birds at 5am (in the morning!) Murray is the only one awake and he quietly offers me a cup of tea.
Too slowly for my liking the rest of the family start to stir awake and breakfasts gathered. After second breakfast the chat finally turns to who's going to the cricket.
When I bought the tickets, over a year ago, Mase wasn't even coming to New Zealand on this trip so I only bought three tickets for Me, Mum and Stepdad Murray. But even when she eventually announced that she would like to come along it was no big deal as she is another one of those cricket haters so she would just find her own entertainment while the rest of us enjoyed a day at the park. But now, on the day, she mentions that she might like to come along after all.
Que a game of “World Cup Opening Match Ticket Roulette” to see who misses out on going to the big game.
There aren't many thing I know for certain in life but I knew that I wasn't missing out on this game and I took my ticket and left the rest of them to fight it out while I waited in the car.
I don’t know what happened but Murray ended up drawing the short straw and not only missed out on an historic event but was also reduced to being chauffeur for the rest of us. A role he took silently but stoically.
I couldn't get tickets for the grandstands for this match as they were already sold out when I tried to get them in the pre-sale so we were on the grassy hill so it's important to get to the ground early to get a good spot and claim it before the ground gets packed.
We arrived at the Hagley Park about 10:30 (which is an hour after gates open and 30 min after we agreed we'd be there last night!) and the ground is packed.
Find a rare vacant place to sit, which turns out to be pretty good actually, and wait for the game to start. The rain starts and stops about a million times in the next 30 min but the game ends up starting almost on time.
New Zealand bat first and set a challenging total of 331 the highlight of which is Brendon McCullum's 65 off 68 balls at the top of the innings. I talk Mase through the basics of the amazing game and explain issues as they rise to make her first game of cricket ever a more interesting experience and I think she starts to gain an understanding of why cricket is so loved by so many people.
When Mum and Mase wander off to go to look at the "shops" around the 40 over mark and don't return until the Sri Lankan innings has started after lunch I wonder if they grew bored after all and went into town for the rest of the day. But they eventually return with coffee for themselves, a hot chocolate for me, and a souvenir t-shirt for Mase! Mum explains how she would have bought me one too but used the last of her cash on buying one for Mase (thoughts of Mase being the favourite child bubble forth again.)
I let Mase figure out what's going on during Sri Lanka's innings on her own. She manages to decipher the action adequately and even seems to be getting into it. I take pride in converting another hater of cricket into someone who has a better understand of the complexities and subtleties of the amazing game.
Sri Lanka look on pace to take this game down to the end but a collapse from 120/1 to 129/4 saw them stumble and eventually fall almost 100 runs behind New Zealand.
When the game is over I phone Murray and tell him to come collect us like a good chauffeur should and, surprisingly, he does so with minimal grumbling.
After dinner, which Murray the chauffeur/cook has already prepared for us, we do the cricket quiz that's in the back of the Womans Day magazine (I win it) and laugh a lot a Mase who mistakes a Hedgehog for a pig (no, I don't understand how either!) before being banished to the outhouse to sleep with the peasants again.
While getting ready to climb into bed I catch my reflection in the mirror and realize that, despite being overcast all day and on the point of freezing at all times, I have been quite badly sunburnt on my face. Fears of the dehydration sickness return and I drink enough water that will guarantee multiple trips to the toilet block (of which my "cabin" is the furthest away from) all night.
Before I turn in for the night I quickly check the other opening day match going on in Melbourne between Australia and England and find England at 92/6 chasing Australia's 342.
I go to sleep happy.
All in all it's been a pretty great day.
p.s. There were two streakers that ran into the field during the game (both men). I haven't seen a streaker at the cricket for over ten years then two come along at once. Who says that New Zealand is behind the times?
A 7am wake up is pretty early for a guy like me but the fry up of everything that we don't want to carry to the next destination makes it (almost) worthwhile. Eggs, tomato, toast and chicken fillet or lamb chop that were going to go off in another day sets up the long day of travel ahead of us as we head to Twizel (which rhymes with a weasel ... that drank diesel) which actually isn't that far away.
Murray tells us that we are heading into Middle Earth country and puts me on orc watch, which I totally fail to live up to as ten minutes out of the hotel driveway I am fast asleep again. Eventually, after the lunch stop, I wake up enough to realise that the part of New Zealand we are travelling through looks a lot like the beginnings of the highlands of Scotland just without the lush green that excessive amounts of rain will give to grass. It is very beautiful though and I give it 7 out of 10 in comparison to Scotland (I am nothing if not slightly biased!) Mind you, once I slap eyes on Lake Tekapo with its brightest azure blue water Scotland is in danger of having nothing to compare to it. It's colour comes from natural minerals dislodged by and from the glacier that feeds into it and it’s the type of hue that no camera or photo could ever do justice to, and even if it did it would look photoshopped or something from an airbrushed futuristic sci fi comic book artwork. Completely natural and otherworldly at the same time. . It is simply stunning.
A short skip down the road is Cook Mountain and Lake Pukaki. It’s during this sidetrack that all comparisons to Scotland (and even New Zealand) are left behind as we really enter Lord of the Rings territory. The mountains are towering, huge even though we are thousands of feet above sea level already. Despite being the height of summer and being down to sweating through one layer of T-shirt there is still snow on the mountains. There are several glaciers slowly melting their trickles that will add to the various lakes around this area gracing the obscenely steep slopes. The beauty of the place took me to another plane for a while. I didn’t want to come back.
I thought I saw an Orc but when I raised my crossbow to take aim, it was gone.
On the way back to Twizel Mum, Murray and Mase all broke out into a spontaneous game of eye spy. For me there is only one thing that can make a car journey take longer than it actually does and that’s a game of eye spy!
Murray starts with something beginning with "S". It seems an unfeasible amount of time before anyone guesses "sheep" (there are quite a lot of them around in New Zealand. it's not a cliché, there really are a lot of them here. And when I say "a lot" what I really mean is "A LOT".)
Then it's my turn and in an attempt to kill the game I say something beginning with "S". Again, it takes an unfeasible amount of time before anyone guesses "sheep" and when they do they are a bit annoyed with me but continue on with the "game" anyway!
This is torture for any right minded human and I begin to remember why I only come visit these freaks I call family once every 5 years.
After what seems like a thousand years listening only to The Cure songs (and none of their happy songs either!) we check into the hotel in Twizel. Once again I'm not surprised to find that Mase is the favourite child and get to sleep in the deluxe accommodation while I get shunted out to the dog house. I don't complain too much though as this one is a step up from the “bed in a shed” of yesterday, but still.... favouritism much?
The afternoon is roasting and I chill out with a cool drink while everyone else does exercise. Catching the news I notice that both the Scotland and new Zealand cricket teams have arrived in Dunedin (the Edinburgh of the south!) ahead of their clash in a couple of days time. New Zealand arrived all businesslike and low key while Scotland arrived accompanied by pipe bands and highland dancers all akimbo. Both captains talked the talk of being ready and prepared for quality opposition in that typically bland way that all diplomatic captains that don't want to tempt fate do.
A brief chat with the knowledgeable cricket fan at reception earlier in the day was refreshing in its candour. He said that Scotland are a good and growing team that have the potential to cause a few upsets this time around and that he wished us all the best ... just not against New Zealand. I told him that New Zealand are my pick for the tournament and I will be supporting them in all games ... except when they play against Scotland. We shared a common smile and went about our day.
Also on the news was an article about National Lamb Day. New Zealand is world famous for its lamb (not a cliché, they really are) but recently domestic sales have fallen partly due to a rise in price at the checkout, which the lamb industry is keen to point out reflects the high quality of product they produce. In an effort to get more domestic sales they have introduced the gimmick of dedicating a whole day to the eating of lamb. That day is today, the 15th of February. Mark it in your diary for next year and remember, you heard it here first on CricketEurope. Anyway, when chief cook Murray offered a choice of chicken or lamb for dinner I simply had to plump for lamb.
After 20 years of being married to a vegetarian I can honestly say that this national lamb day thingie is a thoroughly good idea. I'm looking forward to next week when it’s national chicken day.Tomorrow we head closer to Dunedin and one day closer to the big game between Scotland and New Zealand.
I set the alarm for 7:11am and then lay there for 19 minutes thinking "Why didn't I just set it for 7:30am."
The best thing about being outcast from the popular part of the family and banished from the deluxe accommodation to the dog house is the not being expected to show up early to breakfast. I show up early to breakfast and mum makes me porridge with raspberry yogurt. Then I claim second breakfast when Mase wakes up and demand French toast along with her. Brillant.
Pack up, leave Twizel, have a look at one of the "warm" water lakes (not fed by any of the local glaciers) and keep driving to Omarama where, due to a postcard I’ve seen leads me to believe there is a giant representation of a sheep there. Turns out it’s barely bigger than life size. Still, it was on the way and there was nothing else to do besides top up the petrol tank.
Top up the petrol tank and check out the local souvenir shops in the hope they have a souvenir cloth patch (they don't) and end up speaking to a bunch of other Scottish tourists out here on the same trail as I am, to watch Scotland in the cricket. They are also heading to the game in Dunedin between Scotland and New Zealand tomorrow. We all have a rational chat about Scotland's chances of beating New Zealand but guild it with a tinge of optimism. When the shop assistant wishes us "Good luck" there are varying degrees of dirty looks directed her sarcastic way. Outside the shop there is a consensus that as long as we beat the English all other losses will be forgiven!
From Omarama inland we head onto Oamaru on the coast. We are not allowed to stop for lunch there as Murray, the chauffeur, forbids us from wasting valuable travelling time by eating but allows Mum time to stop and visit the lavatory. Like naughty kids Mase and I sneak off and order chippy chips from the nearby chippy and before everyone knows it this has turned into a full blown lunch stop. I look for souvenir cloth patch from the local area (I collect them you know) and totally fail to find one. The chips turn out to be the best I've had for many years and I eat more than my fair share of the half without Mase noticing. Result!.
We continue down the coast road to Dunedin and are wowed by some spectacular coastal scenery that Murray, the chauffeur, won't let us stop at because we have already wasted too much time actually having a good time eating lunch.
From the mountain to the coast in less than three hours ... New Zealand continues to amaze me.
The coast is amazing and I take heart that Murray won't let us stop to enjoy it by telling myself that I will see it another two more times as I get the bus up and back between Dunedin and Christchurch for future games in this World Cup adventure.
We arrive in Dunedin hot, bothered but pleased at enjoying the scenery from the car. Check into the hotel, try to find the sports channel to see how Ireland are doing against the West Indies, find out we don't have the sports channel and check the internet instead only to find we have to pay for the wifi ... arrghhh !!!
I'm back in Dunedin on my own later on in the trip and I convince my Mum to take a dry run to the B&B I've booked into for then. We get completely lost on the way but recover enough to eventually find it without having to ask directions. Upon meeting the owner and introducing myself I notice that the cricket is on his T.V. right now. He says “Let me check the score." before quickly turning the T.V. off ... arrghhh !!!
Despite this grotesque faux pas we all have a polite conversation and admire the view from the sitting room. There sure a lot of hills in this city!
By the time we make it back to our hotel room Ireland have defeated the West Indies in what would have been a great game to watch. It’s something the rest of the family regard as an upset but which I view as almost par for the course.
As good as the West Indies are (and they are still good) they are nowhere near the force they were 20 years ago. It took me a long time to let go of the force that they were in the '80s and early '90s but eventually even I had to admit that they had, somehow, lost their way.
Now, even to the casual observer, it is undeniable. That is not to take anything away from Ireland who have shown themselves to be a cut above the mediocre for several years and continue to prove they are worthy of greater recognition but continue to have doors shut in their face.
Thought turn to Scotland’s game tomorrow. Is it possible that we could surpass Ireland and cause an upset of our own? Do we have the talent to beat a rampant New Zealand? Can Scotland claim Dunedin (the Edinburgh of the south) as a fortress of our own?Only time will tell, but I can’t wait to find out.
Today is the big day. The first match of Scotland's World Cup campaign. The day we get to measure ourselves against one of the best nations on earth. When we get to see how all the preparation over the last 4 years has come together. When we get to show off our talent to the rest of the world. A rare chance to shine. I hope we make the most of it.
On the way to the ground I reminisce about the 2007 world cup. Scotland’s highest score in that comp was 185 and that still remains our highest team total in World Cups. I said at the time that Scotland really need to be scoring 220 on a regular basis to be taken seriously at the world level and I think the bar has been raised since then. These days its more like 250 minimum every game to be taken seriously. But never fear, I have confidence that this Scotland team can easily top out previous high score and set a challenging total (or make a good fist of chasing one down for that matter).
Mum dropped me off at the ground and Murray jokes that they will see me before lunch since the game will be over by then. That kind of arrogance is a hard attitude for the supports of full member nations to shake off and one I find irritating in its sheer repetitiveness, even if it is in jest, and I slam the car door a little harder than usual.
When I eventually make it into the ground (top tip: if you're going to the games and are bringing your own cola bottle in make sure it is in a 1 litre or less bottle and not the standard 1.25 litre size that is sold in every shop !!! it was a lesson learnt the expensive way and no amount of polite conversation managed to change the rules.) The toss is taking place. New Zealand win it and choose to bowl. A groan goes up from the crowd who all want to see their home team bat for the full 50 overs. I try to persuade the people sitting around me that it’s all fine, Scotland will post a challenging total and we will get a full days cricket out of the game but the locals aren't hearing it. It’s that full member attitude again.
McCullum says the conditions will suit bowling for the first hour or so and he wants to exploit that as much as possible. He’s right, and in the second over two Scottish wickets fall. In the fourth over another two go down. There are still people making their way to their seats (perhaps they were arguing with security about the size of the cola bottles) and some of them want to turn right around and leave again saying that the game is basically over already. At 4/12 it’s hard to argue with them and as I reach for my sandwiches and have an early lunch, Murray’s joke about being home early rings loud in my ears.
Thankfully Machan and Berrington stand firm and give us something to hold onto. We need centuries from both of them if a decent total is to be reached. They both pass 50 and then both get out to undisciplined shots and Scotland suddenly has no hope of getting anywhere near 200. Turns out we can't even get anywhere near our highest World Cup score and fall well short or the already ridiculously low target to fall all out for 142 with 11 overs left unused.
Scotland manage to claim seven Kiwi wickets (while dropping at least two chances along the way) to make the scoreboard look better than it was but there was never any chance of a victory for Scotland as there just wasn't enough runs to apply any pressure with. For example, when Vettori came it to bat at number eight New Zealand only needed 10 runs to win off 25 overs!!!
A game that was due to finish at 7pm was done and dusted by 4:30pm and there is no way to look at this other than a humiliating loss to Scotland.
I had to phone my stepdad Murray and ask him to come pick me up two and a half hours early and the gloating down the phone line made me even angrier at Scotland's performance today than I already was.
Hot and bothered (it was a cloudless and roasting hot day in Dunedin today. A perfect day for cricket really) not to mention bitterly disappointed in the performance I had travelled half way round the world to watch, I went back to the hotel, had a cold bath for the rest of the afternoon, and smouldered and fumed for the rest of the night.
Mase (my almost sister) tries to console me by saying that perhaps things can't get any worse for us and therefore things will only get better, but as any cricket fan will tell you things can easily get worse, and probably will. The Scottish misanthrope part of me says that it probably will.
Scotland's next game is against the English.I had high hopes for Scotland from that game but now I don't know what to expect.
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
Today is a travel day for me where I enter the second phase of my trip. I break away from the warm and easy embrace of travelling with family and being driven everywhere and having packed lunches made for me every day. Now I will have to fend for myself for the next ten days as I pinball all over New Zealand before I eventually ricochet back to the family again in Nelson.
Catching the bus from Dunedin up to Christchurch airport, then catching a flight to Wellington to watch the England V. New Zealand game on the 20th may seem like a roundabout way to watch England embarrass themselves but when I was originally looking at how to get from Dunedin to Wellington I found a pretty cheap direct flight, then I went to work for the day and when I eventually got home all the cheap seats were gone. The only remaining seats were going at four times the original cost. Wife was so annoyed at me that she wouldn't let me pay the inflated price and for ages I thought I would be hitch-hiking all the way up the South Island (giving up the ticket or missing the game was never an option!). So I was glad to eventually find a bus that would get me to Christchurch airport where I could pick up the cheaper end of the flight on to Wellington even if it did mean getting up at 6am for it, which is pretty early for a guy like me.
Mum packed me a packed lunch for the road and has made enough ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches to last until the end of the world, or the end of the World cup, whichever comes first.
The coast road out of Dunedin is incredibly beautiful and I sleep through most of it but typically I’m wide awake for the boring, flat grounds closer to Christchurch.
An uneventful flight is a good flight and the scenery of Wellington as the plane comes in to land is the most memorable thing about it. Wellington looks beautiful from the air. Even hillier than Dunedin at a quick glance and the shuttle bus from the airport to my B&B confirms it. There were audible gasps from the back of the shuttle bus as we wound our way all over the city and through some of the most narrow and winding roads I’ve ever seen in a developed country. As we rounded one corner I foolishly looked out the side window and saw the cliff drop away directly into the seventh realm of Hades itself and I envied the people in the back seats as they were blissfully oblivious to how their lives actually should be flashing before their eyes the way that mine was.
Made it to the accommodation safe and sound (the driver didn't understand why people always made such a fuss about the journeys) and upon checking in was completely blown away by the view of wellington and its harbour. And not just a small piece of the vista, the whole thing. All of Wellington stretched away below with the complete harbour unobstructed from view in one spectacular panorama. It was more than the eye could take in in one go, so I stood there drinking it all in for quite some time, getting drunk on the scenery.
A text from Mase (my ‘almost’ sister) bragging about how lovely their accommodation was in Invercargill where they moved on to, snapped me out of my staring contest with the window. But I let her think she had won, a photo won't do this view any justice so there’s no way a text message would.
I felt I had already won just by being here.Tomorrow I will wander down the hill and explore it without a plan. Adventure awaits.
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
I decide that wandering around aimlessly is a bit of a bad idea so I do a quick web search of things to do in Wellington when you have a free day before I leave the B&B. A cursory glance at the first site that google shows provides a “Top Ten” list and I decide to do all of them in a day!
After accidentally wandering through Central Park (not on the list but very nice nethertheless) I accidently end up at parliament building which the locals lovingly refer to as “The Beehive” because it looks a bit like a Beehive. There’s’ a free tour about to happen so I join it and pass an enjoyable hour listening to how similar and yet how different its systems are to the U.K. model on which it was based. But one of the unexpected aspects of the tour is a trip to the basement to examine the earthquake proofing measures they have installed. In effect the whole building is resting on top of some pretty strong springs that should stop the foundations twisting and buckling, and then falling down, in this earthquake prone part of the world. It’s a feat of engineering, developed by New Zealand, of which they are rightly proud.
The opportunity to join the public viewing area while parliament sits is offered to us after the tour but I’ve had enough and besides, these aren't my monkeys and this parliament isn’t my circus.
Instead I head along to the wellington cable car which climbs 120 meters in 5 minutes to gain some more stunning views (almost as good as the ones from my accommodation) and enjoy an alfresco lunch in the beautiful Botanic gardens that are right next to the cable car station. The weather is perfect again today. Proper shorts and T-Shirt weather and I make the most of soaking up the warmth while picking off the flaking and peeling skin that is a by-product of previous sunburn.
Before I head back down to town in the cable car I pop my head in the Cable Car Museum (which is slightly more interesting than it sounds) and buy a souvenir cloth patch (I collect them you know) with the cable car in mid assent that almost looks like it floating above the tracks. Pure brilliance.
Back in town I bypass the City Gallery (not in the mood) but visit the Museum of Wellington: City and Sea (which I would have enjoyed a lot more if I was in the mood for it)
I attempt to walk along the waterfront all the way to Oriental Bay but get sidetracked by people watching and just general enjoying the sunshine and sea breeze. I begin to notice that there are quite a few English people wandering around enjoying life in the sunshine too and I chat to a few of them while trying to disguise my Australian accent and also my support for New Zealand but they work me out pretty quickly, laugh along for a bit before wandering off to find more barmy people to form an army with and sing annoying songs at me all night.
A brief stroll up hipster hangout Cuba Street sees me find a “quirky” bucket fountain and, more interestingly, a pub showing the cricket. I settle in with a pint to watch Zimbabwe get out of gaol against the U.A.E. and start the relaxing part of the evening. I’ve barely done half the things on my list of ten but that’s where I wrap up the day. Footsore I catch a bus back up the mega hill to the accommodation and thoughts turn to tomorrow's game proper.
For me, it’s New Zealand all the way from here. They still look to strong and too organised despite what the doubt mongers mentioned after the Scotland game. Meanwhile England, despite having only played one game so far, look weak and in disarray. It's almost like they don't know how to play one day cricket, or, haven’t taken it seriously for the past twenty years.
Who knows what the actual day will bring.
As long as New Zealand win.
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE
As long as New Zealand win.
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE
It’s time for one of the big games. England V. New Zealand. Both teams have a lot to prove. New Zealand, that they are genuine contenders for the cup. England, that they are not a bunch of also rans in the one day game. New Zealand have momentum. England do too but not in the direction they want. They think they can turn it around in this match. In many ways this game will set the tone for both nations for the rest of their time in the World Cup.
It’s a big game indeed.
This morning I head into town to join in the “Fan Zone” before the game. I usually avoid these type of “fun” things like the plague as they are notoriously not “fun”. There is promised to be a marching band that will march us all along to the ground at noon but when I arrive at 11:30 a chatty volunteer tells me the march time is 12:30. Fine. That still gives us time to get to the ground, through security and into our seats before the toss. At 12:30 I'm getting anxious that the Royal New Zealand Air Force Brass Band hasn't even started up yet but, as soon as they do, I wish they hadn’t. Life is too short to listen to rubbish Beatles song covers. At 1pm they stop and an announcement is made that the march will start at 1:30pm, directly after a 30 min routine of Morris dancing ... and I thought life was too short before!
In an effort to murder some time I decide to get my face painted in something suitable New Zealand-esk. Well, when in Rome...
I am almost literary posting my colours to the mast with this gesture and despite supporting England most of the time in bilateral series’ it just can't be done during world cups.
The face painting girl paints a silver fern on my cheek in under one minute then boots me out of her chair. Still 29 minutes to kill then.
Eventually, after the sky has fallen and the last stars in the universe have blinked out of existence, the Morris dancers finish and the brass band strikes up leading those of us who haven't been bored to death along behind them to their limited repertoire of ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘oh bla di, oh blah blah blah blah’. There are about twenty fans behind them as we head out to the ground but, just like the pied piper, by the time we arrive at the stadium there must be around 250 plus.
Wellington stadium is lovingly called ‘The Cake Tin’ by the locals because it looks a little bit like a cake tin. It actually does look like a cake tin.
I arrive in time to miss England win the toss and chose to bat. There is someone sitting in my seat when I get there and the conversation goes from polite, to terse, to polite before I eventually claim my designated seat.
Then it’s game time !!!
England set a decent pace (for them) at the start and after 10 overs they are 2 /43 with Bell and Ali out to some great deliveries by Southee. After 20 overs they are 3/79 at an all right, but not scintillating pace. From there it’s all downhill and there is no chance of stopping the slipping down the slope and by 30 overs they have slumped to 7/114 and are all out for just 123 in just 33.2 overs. Southee claimed seven wickets (the most for a New Zealand bowler in O.D.I.s ) in what can only be described as a humiliating effort by England. Only Root put on anything close to a score to end up finishing out on 44, caught going for some desperate big shots attempting to get his 50 as he was running out of partners. It’s hard to have sympathy with him for falling short though as he didn't attempt to farm the strike with the tail.
When New Zealand come out to bat for 9 overs before the scheduled break they come out firing! McCullum hits the second ball he faces for six and, when he charges Broad two balls later and swings and misses had me thinking ‘Settle down there captain. No need to go mental, there’s plenty of time.’ When he smacks the next three deliveries for successive fours everyone ends up thinking ‘ OK. You go for it then’.
The chance to see the greatest players play at the peak of their performance against every other great player from every other nation is the reason why the World Cup is such a watched event. And the prospect of seeing something special is what captures the public's imagination. Today, we were treated to something special by McCullum who scorched 50 runs in only 18 balls. The fastest in World Cup history (and the 3rd fastest in all O.D.I.s)
The strength and power of the shots had me thinking that I could crowd catch one of his massive six’s even though I was sitting all the way back in row ‘V’. He looked like a man on a mission to prove that New Zealand have everything it takes to win everything in their way and set about bruising the bowling as much as possible. He took 18 of Broad’s first over and when he was replaced by Finn McCallum took it to him as well. Finns two overs went for 49 runs and England had already run out of ideas
It looked like McCallum wanted to wrap up the game before the innings break but that was always going to be a massive ask but at one point I thought he would take it to just needing 1 single run to win, and then go for the 45 minute rest and drag England back out for a humiliating post dinner thrashing.
That wasn't to be though as McCullum was out just before the dinner break (77 of 25 balls), bowled by a Woakes full toss (by this stage I was surprised that England didn’t resort to bowling donkey drops at him as nothing else was working), and with him gone the scoring really slowed down. With only a handful of runs needed for victory the umpires took the players of the field for the scheduled dinner break much to the annoyance of the locals in the crowd and to the relief of the, unusually quiet, barmy army. Most of the English fans had already left by this stage and none of the ones in my immediate area came back after the break which was understandable really.
As it was New Zealand needed 12 to win after dinner which they did in their own sweet time. Broad helped them out by bowling a pointless bouncer that sailed over batsmen and keeper's head to go all the way to the boundary for 5 wides, which summed up England's ridiculous play in this game.
Game due to finish 10pm. Game actually finished 6:30pm!
The stadium announcer encouraged people to hang around and watch the post match presentation in an effort to avoid the stadium vomiting people out into the middle of rush hour traffic, something he can't have had to do too often before.
Some of the Kiwi fans start taunting the remaining English by chanting “You're worse than Scotland.” but this makes me feel bad for both my nations (I am Scottish as well as British) and I try to encourage them to change it to “Scotland is better than you.” as it sounds a little more positive to at least one of my nations. Considering that we, Scotland, scored more runs against New Zealand and took more wickets in their chase I would say that Scotland is better than England.
But us Scots have always known that.
Mind you, the true test will come on the cricket field when Scotland play England in a couple of days time. A match I am really looking forward to.
The Kiwis have almost a week off before they face tougher competition in the form of Australia (which is also a match I’m really looking forward to!)
After I make it out of the stadium I take a slow walk back along the waterfront and enjoy a couple of hours of al fresco drinking and spontaneously dancing to various buskers in the warm evening air. I take my leave and head back to the accommodation when they start breaking out bad Beatles cover versions.Life is just too short.
I have a free day to explore the city a bit more so I decide to pick up my ‘Top Ten Things to do in Wellington when you have a free day’ challenge and head into town to the City Gallery. There is a Yvonne Todd photo exhibition on called ‘Creamy Psychology’ and it’s free admission so I give it a go. Some interesting ideas via the medium of photography are exposed to me. I’m not sure I ‘get’ it all but it’s an interesting way to spend an hour. Keeping with the culture theme of the day I head over to Museum of New Zealand or ‘Te Papa’ as it’s known for short. Some interesting displays tells me about tectonic plate shifting and the geographical history of New Zealand and there are numerous displays regarding native wildlife and flora both extinct and still existing. The highlight is the simulation of the strength of the earthquake that did some serious and major damage on February 22nd 2011 (exactly four years to the day tomorrow ... when I’m due to fly into it for the Scotland V. England game). I experience the simulation and at first I didn't see the big deal, but by the time the 2nd wave of shocks rumbled through I had imagined myself back in my flat in Edinburgh and if my little flat shook as much as Christchurch did I would be absolutely terrified. And so would you.
I’m in Te Papa so long that it’s closing time when they kick me out and my feet are killing me so I decide against walking around to Oriental Bay (it’s always good to save something for the next time you're in a city!) and instead head into the night markets in Cuba Street. Some street food which included deep fried ice cream fills me up nicely and I wander over to the cinema under the stars event in civic square. Showing tonight is ‘Fire in Babylon’ which I’ve seen before but is so awesome I brave the chilly night air to watch it again. The event is sponsored by Cadbury's and before the film even starts I have acquired at least five chocolate bars of different flavours from the promotional girls wandering around at the event. I’m not really that much of a chocolate fan but I’m sure I’ll eat them before my journey is done.
Before and after the film I chat away to many Kiwi cricket fans and am surprised to find that many of them are still doing the math regarding how many points they need to go through to the semi finals. The general consensus that three wins, which they already have, might be enough if other results go their way. I can't understand this way of thinking especially considering how emphatic each victory has been for them so far. Surely the Kiwi fans think that New Zealand can go through the group undefeated and maintain that momentum through the quarters and semis ... but the fear is Australia in the upcoming match next week. Australia has had the wood over New Zealand for so long that the fans would rather play their knockout games in Australia than at home against Australia. I am convinced that New Zealand has it in them to go all the way no matter where they play their games but most home-grown fans remain sceptical. I’m sure the New Zealand team are confident they can beat all comers and are ready to take on the world and the conversations just make me look forward to the upcoming clash even more.
After the film I head back to the accommodation taking several long last looks at the amazing city light twinkling below me, and then pack my bags.
Tomorrow I head to Christchurch in preparation for the Scotland V. England match.
I don't really want to leave Wellington, but I can’t wait for this game !!!
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
I don't really want to leave Wellington, but I can’t wait for this game !!!
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
Travelling to Christchurch today so I’m up early catch the plane. Having a quick cup of tea before I leave the Bed and Breakfast, the landlady’s cat, who has been friendly but barely given me a second glance the entire time I’ve been here, comes sits on my lap and promptly makes herself comfortable and falls asleep. Oh cat; you've had four days to do this type of thing, why do you wait until the minute I have to leave? “Don't get too comfortable”, I say to the cat, “You’ve only ten minutes of this before I boot you off and leave.” Forty minutes later I eventually wake a sleeping cat and end up with a claw in the knee for my impudence but continue to make the move towards the front door. A last look at the view (even with an overcast sky it is still a sight to behold) before I head out to catch the airport bus.
I've received a few messages recently asking if I feel better about Scotland's performance against New Zealand now that England have received an even greater thumping from them. The answer I come to is; Yes. Yes I do. I was pretty disappointed with Scotland's performance against the Kiwis and I still think we should have done better, but England who are supposedly better than most, performed much worse than Scotland and looked more bruised and disheartened about it than Scotland did. We didn't have many answers against the Kiwis either but at least we kept our heads up and kept trying to turn the game our way. England looked out of their depth from the very first moment the onslaught started. Scotland kept up the competition right to the bitter end meanwhile England were uncompetitive almost from the start. So yes. Yes I do feel better about Scotland's performance against the Kiwis now that England performed worse against the same team. The result still hurts but we came out of it better and holding our heads higher than the old enemy.
Speaking of which, the big grudge match is less than a day away now. Scotland V. England. Both teams coming of the back of a mauling by New Zealand, both teams looking for their first victory in the comp, both teams looking to get off the bottom of the table, and both nations looking to get one over their antagonistic neighbours !!!
Under most normal circumstances you’d have to say that England would be the favourite, but they have just come of a soul crushing defeat only two days ago and the wounds are still fresh in the entire teams mind and body. Scotland's crushing defeat came almost a week ago, they are over it now. Fresh bodies and relaxed minds preparing with plenty of time for one of the high profile matches they will have targeted for many months. On the surface at least Scotland look to have the better of the circumstances.
England have been the associate nations friend in world events recently losing to the Dutch (twice) and Ireland as well. But the antagonistic nature of the relationship between them and us Scot's is such that it’s almost certain that they will raise their game against us ... just to spite us!
Meanwhile Scotland have a tendency to start competitions slowly and also to give it away when things get really tough.
The upcoming game will be a tough one for both nations especially considering the pressure that is starting to mount on both of them. England need to start getting some points on the board or run the risk of not making the quarter finals. Scotland need to win their first game at a world cup ever to start to be taken seriously as rising challengers.
Both teams will see this game as their best chance to achieve their goals yet and this should make it a real humdinger of a match.
As for picking the favourite, I may be biased, but I’m picking Scotland.Hope the weather holds out!
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
When booking accommodation for this trip I decided to go for Venues that were either close to the cricket grounds or ones that were different/interesting or had amazing views. The one I’ve ended up with in Christchurch is neither of these things.
It was touted to me as being 10-20 min walk from the cricket ground when I booked it. But last night I walked less than halfway to it looking for a shop that sold milk (fail) and that took me at least half an hour. I had to set the alarm for an ungodly hour this morning to get up to make it to the ground in time to miss the toss.
I’m not in a great mood today and the early rise is only part of the reason. The flight was late getting into Christchurch yesterday which meant my one and only chance to have a look around the city during daylight hours was gone, the long walk to fail to find milk didn't help but upon returning to the accommodation I’m informed that the landlord is throwing a lasagne party that I’m expressly NOT invited to. I love lasagne. This doesn't seem fair. The kitchen has been taken over by oh-so-trendy hipsters and there's no room for me to make even some boring pasta for my dinner. I am reduced to pot noodles. While I wait for the kettle to boil the hipsters play youtube videos to each other and laugh way too loudly at people falling over. When one of them breaks out the god-awful “Charlie bit my finger” tripe I physically gag (it’s not just the pot noodle) and have to retire to my bedroom to avoid any more behind-the-times hipster mumblings.
There's not even the barest hint of a view in this place. And there’s no cat.
I miss Wellington.
It takes me an hour and a half to walk to the ground this morning (20 minutes my ass) and I manage to accidentally join onto the “Fan Trail” lead by a Scottish bagpiper and make it through security in time to miss the toss which Scotland won and put England in to bat first. The sky is overcast and they must think there will be something in the conditions for them early on. If there is Scotland fail to take advantage of it and most of the high hopes I had of Scotland putting in a solid effort disperse during the second over of the day when Davie sends down four wides in what turns out to be a ten ball over. A chance from Ali in the fourth over that fell just a little too short of cover and a close decision for L.B.W. that went Bell’s way in the sixth seemed to sap the moment away from Scotland and from then on Ali cruised his way untroubled to a century. Bell scratched around looking for form but managed to stick around for a 50 odd helping him and Ali break the world record for the best opening partnership at world cups along the way. The breakthrough in the 30th over is a relief but everyone feels that the damage has been done already. England already have 172 on the board and would be looking to double it from here leaving Scotland with a mammoth total to chase down. The Scottish bowlers stick to their task and they do make inroads into the English middle order which shows its usual brittleness that we’ve become accustomed to seeing recently and it's something of a minor victory for Scotland to keep the Poms to 303/8 from their full 50 overs.
Optimism still exist in the Scottish supporters I chat to during the break and we all agree that this is a total that can be chased down as long as we keep our composure and the top order do their job and stick around to lay down a solid platform and push on from there.
But that's precisely what doesn't happen as we lose MacLeod in the third over and then Machen and Coleman in the 11th and 12th respectively leaving Mommsen in the middle order to hold things together. He and Coetzer hang around and form a partnership worthy of salvaging some hope for the Scottish fans and when Coetzer passes his half century everyone knows that we really need a century from him if Scotland are to push this game close. Unfortunately its not to be as first captain Mommsen goes for 25 in the 26th over and the vice captain Coetzer is caught at long on a couple of overs later for 71 attempting the big hit to keep up with the run rate.
From there on in it’s too much of a job to keep pace with the required run rate and as the last of the recognised batsmen fall it become a slow crawl to the end which comes almost 8 overs early with Scotland all out for 184.
After such a promising middle order stand it’s painful to watch us fall against an old enemy that doesn’t look in good touch at all and our winless streak against them continues. Worst of all, Scotland still haven't managed to beat its highest total in world cup history ... the woefully low 185.
At the beginning of this game I honestly expected at least one of those things to be broken.
There is still some daylight left after the early finish so I take my chance to have a look at Christchurch city centre. Everyone knows that when the earthquake hit four years ago it did quite a lot of serious damage to central Christchurch but one of the things that a lot of people don’t realise is that after the initial quake there were still minor tremors that continued for the next 14 months. So the rebuild of the affected area couldn't even begin until it was deemed safe almost a year and a half after the first damage happened. In the meantime things moved into the surround areas while the centre remained derelict and unable to be built on. Now that things are slowly being able to start regenerating there still isn't much impetus to return to it as business have found new locations and established themselves elsewhere. In an effort to attract new life to a still mostly deserted area the council has installed many shipping containers and encouraged business to operate out of them while the rebuild goes on around them. It’s an interesting idea but when I went to check it out everything was closed for the night already and it felt like I was walking around a very clean and safe post apocalyptic city. Eventually I stumbled upon an event being organised by the council for the cricket and enjoyed some live funk soul fusion music by a local band and enjoyed a very nice locally made pizza. When the air turned a little chilly I reached for my jumper only to realise that I must have left it hanging over the back of my seat in the cricket stand.
Quickly I rush back to the stadium in the hope that I can reclaim it but the place is locked down and there is no one around I can harass about finding lost property.
After an extreme amount of swearing at myself, at the jumper, and also at the world in general I give it up as a lost cause and set off for the laborious trudge back to the accommodation. On the way I realise that with a bus leaving at 7:30am tomorrow morning for Dunedin there is no chance I will be able to swing by the stadium again and see if it was handed in after the match, and a whole new round of quite inventive swearing starts again.
When I eventually make it home I’m in no mood to talk to the hipster landlord with his stupid beard and his ridiculous accent. I’m exhausted from all the walking, and swearing I’ve had to do today and I go to bed angry at losing a game, but more importantly, at losing a jumper.It takes a long time to go to sleep.
I wake up with the alarm and get ready to move on to Dunedin. I’m still angry at losing my jumper at the game yesterday and I come to the conclusion that I have decided to dislike Christchurch. I’ve been here twice now and both times have left me feeling less than happy for various reasons. The first time was back for the opening game of the World Cup where I was banished to sleeping in a ‘bed in a shed’ miles away from the rest of the family luxury accommodation. I also picked up some pretty impressive sunburn from that opening game (despite it being a cold and overcast day) and spent the remaining time between that visit and this visit peeling the dead and dying skin off of my face.
This time I’ve watched Scotland lose to a weakened England side in what most people thought would be our best chance to beat them so far in history (I can't help feeling that it was a missed opportunity from Scotland but it could have been so different if a few early chances went our way ... ugh, frustration is so frustrating!) had crap accommodation again, was lied to about how far away the cricket ground was, lost my jumper at the ground AND, despite lathering on the sunscreen like paint and wearing a big wide brimmed hat still managed to pick up a new batch of sunburn !!!
Right, that's it Christchurch, I know you've had it tough ever since the earthquake hit four years ago but now you're going to have to deal with some more bad news because ... I am officially naming you my Least Favourite City in New Zealand for this trip.
Time to move on. Better times surely await in Dunedin.
My mood improves the further away from Christchurch I get. I’ve done this coast road between Christchurch and Dunedin three times now and it’s beautiful every time especially the stretch between Oamaru (where the bus stops for a food break and I bought a basket of the best hot chips in the world) and Dunedin. Some lovely coastal vistas and beaches that look so pristine that it’s hard to imagine that anyone has ever walked along them and on the other side of the bus, stunning mountain peaks that disappear into the clouds.
Cresting the corner of the massive hill that descends into Dunedin takes my breath away (again) and as I find my way to the B&B I’ve booked into it feel like I’m home.
This Accommodation does not claim to be anywhere near the cricket ground but it does claim to have a nice view of the city and I’m delighted to find out that it does indeed have a spectacular view of the whole city of Dunedin and the harbour front too. If I had seen this view before the view from my Wellington place I would have thought it impossible to improve upon. It’s a pretty spectacular second place. Even though it claims to be nowhere near the ground I bet it’s closer than the Christchurch one was. And there's a cat here too. Things are looking up.
A brief walk around the local area to shake out the cobwebs and to buy milk (win) sees me struggling with the steep hills and out of breath quickly but as I turn back toward the city I‘m greeted by one of nature’s magical beautiful sights, a double rainbow framing the city below it.I don't know what it means but it fills me with wonder and optimism and leads me to think “This Dunedin place. Quite wonderful really.”
Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
On my last day in Christchurch I walked down Edinburgh Street and off of it branched Granton Street and Leith Street and I wondered if the town planner who named the streets in this suburb must have been a homesick Scottish ex-pat. At the time I wasn't having a great time of it either but I was more frustrated by circumstance and less suffering from homesickness.
I’ve always maintained that being homesick while on holiday is for fools. Who would want to go home when you're on holiday? How much of a misery guts would you have to be to think that being at home, working away in the dark and cold winter would be preferable to, well, anything other than working! You miss your friends; they will still be there, working away as usual, when you get back. Miss your family? They are usually just annoying people you can’t get away from and have to tolerate over a Sunday lunch once a week. The same bickering arguments will be awaiting your return just like the brussel sprouts. Miss your cat, well, I kinda get that one to be honest ... but nevertheless, toughen up. Homesickness is for fools.
Walking around Dunedin today I was struck by how much like Edinburgh it really is. Both cities share the same bizarre geographical fault that means you can't walk anywhere without having to walk uphill to get there, both cities have weather that can turn against you without a moment’s notice (it was sunny when I shut the bedroom door behind me and raining by the time I made it outside!) and both cities have so many of the same street names it constantly felt like I was walking around my home town.
Princes Street is the obvious common link and as it is the main thoroughfare in Edinburgh, so it is in Dunedin too running right through the centre of the central business district. After the Octagon (a large roundabout dead centre of town with eight roads leading into/away from it) Princes Street becomes George Street, which seems unerringly familiar. There's a York place and an Elm Row that run close to each other but never actually meet (strikingly similar). Leith Street and Grange are side by side but both are on the wrong side of the tracks from Heriot Row and the street name of the road that forms the Octagon, which must be the prime piece of real estate in Dunedin city centre, and definitely the most expensive to buy/rent is called, Moray Place! The same named street in Edinburgh prides itself on being the most expensive in the city!
After hours of wandering around enjoying the city today it all became a little too much for me and I started to see what the all fuss about being homesick was about. As I sat under the statue of Robert Burns (yep, Scotland's national poet has a massive statue in his honour in the place that is the furthest point away from where he lived.) and ate my shortbread that was supplied in my B&B room (they didn't even know I was coming from Scotland, it’s just something they do here) I contemplated if I was really thinking that I missed home, work and friends enough to give up being on holiday. A quick check of the weather forecast for Edinburgh revealed that it was due to be overcast with a maximum temperature of 7 degrees Celsius. A time wasting glance at facebook revealed that all my friends were complaining about their work and wishing they were on holiday.
And just like that, I was cured.
To celebrate not being homesick I went looking to buy a souvenir cloth patch (I collect them you know) and found that there are two choices for Dunedin patches. One that has some penguins on it (as cold as Scotland gets you don't see them very often there), the other is of a Scottish piper!
I bought the penguin one and went to the pub to watch the Ireland V. U.A.E. match and wash away my foolish lament and prepare for tomorrow's big game ... Scotland V. Afghanistan !!!Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
I wake up, pull the curtains and am greeted by a glorious day of sun shining beauty over Dunedin. It’s the type of day that is perfect for a game of cricket. Thankfully there’s one on in town today and it’s a big one too.
Scotland V. Afghanistan.
Scotland competing in its third world cup. Still looking for that first World Cup victory. Afghanistan competing in its first World Cup. looking for their first victory too. Both nations see this as their best chance for that to happen. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a close one.
Head into town to the fan zone as there is due to be a piper leading a march leaving the octagon at 10:30 (which should get us to the ground with enough time to miss the toss). I arrive at 10am, get given a big chocolate bar, and the march leaves ten minutes later. Good thing I was early.
There are about 25 people, almost exclusively Scottish fans, on the march as it starts but unlike the previous one I joined in wellington (where about 200 people joined the march for the black caps as it went along), there are still only 25 people on the march when we arrive at the ground. Through security, where I’m given another large chocolate bar (over the past few days I have been given enough chocolate to send me into a coma, and yet, I continue to take them.) and in my seat with enough time to miss the toss, which the lady sitting next to me says Afghanistan won and chose to bowl.
The morning is blazing hot, proper T-shirt weather and my hopes are for Scotland breaking our losing streak in world cups (currently at 10 games and 10 losses) AND breaking past our previous high score of 186. Under a clear blue sky there doesn't seem to be any reason why both can’t happen.
MacLeod’s wicket in the second over sends a shiver down my spine and by the 25th over Scotland are reduced to 104/5 and a cold wind is cutting through my layers like an Afghan bowler through the Scottish middle order.
It's around about this time I start to comfort eat some of the mountain of chocolate I’ve been given.
By the 40th over Afghanistan have run through the Scott’s batting and reduced us to 155/8. We are in danger of not passing our woefully low World Cup high score and I have made a serious dent in my mountain of chocolate.
Thankfully Majid Haq and Ali Evens formed a decent partnership for the ninth wicket adding 62 runs with some frantic hitting out in the last few overs to set a new record and move the score on to 210 to give everyone some hope that the total could be defended.
The Afghans started well and looked to be comfortably taking control of the chase but a double wicket over in the 7th by Evans brought Scotland back into the game and from then it was a neck and neck contest. Every time they looked to be moving ahead Scotland would take a wicket. Whenever it looked like Scotland had a hold on the match the Afghan batsmen would swing it back their way. That was the way it was when the ninth wicket partnership for Afghanistan Shenwari and Hassan took back the game and added 60 runs to take the score on to 192/8 before Shenwari was out for 96 trying to hit Haq for 6 for the fourth time in an over.
One wicket for Scotland to win, 19 runs for Afghanistan to win, three overs to do it! It comes down to a run a ball and by the final over things are still on a knife edge. It seems too good a game to end and I’m sure some people thought a tie would have been the right result, but when push came to shove the Afghans took it over the line to win with a 4 of the third last ball of the game.
It was a gutting experience for the Scottish fans especially after pushing it so close for so much of the game but we were all proud of our boys for putting up such a great effort and for treating everyone to such an exciting game.
I joined a few of the other travelling Scottish fans for a slow walk back into town and adjourned to a pub in town to enjoy the fresh evening air. They were showing a repeat of the game on TV and we spent far too many pints dissecting the match all over again.
The general consensus was that we have lost our best chance of picking up our first World Cup win but everyone was optimistic about the upcoming Bangladesh game as thoughts turned toward that tasty encounter in a few days time.More runs up top was what we all decided was needed ... and another pint too.
First hangover of the adventure so far and, thankfully, it’s not a bad one. Still, I knew I shouldn’t have had that last pint of cider as now my entire body feel like a dried out river bed. But it seemed like a good idea at the time! No time to dwell on it though as I have to pack and move city again.
It’s time to say farewell to beautiful Dunedin and wave its steep hills a cheery goodbye because it’s time to travel up to Auckland for the big game.... Australia V, New Zealand.
This is the game all Kiwis have been waiting for as, apparently, it’s been over five years since the Aussies played in New Zealand and the last time they played each other at all was in the previous World Cup. It seems incredulous to have such a large span of time between matches especially considering the span of distance in miles is relatively short.
Animosity between the two nations has always been there but this cricketing snub has truly rankled more than a few Kiwi feathers. A common thread I’ve picked up with every conversation with New Zealanders is that ‘As long as we beat the Aussies everything else will be cool bro’. Almost everyone I have spoken to so far says that this game will determine who finishes on top of group A. It’s clear that New Zealand fans want to top the group but coming up against Australia and knocking them of their perch is regarded as something of a struggle. Perhaps a struggle to far for the tiny nation. This is merely a mental block that keeps New Zealanders living in the shadow of the bigger, noisier, neighbor. But in the run up to this game something is changing in the attitude of the black caps fans. It’s gone from “IF we beat the Aussies.” with the emphasis on the “IF” and transformed into something more positive. Optimism with an outline of caution. By tomorrow I’m sure the entire crowd will be full of belief that this team, THEIR team, can show the Aussies a thing or two about this game called cricket. Their team, The New Zealand Team, has already had this self belief for quite some time. It’s good to see the general public catching up to the team at last.
The match really is promising everything and I’ve been looking forward to it for over a year, but first I have to actually get to Auckland, which turned out to be an ordeal in itself.
Booking a shuttle bus this morning through my hangover haze was enough for anyone to call it quits and try to hitch-hike the length of the country instead. Reading out the credit card number was like a punishment from the depth of hell itself. Then the first bus doesn't arrive, the second one breaks down before it even leaves the depot and I have to wait for a bus coming from Queenstown before they can put me on that and tell the driver to take a detour and drop me off at the airport. I’m not overfilled with confidence that this is the end of the mis-adventure when the bus driver says I can sit up front and give him directions. I tell him I’ve never been to this airport before and he admits that he hasn’t either! There is a long delay while he looks for a map.
Thirty minutes later we are finally on our way. The other passengers must truly hate me, I’m the only one going to Dunedin airport and this detour I’m making the full coach go on is claimed to only be 15 minutes but it turns out to be more like 45 ... because Dunedin airport is in the middle of NOWHERE. It’s probably closer to Queenstown (where this coach started out form) than it is to Dunedin.
I began to wonder how small Dunedin airport was when I discovered that I was the only one going to it. Basically, it’s a shed! A well appointed interior for a shed and, as far as sheds go, a little on the large size, but still ... it’s a shed! I was surprised that it had free wifi then quickly angry as you only get 20 minutes free without ever telling you its time limited. Even the plane I get on is small with propellers, not jet engines.
Change planes at Christchurch (give me back my jumper you awful city) and check emails on their two hours free wifi (I guess it's not all bad in Christchurch!). There’s one from my Sista (not Mase my almost sister, my actual Sista, well, from my Dad’s side. Not my Mum’s ... families are complicated.) She tells me that she is flaking out on meeting me in Sydney for the semi final. I was really looking forward to seeing her again as it’s been too long between drinks with us, at least six years since our last pint/white wine spritzer. I fear we are running the risk of becoming strangers and this was a chance to reconnect with some quality time together watching a quality game. This is bad news in email form and there's nothing good I can say to it in reply so I close the bad news machine down and check the cricket score instead ... oh look, South Africa doing quite well against the West Indies.
Board the connection to Auckland, land in Auckland, get a shuttle to the Y.M.C.A. in central Auckland (which is nowhere as much fun as the song makes it sound by the way) and try to sleep in the narrowest single bed I have ever seen! I’m exhausted though so I’m not really caring and tomorrow brings another big, big game.
Australia V. New ZealandI can't wait.
Auckland: Land of the Aucks. Brilliant city. Lots to see and do. I’ve been here before (on an anniversary trip with the wife) so I’ve pretty much done everything touristy that there is to do here, that is besides go to a epic cricket game !!!
The big game between Australia and New Zealand doesn't start until 2pm so I have a free morning to sleep in. The only thing I really want to do here is revisit one of the greatest record shops in the known universe, a place called ‘Real Groovy’ at the top of Queen Street. Last time I was here I discovered it pretty early on and gave the wife four days notice that on the last day of our holiday I was going to be spending a sizeable amount of the day in there. Had a fab time, picked up some treasures, and spent four hours in a record shop without the wife complaining. Brilliant.
Record shops have had a habit of disappearing over the last few years and I had fears for this one too but was relieved to see a hand painted sign outside it claiming ‘33 1/3 years strong’ and it didn't look like it was going anywhere for a while yet. Brilliant. The wife isn’t with me on this trip so I had the full morning to browse the bargain stands for magic and after 3 hours of rummaging around I managed to find about £60 worth of forgotten masterworks on CDs (including one from my favourite Canadian band of all time, ever, “The Pursuit of Happiness” that I’ve been looking for for twenty years). Best record shop in New Zealand, definitely in the top three worldwide.
When I eventually drag myself away (I might go back tomorrow before my flight) I head straight out to the stadium. There are loads of volunteers along the way giving out stuff I don't need.
“Sun visor sir?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“A black caps wristband sir?”
“Um, ok. Thanks”
“A mini flag sir?”
“A moustache sir?”
“What? What the actual ... NO. No, I’m good for moustaches. Thanks.”
“They’re free sir.”
(The temptation to say, ‘oh, alright then. give me two.’ is overwhelming ... but I resist.)
Despite spending half my life in a record shop this morning I make it to the ground in time to see the toss. Australia win it and choose to bat first. According to Shane Warne there might be a bit of swing in the air but the pitch is flat and hard so a lot of runs will be scored. He claims 350 is a par score and I relish the encounter that is due to come. One of the things I’m looking forward to the most is being at a day/night game that actually makes it into the night part of the schedule (yeah, I’m looking at you England V New Zealand in Wellington!)
The sun is out and it’s roasting hot in Auckland today so I’m glad to find that my seat is in the shady part of the stand. I’m showing my allegiance by being dressed all in black and it has pure melted me but when you have money invested in a team you do that type of thing. But its cool, the Aussies are outnumbered 10 to 1 and the only guy who blows my cover, the chap sitting next to me, promises to keep my Australian heritage a secret.
The Aussies are up to their usual noisy behaviour from the start of the match, and with good reason too as Warner (not a favourite person in New Zealand) and Finch get off to a flying start. 15 off the first over. This is gonna be a great total. The Aussies are up for this. Southee Bowls Finch with a beauty that nipped back in the third over and the crowd erupts. I’ve never heard so many people cheer so simultaneously before, the noise is deafening and the atmosphere is electric. The Kiwis are up for this.
After 6 over Australia have pushed the score up to 51/1 and it looks like Warnies prediction of a huge total is spot on. McCallum brings on the experienced Vettori to slow the rate down. Spin inside the first ten overs, you don't see that very often. The captain’s hunch works and Vettori’s first over goes for only two runs. Warner and Watson continue to move the score along at the other end and things look back on track for a huge total until the breakthrough sees Watson caught playing an undisciplined shot of Vettirie and immediately after Warner L.B.W. to a close call off Southee. From there on it was a procession of undisciplined batting from Australia and great bowling from Boult who ran through the Australian middle order to claim five wickets. Only Haddin offered any resistance to finish with a top score of 43 and build Australia's total up to a woeful 151 and all out off 33.2 overs.
Once again the Kiwis have annihilated a team so thoroughly that they need to come out and bat before the scheduled inning break. It’s becoming a habit with them.
Defending such a low total means that Australia have to get off to a good start and as Mitchell Johnson steams in for the first ball you get the sense that is exactly what will happen, but he bowls a no ball that is glanced away for four and the free hit is dispatched by Guptill for six. 11 of the first ball of the over and its business as usual from New Zealand. Guptill's wicket in the fourth over doesn't slow McCullum’s excessively fast scoring rate and neither does being hit on the arm by a Johnson thunderbolt and his 50 comes up in 21 balls. Quite slow for him really! When McCullum is out shortly after making his half century the scoring rate slows down but this is no real problem for New Zealand, they only need another 73 runs with more than 40 overs to get them in. Taylor is out for 1 only four balls after McCullum and the scheduled innings break is taken during which, former New Zealand captain and legendary batsman, Martin Crow, make an emotional speech as he is inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame.
Directly after the break Elliott is bowled by Stark who is now on a hat trick which gives the Aussies in the crowd enough hope of pushing it close to start making some noise again. A 50 partnership between Anderson and Williamson goes some way to quieting them down again until Anderson looks to be caught by Cummins taking a low catch. The Aussies are up and crowing again and when the replays on the big screen show that the ball might, MIGHT, have brushed the ground as well as the catcher’s fingers it’s the Kiwis who are up and making noise. The discontent rumblings rise even higher when the umpires decide that there isn't enough evidence to overturn the original decision and Anderson has to keep on walking.
Ronchie is out eight balls later for minimal contribution and the Aussies think they’re in with a chance but when Vettori, one of the best allrounders in the world, walks in batting at eight I have flashbacks to the Scotland V. new Zealand match ... sure Scotland took some wickets along New Zealand's innings, but there was never any real pressure and Vettori only needed 10 runs to win, this time he needs 12 to send Australia down, plenty of time to do it in(about 25 overs still remain) and there’s no real pressure on him.
He's out playing a ridiculous chip shot off a full toss eight balls later and all of a sudden this game is there to be lost by New Zealand and stolen by the Aussies. GAME ON !!!
Milne comes into bat with the score on 145/7, seven runs to win, and leaves with the score on 146/8.
Southee comes into bat with the score on 146/8, six runs to win, and leaves with the score on 146/9
Stark is on a hat trick for the second time in the match and the last man in, Boult, wicket would give it to him and Australia the victory against all the odds.
Stark does his best to undo Boult but is denied his hat trick by some solid defence. There are still 6 runs required to win it for New Zealand. One wicket required for Australia.
The tension is unbearable and suddenly no one in the crowd is crowing at all.
Kane Williamson, rising star for New Zealand cricket, puts everyone out of their misery and smacks the first ball of the next over straight down the ground for a massive six to finish that game and win it for the exuberant Kiwis.
It’s a phenomenal end to a phenomenal match and one worthy of being regarded as a World Cup Classic and another awesome battle between these competitive neighbours, which should happen more often.
While this game may have been short no one feels short changed and loads of people hang around after the match to watch the presentations and catch our breath. Trent Boult is awarded the man of the match (probably for blocking out that hat trick delivery form Stark that would have won it for the Aussies as much for his five wicket haul) and the Chappell/Hadlee trophy (which should be on the line every time theses two nations play against each other) is handed over to New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum by legend of the game Sir Richard Hadley.After such an entertaining game it seems unlikely that Auckland nightlife will be able to live up to anything like this, but I head into town to find out anyway.
Auckland after the game was a party town. Everybody was in a good mood including the security guard at Eden Park who shouted direction at people “Busses to the left, trains to the right, Aussies to the airport!” (come to think of it, most of the Aussies weren't in that good a mood!). The day was great, the game amazing and the weather beautiful and people were chatting and laughing all the way into town. Finally the Kiwi chat is starting to turn toward the possibility of going all the way in the tournament. There's still a fair bit of caution attached to the chat, many is the time that the Kiwis have made the semi final only to be knocked out in disappointing fashion, but New Zealanders are starting to dream big. About time too.
I accidentally ended up joining on to a stag party for a while but jumped ship when the snorting tequila came out as the party trick to copy. No thanks, it’s bad enough drinking that stuff. I’m out. Further on down the road buskers were playing to local skate punks who were ignoring them and rubbish jugglers were chasing their balls down the main drag. There were a lot of people wearing those Chinese rice paddy style of hats, like the ones in ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ ... only smaller. I asked one couple where they found those hats and the bloke replied by vaguely waving his hand in the direction of the Horsehead Nebula. Ignoring their impossible advice I followed the steady stream of other people wearing fantastic hats that all of a sudden I just had to have. A few more blocks following Lo Pan’s minions led me to a massive festival of light to celebrate Chinese new Year (never mind that Chinese new Year was at least a week ago, just go with the flow and get one of those fabulous hats!). I find a stall selling them, they are only $5 (New Zealand !!!!), I pick one up and put it on, its fits me well. I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I think it suits me. I can totally wear this in everyday situations. Brilliant. As I’m reaching for my wallet to pay the girl with green eyes a thought drifts through my alcohol addled mind ... “How are you going to pack it?” ... Oh, that's a good point. I'm already overloaded for this part of the trip and I still haven't figured out how I’m going to fit in all that stuff I bought in ‘Real Groovy’ earlier today. Regretfully, common sense takes hold of my drunk arm and leads me away from the stall of unnecessary purchases.
Wondering dejectedly through the park of bright light I run into a stage with a band playing Asian style music. I actually have a passion for Asian pop music so I chill out and bop along for a while until the band changes tack and becomes a little more sonic noise and anti rhythm. Once I suspected them of playing ‘Revolution number 9’ I was outta there. life is to short.
The next day is a bit of a pain behind the eyes but no time for sleeping, it’s travel time again and I leave Auckland to fly to Nelson where my Mum and Stepdad are waiting to collect me and look after me again. It’s great to hook up with them again and stories of our separate adventures are exchanged.
‘Oh, you went to Milford sound did you. well, I watched Scotland lose in a last over thriller.’
‘Oh, you went up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown did you? Well, I watched the Kiwis almost lose, but then win, an epic encounter.’
‘Been to the southernmost point on the south island eh? Well, I lost my jumper in Christchurch.’
‘Sheep everywhere was there? well, yeah actually. It’s not a cliche is it?’
Mase (my almost sister), has left us earlier today to go back to Botswana and visit her own family and as a result I have been promoted to the favourite child! No more sleeping in outhouses or bed-in-a-shed for me. Now I'm back in the luxury apartment with a room all to myself. Brilliant. The bed looks really comfy too.
I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and I‘ve had an almost permanent sense of tiredness due to all the traveling and having far too good a time. But maybe if I just rest my eyes here for a while ... Safe in the surrounds of family aga
Auckland after the game was a party town. Everybody was in a good mood including the security guard at Eden Park who shouted direction at people “Busses to the left, trains to the right, Aussies to the airport!” (Come to think of it, most of the Aussies weren't in that good a mood!). The day was great, the game amazing and the weather beautiful and people were chatting and laughing all the way into town. Finally the Kiwi chat is starting to turn toward the possibility of going all the way in the tournament. There's still a fair bit of caution attached to the chat, many is the time that the Kiwis have made the semi final only to be knocked out in disappointing fashion, but New Zealanders are starting to dream big. About time too.
I accidentally ended up joining on to a stag party for a while but jumped ship when the snorting tequila came out as the party trick to copy. No thanks, its bad enough drinking that stuff. I’m out. Further on down the road buskers were playing to local skate punks who were ignoring them and rubbish jugglers were chasing their balls down the main drag. There were a lot of people wearing those Chinese rice paddy style of hats, like the ones in ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ ... only smaller. I asked one couple where they found those hats and the bloke replied by vaguely waving his hand in the direction of the Horsehead Nebula. Ignoring their impossible advice I followed the steady stream of other people wearing fantastic hats that all of a sudden I just had to have. A few more blocks following Lo Pan’s minions led me to a massive festival of light to celebrate Chinese new Year (never mind that Chinese new Year was at least a week ago, just go with the flow and get one of those fabulous hats!). I find a stall selling them, they are only $5 (New Zealand !!!!), I pick one up and put it on, its fits me well. I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I think it suits me. I can totally wear this in everyday situations. Brilliant. As I’m reaching for my wallet to pay the girl with green eyes a thought drifts through my alcohol addled mind ... “How are you going to pack it?” ... Oh, that's a good point. I'm already overloaded for this part of the trip and I still haven't figured out how I’m going to fit in all that stuff I bought in ‘Real Groovy’ earlier today. Regretfully, common sense takes hold of my drunken arm and leads me away from the stall of unnecessary purchases.
Wandering dejectedly through the park of bright light I run into a stage with a band playing Asian style music. I actually have a passion for Asian pop music so I chill out and bop along for a while until the band changes tack and becomes a little more sonic noise and anti rhythm. Once I suspected them of playing ‘Revolution number 9’ I was outta there. Life's too short.
The next day is a bit of a pain behind the eyes but no time for sleeping, it’s travel time again and I leave Auckland to fly to Nelson where my Mum and Stepdad are waiting to collect me and look after me again. It’s great to hook up with them again and stories of our separate adventures are exchanged.
‘Oh, you went to Milford sound did you? Well, I watched Scotland lose in a last over thriller.’
‘Oh, you went up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown did you? Well, I watched the Kiwis almost lose, but then win, an epic encounter.’
‘Been to the southernmost point on the south island eh? Well, I lost my jumper in Christchurch.’
‘Sheep everywhere was there? Well, yeah actually. It’s not a cliché is it?’
Mase (my almost sister), has left us earlier today to go back to Botswana and visit her own family and as a result I have been promoted to the favourite child! No more sleeping in outhouses or bed-in-a-shed for me. Now I'm back in the luxury apartment with a room all to myself. Brilliant. The bed looks really comfy too.I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and I‘ve had an almost permanent sense of tiredness due to all the travelling and having far too good a time. But maybe if I just rest my eyes here for a while ... Safe in the surrounds of family again.
Today is a rest day. Both in the world cup and with the family. Considering one of the complaints from the bigwigs about the World Cup is that it goes on for too long it seems bizarre to have a day in the middle of the comp where no cricket is being played at all. It’s not like this was a reserve day for rain as washed out matches have the points split with no chance of a rematch. There are no reserve days for rain until the knockout stages ... so whats with a day of no cricket? (I bet they somehow find a way to blame the associate nations for it !!!) I don't understand this lack of a game and am also a little frustrated by it as the family and I have very little planned for today and a nice little eight hour game of cricket on TV would have filled up the day nicely. As it was we all trundled into nelson to have a look about for an hour or so. Murray is not a city guy and is notorious for driving past them on the highway to somewhere else and saying to us “There is the city over there. Enjoy it because thats as close as we’re going to get to it.” He famously did this to my mum when she wanted to see Melbourne (the closest she has still ever made it is the highway that whizzes around it) and he did it again this trip when Mase wanted to go into Christchurch city to have a look at the city as we were heading down to Dunedin. “Oh, you want to see the centre of Christchurch do you ... well ... oh, I seemed to have made a wrong turn. Well there it is in the distance. Enjoy it ‘coz we’re not turning around now.” Even though I was slightly annoyed about this turn of events the annoyance on my almost sister’s face kept me giggling for about two hours. Brilliant. I found out on a return visit to Christchurch that he had actually made the right decision to avoid Christchurch city at all costs coz even the locals say theres nothing to see there and it’s boring! (I still hate you Christchurch for stealing my jumper.)
Anyway, he actually takes Mum and I into Nelson to have a little look around and ... it’s small. Apparently it’s deemed a city but its more like a quaint little town. The kind of town where you’d expect to find drunk out of work actors who have gone on holiday by mistake demanding to have the finest wines known to humanity brought to them here and now. Its lovely. But its small. We walk up and down the main road twice and feel like we’ve done all the main tourist things already so we head to the beach to have a look. Its nice too. Next!
On the way back to the accommodation we drive by the cricket ground where the upcoming game between Scotland and Bangladesh will be played and ... its small.
Well, this day has been to big for me so I go for a little lie down in the afternoon and wake up in time for dinner which is already made. Lamb chops tonight, well, theres millions of them over here. Mum has washed my clothes and dried t
Today is a rest day. Both in the world cup and with the family. Considering one of the complaints from the bigwigs about the World Cup is that it goes on for too long it seems bizarre to have a day in the middle of the comp where no cricket is being played at all. It’s not like this was a reserve day for rain as washed out matches have the points split with no chance of a rematch. There are no reserve days for rain until the knockout stages ... so what’s with a day of no cricket? (I bet they somehow find a way to blame the associate nations for it !!!) I don't understand this lack of a game and am also a little frustrated by it as the family and I have very little planned for today and a nice little eight hour game of cricket on TV would have filled up the day nicely. As it was we all trundled into nelson to have a look about for an hour or so. Murray is not a city guy and is notorious for driving past them on the highway to somewhere else and saying to us “There is the city over there. Enjoy it because that’s as close as we’re going to get to it.” He famously did this to my mum when she wanted to see Melbourne (the closest she has still ever made it is the highway that whizzes around it) and he did it again this trip when Mase wanted to go into Christchurch city to have a look at the city as we were heading down to Dunedin. “Oh, you want to see the centre of Christchurch do you ... well ... oh, I seemed to have made a wrong turn. Well there it is in the distance. Enjoy it ‘coz we’re not turning around now.” Even though I was slightly annoyed about this turn of events the annoyance on my almost sister’s face kept me giggling for at least two hours. Brilliant. I found out on a return visit to Christchurch that he had actually made the right decision to avoid Christchurch city at all costs coz even the locals say there’s nothing to see there and it’s boring! (I still hate you Christchurch for stealing my jumper.)
Anyway, he actually takes Mum and I into Nelson to have a little look around and ... it’s small. Apparently it’s deemed a city but it’s more like a quaint little town. The kind of town where you’d expect to find drunk out of work actors who have gone on holiday by mistake demanding to have the finest wines known to humanity brought to them here and now. It’s lovely. But it’s small. We walk up and down the main road twice and feel like we’ve done all the main tourist things already so we head to the beach to have a look. It’s nice too. Next!
On the way back to the accommodation we drive by the cricket ground where the upcoming game between Scotland and Bangladesh will be played and ... it’s small.
Well, this day has been too big for me so I go for a little lie down in the afternoon and wake up in time for dinner which is already made. Lamb chops tonight, well; there are millions of them over here. Mum has washed my clothes and dried them and folded them down for me too and I relish the time spent with family on lazy days.
It’s almost as good as a game of cricket.Almost.
One of the great things about being with family who are travelling too is that they have a car so we can do interesting little jaunts out of town. Like head slightly out of Nelson out to Able Tasman National Park and take a scenic ride in a water taxi.
A half hour drive to Marahau saw us in the Water taxi office in plenty of time to start the day on the high seas. After booking and paying for the journey on the office we were told to wait around the back in the car park for the boat. We all scratched our heads about this but deferred responsibility and stood in the open car park anyway waiting for a boat to arrive (There must be an inlet close by and someone will walk us to it.) It was surprising to see a tractor arrive with a water taxi boat on a trailer behind it. It was slightly more surprising that the Skipper encouraged us to board the boat in the car park and made us all put on life jackets (a bit of a test of logic at that time in the morning) but most surprising was when the tractor drove off down the main road of town towing us on a boat. And not just around the corner where we expected an inlet to be but a mile down the road. I started thinking that only in New Zealand could you call something a water taxi and end up driving on the road all the way up the coast! But then the loading ramp came into view, the tractor reversed the trailer into the water, unhooked the boat and we were away, dry feet and all.
First stop Kaiteriteri bay to check out Split Apple Rock, a huge boulder sitting just off the beach shore that slightly resembles an apple that has been split, very neatly, directly down the middle. Like a giant knife had cut it in half. It’s visually impressive but we were distracted from looking at it too long as just a few hundred meters from it there was a pod of dolphins playing and splashing around. As the water taxi sauntered over to the dolphins, taking care not to disturb them, Murray hands me his camera and says I can take some photos if I like. I’m travelling without a camera on this trip as I wanted to be present for the experience and not live life through a lens. While I have missed many a great photo opportunity I have put it down to ‘one for the memory’ and enjoyed the moment. Looking through the lens of Murray's big expensive camera waiting for a dolphin to come out of the water, directly in frame, so I can become wildlife photographer of the year I can hear gasps of other people looking elsewhere as they watch a dolphin doing something amazing, just reminds me that of the exact reason why I’m travelling without a camera on this trip. I stop looking through the lens to tell Murray this.... and a dolphin pops out of the water, directly in frame ... and I miss the shot!
I spend the next five minutes missing more shots before giving it up as a bad idea and just enjoying the sight of dolphin’s frolicking in their natural habitat. One for the memory.
Heading back up the coast we drop Murray of at a beautiful and secluded bay called Watering Cove so that he can do the bush walk back to town from there and live out his fantasies of being a bush tucker man. Mum and I stay on the boat and enjoy the scenery.
Up the coast the water taxi stops at plenty of bays, beaches and coves and picks people up and drops people off. It’s a popular and well utilised service but booking ahead is a good idea as every now and then the boat gets full and people get left behind to wait for the next water taxi to come along, probably in about half an hour or so. The scenic tour certainly is scenic and Skipper Nick is full of information and chat and is an excellent tour guide stopping to point out interesting things, relate information about what the national park does and taking regular detours to spot natural wildlife. Seals are spotted including a little baby seal pup looking all cute wandering away from, and then back to, its mother but the real highlight of the trip was seeing a Blue Penguin swimming, chasing prey, in its natural environment.
I’ve no idea how Skipper Nick saw it as we were speeding along on the open water but suddenly he cuts the engine and we come to a (not screeching but whatever the water equivalent is) stop and points over the side and says “Blue penguin.” and just as he says it a little penguin surfaces right beside the boat, says hi, before disappearing under the water again only to resurface again 20 meters away. No chance for a photo. I didn't even bother. It was there for only a moment. One for the memory.
Blue penguins are the smallest of the penguins and this one was only about 30 centimetres long. Didn't get a long look at it before it swam off again but I’m pretty sure it was the cutest thing I’ve seen on this adventure so far.
More beautiful scenery and more marine life later (oh look, a stingray. It’s a big one too) we eventually head back to our starting port. The tide has gone out now and the tractor with a trailer is waiting for us on the beach about a kilometre away from the street loading ramp. From high tide to low tide is a five meter fall at Marahau, the highest in all of New Zealand. Skipper Nick must have loaded this boat on the trailer a thousand times but it seems like he’s approaching it awfully fast and we all brace ourselves for impact ... which is smooth and simple and expertly done. Another ride on the boat being towed through town (its like being on a hay ride at a rubbish country show!) before we are booted off in the car park we started in. Murray is waiting patiently for us having survived using only his wits and living off the land for the three hour walk back from the beach.Back home we have heard that the Australia V. Afghanistan is going to be shown on the one sports channel our accommodation has provided. We check the schedule and wait for it to come on. It’s not due to start until 7:30pm local time as it’s a day night game held in Perth which has a 5 hour time difference to New Zealand. When the start time comes and goes and there's no sign of competitive fishing ending anytime soon we recheck the schedule only to find that the Oz V Afg game isn’t until tomorrow and that there is no cricket due to be broadcast on out TV at all tonight. Annoyed about mixing the schedule up and disappointed at not being able to see how Ireland manage against South Africa (a quick check of the score reveals that South Africa doing very well with the batting!) and bored beyond belief at the detective show mum insists on watching, I call it a day and promptly fall asleep.
Bit of a nothing day today. Nothing planned. Nothing doing. Just waiting for the big match tomorrow between Scotland and Bangladesh. It’s Scotland's last realistic chance for a victory at this world cup and, unlike the previous two best chances, this time I think we really can do it and pull of a victory. Our other best chance of a win was against Afghanistan but in reality I didn't think we could really get over the line against them. They are a good, fluent and flamboyant team and while Scotland is good and fluent, at the moment we lack the extra edge of flamboyancy that the huge self confidence of the Afghans have in abundance. They are a better team than us and this is backed up by their consistently higher placing at world cricket league level and I-cup level too and not just because I’m a harsh judge of Scotland’s on field performance. Having said that, we have beaten them recently and beaten them convincingly which shows that they are vulnerable and beatable when we play to our proper potential.
Unfortunately our batting didn't play to their proper potential during the clash with them in Dunedin and as hard as Scotland pushed them it just wasn't far enough and they piped us at the post to claim their first win. Meanwhile Scotland missed an opportunity and one of our best chances to claim our first win at world cups was missed.
The previous big chance we had was against England. A team that were in disarray before the competition started and lacking confidence after a humiliating defeat against the Kiwis just a few days before. Again, I never truly thought Scotland would win that game against the old enemy as England have too much talent to be down for long. Also, England may lose to associate nations regularly at world events (Ireland in 2007, the Dutch in two different world T-20 events) but they always raise their game against Scotland. Which is what they did this time too after being let off by some ordinary bowling by Scotland early on. Again, an opportunity to step up was missed and the other one of our best chances to push for a victory was missed.
This game against Bangladesh has something of a different feel about it. It feel like a game Scotland should win ... not an opportunity to push for victory but a victory that we should attain.
It will be tough, Bangladesh is no pushover and thinking that they are will lead to disappointment, and our batting will have to be on song, our bowling tight and our fielding energetic but this feels like the victory we have all been waiting for has arrived. All we have to do is take it. It is our last best chance at this world cup that's for sure.
Besides pondering Scotland's fate today I made Mum take me into Nelson city again because I felt I had missed some of its city centre streets the other day. After walking up and down all two of its central business district streets it turns out I hadn't, it really is a small city. Beautiful, but small.
Drove past the cricket field on the way home again and saw everything getting ready for tomorrow's big game. In all the promo photos I saw of Saxton Cricket Oval it looked like a beautiful cricket ground in the middle of a paddock. Driving past it today I couldn't help but feel that farmer Saxton can't believe his luck that his little ground in his big paddock was selected to host a World Cup match! I guess it really is true: if you build it they really will come! The only problem would be, where was he going to put all the sheep?
When I get home I check my emails and find the following one from the wife ...
“By the way, you should totally contact Christchurch cricket ground (e-mail or phone) and see if they have your hoodie. You should see if you can persuade them to post it to you at cat café Melbourne (even if you offer them a nominal amount for postage). Tell them it's got sentimental value, and as you are currently travelling all over NZ for the World Cup you could not come and retrieve it. So, if they want to make a big cricket fans day, they would do that be reuniting you with your hoodie. I am serious, do it, cos if you don't ask, you don't get. And besides all that, you'll probably need it for the final in Melbourne as it might be Baltic!!!! Get it back, baby!!! Bring back the hoodie one!!”
So I decide to phone Christchurch Hagley oval to see if my lost jumper was handed into lost property. I have a very pleasant conversation with the chap in charge of lost and found and he gives me full commentary of everything he saw in the box as he rummaged around in it but there was no sign of my jumper ... somebody had left their trousers behind though, but no sign of my jumper !
.... Are you sure? It has an unsightly toothpaste stain on the chest ... Wait, what, someone left their trousers behind?
... Oh, we get all sorts brought in here. You'd be surprised. No sign of your jumper though.
... OK thanks anyway (I hate you Christchurch!).
Besides that, bit of a nothing day really.
Could really do with meeting up with a friend for a couple of drinks or something but instead I’m just getting ready for tomorrow and THE BIG GAME : Scotland V. Bangladesh.Read the published version at CricketEurope HERE.
Sun is shining, weather is sweet as bro ... it’s another great day in New Zealand and it’s just perfect for the big game ... SCOTLAND V. BANGLADESH.
Hopes are high for this game and I have a certain amount of nervous energy and anticipation over breakfast. I explain to the family that Scotland could still make it to the quarterfinals if we win all three remaining matches (of course you’d have to hope that other results go our way too ... but it’s possible!). It’s said mostly in humour but mum appreciates my optimism even if she doesn't share it.
Make it to the ground in time to see the toss which Bangladesh win and chose to bowl saying that there is a bit of movement expected in the first hour or so and they want to make the most of it.
The ground is filling up (not sold out but nicely filled) and there are two main pockets of Bangladeshi fans on either side of the members end who add noise and atmosphere right from the start and throughout the day. The Scottish are dispersed throughout the rest of the crowd mixing it with the locals and neutrals which makes for a more muted celebration from them. There are lots of school kids in too and although I’m not a fan of children in general they do add an extra dimension of noise and support for both teams. It seem pretty obvious that because today’s game wasn't a sell out they gave away tickets to various schools to get some extra people in the ground which adds atmosphere and also allows the kids to gain some exposure to the amazing game. This might lead them to take up cricket and get a new generation to come through. It’s something that was missing from the world cup in the West Indies as stadiums sat half empty for many games.
But that’s not the case today, the ground is almost full and the atmosphere is bubbling away, helped by schoolkids who have been given instructions to cheer for a particular team. Half for Bangladesh, half for Scotland. Fun times.
Game begins well for Scotland with both openers showing good intent. But when Macleod is out in the 3rd over people around me were thinking 'Oh no, not again.' Gardner is out to a soft dismissal and at the 10 over mark Scotland are 37/2 and I start reaching for the chocolate bars to comfort eat again.
Machen scores a good looking 30 odd, as usual, before getting out to a soft dismissal, as usual, but with his departure came Captain Mommsen to the crease. He brought a lot of determination to Scotland’s innings and between him and Coetzer steadied the ship and took it back on course. To break all sorts of records including, the highest Scottish partnership total in World Cups of 141, the highest individual score for a Scottish batsman of 156 by Coetzer and (his first 100 off 103 balls, the next 50 off only 26!), he becomes the first associate nation batsman to score 150 runs in a World Cup match, and helps set Scotland's new highest score at World Cups 318 for 8. It could have been even higher if the tail didn't give away their wickets with so many soft dismissals.
During the break a chant war breaks out between rival fans which goes on for a surprisingly long time before persistence and tenacity of the Bangladeshi supporters eventually wins out.
I don't mind who wins the supporters war, as long a Scotland win the game.
They have given themselves a very good platform to do so as finally the batsmen have put up a quality total. Now all we have to do is hope our bowlers can back them up. It’s a very professional and clinical batting display from Scotland which gives the supporters something to believe in and the Bangladeshis a total to be concerned about.
Everything starts well for Scotland and Bangladesh are one down in the second over of their innings. From there on in its easy street for the Bangladeshi batsman as they cruise untroubled to 144 before the second wicket falls, Mahmudullah gets an unlucky ricochet off an excellent Wardlaw yorker that goes on to knock his stumps over, in the 24th over. He has to limp off, hobbled. It’s a painful breakthrough but unfortunately Scotland just can't get on a roll and Bangladesh seem to be able to score runs at will. It’s an impressive display of clinical professionalism from the Bangladeshi batsmen that matches everything Scotland had in their innings and improves on it by about 5%.
Mommsen juggled his bowlers trying to get the breakthrough and picked up the odd wicket or two but Bangladesh were equal to the task and kept on cruising ahead of the rate and picked off the total to win the game with 11 balls to spare and six wickets in hand.
There is very little to be disappointed with in this outcome, Scotland put up a great total and set about defending it pretty well. A few more runs would have been good and some more penetration with the ball could have put a different perspective on the match but all in all there is a lot to be proud of. Scotland’s batting fired at last and Coetzer marked himself out as world class (although us Scots already knew that) he broke all sorts of records and smashed our highest world cup total out of the water.
Bangladesh have had full member status for over a decade now and the extra experience and development that that brings has shown through in this match. But Scotland weren't that far behind them tactically, technically or mentally. Scotland have shown the world today that they are only around 5% behind where the lower ranked full members are, and look at how much of a head start they have on us!
It's a heartening thought to take away from this result and all in all bodes well for the future.It was also a great day out at the Cricket World Cup.
After the game ended yesterday I hung around for the post match presentations. Kyle Coatzer was awarded the man of the match for his stunning 150 odd which would normally be one of the best and happiest days of your life but he looked a man on the edge of breaking down. You could tell for a fact that he would trade in every single one of those runs for a Scotland victory. Alas, for everyone, that wasn’t to be. Not today anyway. Scotland do have two last chances to get that breakthrough first world Cup victory they are desperately looking for but they have missed their last best chance in this match against a Bangladesh team who held their composure from the start and throughout.
A harsh critic would say that Scotland have two chances of getting a victory from here: Slim (Sri Lanka) and none (Australia) but I prefer to remain optimistic and still hope , and believe, that we can still pull off an upset and want to be there when that happens. And so, I am off to Tasmania to see how our boys do and support them in doing it. But there’s still plenty of travel to do and cricket to watch and adventures to have before then.
After the presentation I need to go to the lavatory and mum chooses to phone me at that exact moment to see how the game is going and I tell her that I'm in the toilet as are Scotland's dreams. It’s not quite accurate (on either point) but it sounds poetic and ask her to come pick me up. On the way out of the ground I pick up a placard that reads "Dream Big". It's a sentiment I want to take away from this game, and life in general, and seeing how busy the road is I decide to use it as an attention getter so that Mum can see where I am a little bit better. Holding it above my head like a poor man’s John Cusack by the side of a busy road earns me a few beeps and honks from passing motorists who either agree with the message or who think I'm too close to the hard shoulder, it's hard to tell. A couple of hippies walk past and we have one of those conversations that can really only happen when fuelled by a little too much alcohol but before too long we have all agreed that advertising boardings everywhere should be replaced with inspirational messages like "Do your best" and "Try your hardest" but before we can right all the wrongs in the world my Mum arrives and I have to go home.
Stepdad Murray, who usually enjoys finding even the slightest thing to humorously needle me about, is actually quite conciliatory and says that there are a lot of positives that Scotland should take away from this match. He seems genuine in his conversation for a change and I am dubious of his motivations but agree that there was a lot of good from Scotland out on the field today. My suspicion of his conciliatory chat is aroused when he serves up dinner but places the wooden spoon on my plate!!! He says that I'm seeing insults where only patronising sympathy exists ... and life returns to normal.
Next morning we are all due to fly to Auckland together, me to see more cricket, the olds to see more countryside, but a storm front has moved through the Nelson region resulting in whiplashing wind and rain that threatens to cancel flights out of the tiny city. The tiny airport is packed with people whose flights have been cancelled and are desperate to move on and the small foyer gets even busier when the Bangladesh team arrive to get on their plane only to have to wait around like the rest of us and even busier still when the Scottish team and entourage arrive trying to fly out at the same time.
I over hear a few of the players talking to their parents about how the game went and how it could have gone differently and I even spot a few familiar and friendly faces in the melee including the two hippies from the roadside/inspirational advertising conversation from last night and stop for a brief polite conversation. None of us are as drunk as last night and I start to wonder if anything we talked about under the influence yesterday evening made sense at the time… because nothing they talk about now does. When they pull out some mandolins and start harmonising in the corner of the waiting lounge I leave them to it and silently wish that the freaks of the world (of which I am one) could be a little bit more normal!
Thankfully the storm passes over by early afternoon resulting in a small delay to our flight and not a cancelation and before you could remember all the words to 'losing my religion' we arrive in Auckland. This is my second time in the land of the Aucks on this trip but this time will probably be a little less rambunctious as I'm with the ‘rents and also because I spent way too much money last time I was here (for the amazing/classic new Zealand V, Australia game!) and have only had $20 in my wallet since I left last week. Since then I have been getting Mum to pay for everything for me as I am cash strapped for Kiwi dollars. She either hasn't noticed I've been bludging off of her for the last 5 days or doesn’t mind as I've been getting away with it. But it does mean there will be no tagging along with random stag nights like last time I was here.
Never mind, the cricket promises to be entertaining and BIG: SOUTH AFRICA V. PACKISTAN
I don’t have money or emotion invested in this game or these nations so I am hoping for a really good game with lots of action that is incredibly close at the end.
Or, a tie!Mostly I just hope that this 'Day/Night' game makes it to the 'Night' part of the game. Something that hasn’t happened in the previous 'Day/Nighters' I've to (New Zealand v. England, New Zealand v. Australia)!!! The Kiwis aren’t playing in it so perhaps it will. Tomorrow will tell at THE BIG GAME!!!
Today is the day of my only game from group 'B'. All the other games I'm going to are from group 'A'. I didn’t plan it that way it just happened. But I suppose that when you focus your attention on games featuring the head and the heart (New Zealand and Scotland) you end up focusing of group 'A'. And this game was only a late addition to my schedule. I realised that I would have to fly back to Australia via Auckland anyway so if I just stayed an extra day I could catch the big game between Pakistan and South Africa. I'm glad I did because it's been a belter of a day.
After a big breakfast and a big lunch I head into Eden Park in plenty of time to catch the toss which South Africa win and chose to bowl. The first wicket goes down in the 9th over to a classic catch as Steyn dives, swallow like, and comes up with the ball showing it to the umpire and crowd while his face is still planted in the turf. You can tell that both teams are up for this encounter. South Africa because they are always up for it and know that one slip up could cost them dearly, Pakistan because they need the points to stay ahead of Ireland in the points table and in the running for the final qualifiers position in this group.
The second wicket is Ahmed, run out going for his 50 and after 20 overs Pakistan are 107/2. Shahid Afridi gets the biggest round of applause of the evening before he even steps onto the field but when he comes in to bat there are still 13 overs left which is enough for an extended fireworks display. Unfortunately he brings the rain out with him and the umpires quickly take the soldiers made of sugar off the field immediately to a safe place far away from the barely perceptible sprinkling of rain. Mind you, it did get heavier so I suppose it was a good decision after all.
Off at 4:30 back on at 5pm with no loss of overs. Off again for rain at 5:10 again for a sprinkling that grew heavier and more persistent and play didn’t resume until 6pm, this time with a reduction to 47 overs. After the rain break Afridi mistimes a massive 6 over cow corner and brings up his 8000 O.D.I. run. Next ball he attempts the exact same shot and gets caught at deep square leg. Afridi is a frustrating character who is capable of great things and also great indiscipline and today he didn’t show us anything great. This is a shame as his fans, which is really his entire nation, could really have done with him standing up today. Without his talismanic presence the batting failed away from 210/5 before the rain break to 218 all out for 222 in the 47th and last over ... to be adjusted up to 232 by Duckworth Lewis.
At the change of inning, which has been reduced to 10 minutes, I look to change seats to the other side of the isle I’m stuck on the outside of because the chap sitting next to me, nice guy that he is, is a little on the large side and is cramping my personal space. There is more room on the other side of the isle but the grass isn’t any greener as the chap sitting near me there is outrageously drunk! I decide to be all British about it and not make eye contact with him and ignore the potential vomit issue he brings to the seating arrangement.
Rain has reduced the dinner break to only 10 min and we don’t have to wait much longer than that to witness the first wicket as De Kock is out in the 1st over.
One of the funniest things of the day happens when, in attempt not to be run out Faf de Plessis dives to make his ground and knocks all three stumps out of the ground, flattening them with his body momentum. The look of disapproval on the umpires face was priceless and he showed his annoyance with hands on hips and a frowning shaking of his head in Faf’s general direction.
Some people think that South Africa are having a little bit of a wobble at 67/3 in the 11th over but that’s when A.B. De Villiers comes out to bat. A couple of quick wickets including Miller for a duck puts Pakistan right back in the match. Meanwhile the chap next to me is so drunk he has more of his meat pie over his hands and his face than in his mouth! I'm in no fit state myself and I really fancy one of those pies, but there no way I'm going to allow myself to look like that! I try to move back to the other side of the isle but there’s no room in my original seat due to big fella overspill. I am literally trapped between a big man and a spew trigger. I take my chances with the vomit lottery.
Meanwhile, down in Tasmania, Ireland have scored 331 from their 50 overs against Zimbabwe. Great score from the Irish there and they stand a good chance of winning that game, the result of which will go a long way to affecting the outcome of this game too. Both Pakistan and Ireland are now effectively in a fight for the fourth position in this group. It’s an interesting situation and Pakistan need to win here to stand a chance of piping Ireland to the quarter finals.
South Africa are behind the Duckworth Lewis par score but there is no further rain around so that becomes irreverent as they are maintaining a good run rate however some silly batting sees them slump to 102/6 when Steyn comes in to bat. You can usually rely on Steyn to add a quick 30 runs in the last few overs of a match but you can’t really rely on him to hang around for 20 overs which is what he need to do now. For the first time in the match a growing feeling that South Africa could lose becomes apparent. De Villiers is the key and as long as he is there holding everything together, like the great player and captain that he is, everything will be all right for the Springboks.
He pushes past his 50 and in doing so takes the lead in the tournament’s leading run scorers nicking the title of Amla who just earn it earlier in this match. Steyn out, more pressure for A.B.
Miller out for a duck. Morkle in at 9. At the 19th over South Africa need 51 runs from 100 balls. An easy equation most of the time but not when you only have two wickets in hand. South Africa better hope that A.B. doesn’t get out.
A.B. out. Caught behind for 77 off 58 balls. Tahir is the last man in with the Saffas still needing 30 odd runs to pinch it. Squeaky bum time. Is this going to be a last over/run thriller? Will Tahir figure out which end of the bat to hold? Could this be another Eden Park classic?
Tahir is out the very next over and as the Pakistanis run from the field celebrating this pretty impressive upset. The rain starts again in earnest this time to seal the deal (South Africa were behind the D/L at all points in the game so rain would not have helped them anyway).
It’s great to watch the Pakistan fans celebrate so whole heartedly and many spontaneous chants break out all round the ground. I stay to wait for a break in the weather and find the second funniest thing is Rameze Raja interviewing the players in the suddenly howling wind and pelting rain.
The rain didn’t affect me at all during the game as, luckily, my seat was under cover of the tier above. More importantly, the drunken chap next to me managed to keep his stomach to himself and also sobered up enough to have a coherent conversation by the end of the match. That’s gotta be regarded as a win/win.
The only down part of the evening was waiting for a taxi to take me back to the accommodation. Why did that take so long? Where were all the taxis? Should have been home by 10:30 but my poor little Mum had to wait up until she was cranky at me. This was the only rubbish bit of an otherwise excellent day at the cricket. That and not having any internet to find out what the ire/zim game score was.
Today is the final day for the New Zealand part of the journey and the final day with the family as Mum and Murray continue their travels further up the North Island. I’ve had a great time exploring New Zealand’s South island, a little bit of their North Island and now I’m off to explore what they call the West Island ... or Australia as the rest of the world calls it!
But first there's lots of time for awkward goodbyes before my afternoon flight and in an effort to delay misty eyed embraces we all head down into Auckland’s harbour district in an attempt to enjoy a morning harbour cruise but we are thwarted by a ‘Fun Run’ that blocks our entrance to the area. It is a little frustrating but Murray's rapid rise from calm demeanour into ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ levels of rage set me off into a giggle fit (which, for some reason, doesn't seem to help). I’m not sure if my inappropriate mirth was a deciding factor in getting dropped off at the airport several hours earlier than planned but that’s how the day went. Thankfully there was a TV showing New Zealand hammering Afghanistan in the terminal and by the time I had to board the plane Afghanistan had produces a solid comeback.
Awkward goodbyes, misty eyes and firm handshakes at the airport don't last long as you only get 15 minutes free parking but it’s long enough to crack some voices mid sentence. It will be over a year until the next time I get to see my mum IF she decides to visit Scotland next summer. Living on opposite sides of the world does have its advantages from time to time but I envy people who can just pop down the road for a chat with their Mother on a whim costing no more than a bus fare. It’s a little more pricy to get from Scotland to Australia than it is tollcross to Stockbridge and the journeys take much longer and are few and far between.
It’s awful to say goodbye and it’s an awful flight as I am stuck with, not one, but two screaming babies behind me. What follows is four hours of hell. The flight is full so there’s no chance of moving anywhere else. I am trapped in a hell literally made by other people. I have some pretty decent headphones that block out a fair bit of noise but not even the upbeat, high pitched pop warbling of Kylie's latest album can’t drown out this misery.
I land in Melbourne with a headache which isn't helped when the Skybus drops us off in central Melbourne and then informs us that the courtesy shuttle that delivers people to their accommodation door has ceased running for the night. I’m developing my own ‘Larry David’ head of steam at this point and refuse to work out the tram system when I am dragging my full three items of luggage with me so I have to grudgingly shell out for a taxi.
Thankfully the fare isn’t too much to get to my Melbourne mates, Myles, place. He’s not in when I arrive but in a nice bit of forward thinking he gave me a spare key before I went to New Zealand, which was actually a stroke of genius cooked up by two organizing incompetent blokes like us. Opening the door I am greeted by two rabbits ‘Ivy’ and ‘Harley’ (can't tell which one is which) and a note telling me to make myself at home and he will bring in take away when he comes in from work.
There’s cricket on free to air TV, Australia v Sri Lanka, so I break into the duty free, settle in on the couch kick back letting the stress and bad feelings of the day and also the sadness of saying farewell to my mum for who knows how long slide away until Myles and his lovely wife Anita come in with food and laughter and we all exchange stories while the cricket plays in the background.It’s not quite the same as being spoilt by my mum but it is a very pleasant way to end what was one of the worst travel days of the trip so far.
My Melbourne mate Myles and Anita have rabbits. Two of them. They are cute little things and totally adorable but they are also noisy nocturnal monsters. I’m crashing on the couch for my time in Melbourne which I have no problem with, I’ve crashed on loads of friends uncomfortable couches over the years, from uncomfortable ones with springs digging into places where they shouldn’t to comfortable couches that fold out into uncomfortable beds, I’ve slept on them all without issue. But trying to sleep with these rabbits free roaming around the lounge room is adding something else into the mix that I have never had to deal with before. The general free roaming of the house is not something I have an issue with, I think it’s great they have as much space available to them as possible, and even the rustle they make when they use the litter tray is understandable and fine (I don’t know how they trained the rabbits to use a litter box but it was a stroke of genius on their part), but the near constant gnawing of the couch I’m trying to sleep on throughout the night is something of an annoyance to put it mildly. The jumping visits from curious rabbits onto the top of the couch is acceptable, they just want to see what this new object in the house is, even if they won't let you pat them for more than a moment before springing off you with their bruise inducing powerful back legs.
But the grinding down of the couch right from under me by two little monsters with big pointy teeth WHILE I TRY TO SLEEP ON IT is a little difficult to take. Sleep is difficult to come by and the next morning, as I mumble pleasantries to Myles and Anita before they go to work and tell lies about how well I slept last night, I’m a bit tired and grumpy so I decide to have an easy day today.
It’s the opening of the Moomba festival in Melbourne today but I forgo the bright and colourful festivities and instead find a nice local park sit in the shade and read a book and recharge the batteries for a while.
Late in the day, when I’m less grumpy, I decide to treat Myles and Anita to a roast dinner as a thank you for letting me crash with them and have it ready for them when they come in from work. The rabbits are underfoot as I bumble around the kitchen and I briefly wonder what roast rabbit would be like but decide to give those walking scarves one more chance.After dinner I try to convince Anita and Myles to watch the scoreboard tick over on the England V. Bangladesh game but despite my setting up the story “It’s effectively a playoff for fourth place, and England MIGHT lose!!!) they veto the idea and we settle in for a ‘Game of Thrones marathon instead. That's cool, it’s a great show and I’ve never seen it, but I must remember to check the score of the other complex and intriguing game I’m interested in tomorrow.
I have a noon flight to Hobart today to get me there in plenty of time for the big game tomorrow between Scotland and Sri Lanka. I’m awake and up in plenty of time to get to the airport and I packed my bag last night so I have some free time before I can take a slow saunter into town to get the skybus to the airport. So I decide to check out what the score was in the England V. Bangladesh game from last night.
Oh, oh England ... oh dear!!! That’s a bit of a disaster for you isn’t it?
Bangladesh have beaten England by 15 runs in what was effectively a playoff for fourth place and a quarterfinal berth. It’s quite shocking to see it there in big headlines all over the internet but can anyone honestly call it an upset? England have been playing abysmally this world cup. The only time they looked in any control of their own game was against Scotland (they may play awfully against everyone else but they always raise their game against us!!!). Meanwhile Bangladesh have quietly been gaining ground and (although I haven't really been paying attention to them during this world cup) looked to be growing in confidence and, in the game against Scotland at least, looked in control of the game and elegant while doing it. Despite this growing stature of Bangladesh cricket England will find this extremely embarrassing and heads are almost certain to roll. Probably not Captain Morgan’s though, he may be short on form and not found a run all tournament the odds were against him coming into the tourney. Taking over the captaincy on the eve of the world cup can’t have been easy and with no time to mould the team to his steely outlook standards were inconsistent and lacklustre. He should stay and be kept for the next World Cup; it’s the rest of the team that needs to go to allow Morgan to form a team around him.
I try not to gloat about England's embarrassing exit from the World Cup but it is hard not to laugh especially as the format of the competition was changed after the 2007 tournament to avoid any “Top” teams from going out early. It certainly seems like there is some poetic justice in there.
The best thing about this result is that, even though Scotland will finish on less points than England, Scotland will have lasted longer in the competition by virtue of playing their last game the day after England play their last game ... any straw I suppose !!!
By the time I stop laughing about this result I am running late for my plane to Hobart. A panicked walk to the skybus and a worried concern about getting stuck in traffic later and I make it to the airport with enough time to help an old lady across the road.
There are no screaming children on this flight so it’s an improvement on the last one but on arrival in Hobart a dog steals my apple.
Everyone knows you can't bring fruit into Australia. You just can't. Haven’t been allowed to for decades. But I didn’t know that you can't take fruit from state to state. So as I’m walking into the airport I pass a sniffer dog (a nice waggy tailed spaniel) and gladly allow him to have a little sniff of my bag as I walk past. And then he's following me, still sniffing my bag and wagging his tail. And then he’s in front of me, still wagging his tail. Then he’s sitting down in front of me, not wagging his tail and not letting me passed. Then there's a tap on the shoulder and an official looking lady says “Looks like you’re the chosen one.” and insists I step this way over to the search area. A rummage through my suitcase turns up my travelling food bag. I tell her there's pasta in there and cuppa soups, crisps, chocolate (quite a lot of chocolate actually), tea bags and my one concession to healthy eating ... an apple.
“Oh, oh no sir. You can't bring an apple interstate.”
“What? But it’s an Australian apple. It; not like it’s a crappy bug infested one from New Zealand or anything. Since when has this been a rule?”
“For decade’s sir. Everyone knows that.”
I search my mind for previous examples of when I have attempted to be healthy while air travelling in Australia and come up blank. This rule could have been in place since time began and I would never have known about it before. I give up the apple, secretly wishing that I’d eaten it on the plane, and curse the waggy tailed spaniel for costing me my lunch. If he hadn't been so cute, and if I couldn't really care less about apples, I wouldn't have given him a little pat as I walked past him again, slightly quicker this time.
Having my Apple confiscated and my lunch taken away from me meant that I just had to get a Chinese take-out instead. Took it to my accommodation and ate it on the balcony in beautiful Tasmanian sunshine and admired the view out over the harbour while the sun slowly set behind the mountain behind me.
Tomorrow is the big game:SCOTLAND V. SRI LANKA
It’s the day of the big game. Scotland V. Sri Lanka. Scotland's last chance of causing an upset and gaining some points in this World Cup (I’m not sure I include next week’s game against Australia as a ‘chance’) while Sri Lanka will be looking to get an extra two points to consolidate their place on the points table.
But first there's time for a quick look around Hobart before the game starts. It’s a small city centre with only a few main streets comprising is shopping district of the usual uninteresting kinds of shops. The most interesting thing about the city at a glance was the amount of old art deco style building they had still have standing. Most cities get rid of their old building as redevelopment occurs on regular basis but I suspect the slow growth in population down here in Tasmania has seen less redevelopment than most other capital cities leading to a keeping of the original architecture. It’s lovely and gives this city a real old school feel (on the surface at least) even if lots of them could do with some care and attention.
Find a tourist shop, buy a bottle of water and a cloth patch for the collection, then jump on the free shuttle bus from the city centre direct to the ground in the leafy suburb of Bellerive on the other side of the harbour.
Security confiscates my bottle of water at the gate,
“What? How come? It’s my one concession to healthy living.”
“It’s been opened sir. Can’t let it in if the seal has been broken.”
“OK. So I can just finish it here and take in the empty bottle to get it refilled, right?!
“No. You can't take an empty bottle in. The seal would still be broken.”
There is no logical reason why I couldn't take an empty bottle into a ground but give up the argument as a lost cause before he looks too closely at my pepsi bottle and realises that I’ve already opened that to have a wee drink out of it too.
I’m sitting in the Scottish supporters stand for this game and am surrounded by blue shirts, interesting accents and kilts. The ground is sparsely populated, the least amount of people I’ve seen at any game I’ve been to so far but a group of school children cheering for Scotland add some atmosphere.
Sri Lanka win the toss and chose to bat and offered Scotland a glimmer of hope when Evans had Thirimanne caught at second slip in the sixth over. This brought together a partnership between Dilshan and Sangakkara who made batting look effortless as they brought up a partnership of 195 untroubled runs. By the time Scotland broke through the score was 216/2 in the 35th over and a mammoth total looked on the cards and not even Davey picking up two Sri Lankan legends in two balls (and becoming the leading wicket taker in the tournament on the way) could slow things down much. As it was, Scotland did will to keep the Sri Lankans down to 363/9
During the innings I had moved forward to get away from a particularly loud mouth fan and ended up sitting right in front of the drummers whose job it is to stir up the crowd whenever action happens. I end up having a running laugh with them about how often they have to get up to play. Four 6s in an over have all of us laughing. They look embarrassed at the amount of times they have to take to the stage and do a little drumming probably not helped by my "Down in front" heckle. When a wicket falls on the last ball of the over, Mathews going for another 6 in the exact same area, it looks like they weren't even going to take to the stage for it until I yelled for them to "NOW you can get up and drum." Embarrassed they took to the stage again.
As the wickets fall towards the end of the innings I catch sight of myself dancing in celebration on the big screen. It’s not a pretty sight but I plough on ignoring myself and secretly thank all my friends for not liking cricket and therefore not seeing me embarrass myself on TV.
363 is a lot better than the 400 odd that it looked like Sri Lanka were going to score at the halfway point but it still looks like too big an ask for Scotland to chase down. Unless Coetzer can get another 150 odd that is!
He can't. He’s out second ball of the innings falling for a Malinga slower ball that he chipped back to the bowler.
Some unnecessary and obtuse heckling from the drunk loudmouths behind me, particularly against Malinga, borders on racism and I'm embarrassed to be in the Scottish supporters zone. It's only a minority of one in a hundred but it's unacceptable and leaves a bad taste in my mind. This kind of idiocy brings shame and disrepute to my nation and I want no part of it so I move seats to a different part of the stadium with a less good view and am far, far happier. On the way I point out the problem to a steward who informs me the police are monitoring the situation, which is something I suppose.
There is no place for this in life and certainly no place for it in cricket.
I'm quite drunk as the night wears on and it takes me quite some time to realise that I've moved to the "No alcohol family zone". oops!!! My slurring of the odd word is still less offensive than racism.
Meanwhile on the field, Scotland have crawled to 26/1 after seven overs and look on course to lose this match by 200 runs. MacLeod is bowled for 11 and the deal seems sealed. Mommsen and Coleman join forces to form the best partnership of the match for Scotland and bring up the 100 in the 22nd over. Coleman half century comes up off 44 balls and brings a sprinkling of rain.
Scotland 133/3 : D.L par = 195... Stay on the field boys.
The 100 partnership comes off 106 balls but when Mommsen is out to a sharp catch at forward mid on and the usually big hitting Leask is out for 2 soon after there is no hope Scotland can get close to the chase. We battle on though and put in a solid effort to pass 200 runs for the third time in the tournament and the third time in our World Cup history.
Malinga ends up fielding close to the boundary edge to where I’m now sitting and I redress some of the abuse he’s received earlier in the game by giving him some of the respect he deserves by calling out to him and calling him a legend. There’s a small smile and a nod of appreciation from him in my general direction. Pushing my luck of interaction with a legend of the game I yell out "I reckon 220 Lasith, what do you reckon?" he has a quick look at the scoreboard then looks back to me and nods in agreement.
A minute later he’s called on to bowl and takes the last Scottish wicket. Scotland all out for 216. Malinga wins. Sri Lanka wins.The bagpipes start up their lamenting drone and it’s time for a quick getaway. Bus into town, walk up the mega steep hill to my accommodation (I get a stitch half way up and curse myself for booking a room with a view until I turn around and see the city lights twinkling away over the harbour and life seems full of magic and wonder again. Still have the rest of the hill to climb though which isn't so magic at all. Scotland have a similar mountain to climb in their next game against Australia.
In between these two Scotland games in Tasmania I am going to go visit my Aunty Shelly who lives out Launceston way for a couple of days. I haven’t seen her for about 20 years but we always had one of the better and closer family relationships probably due to us actually being of a similar age. Facebook is great for all sorts of things and I feel I already know a lot about her life right now, like her having four kids, but there are three of them that I’ve never even met before (I’ve met her oldest one when he was two years old but he’s now old enough to have moved out of home).I’m really looking forward to seeing her again and meeting everyone else for the first time but it’s also a bit daunting too.
The bus from Hobart to Launceston takes a lovely little meander through all sorts of country towns. If they weren't such obvious county towns that haven't changed their way of life in over 50 years you could almost call them quaint.
While looking out the window and wondering about how our reunion will go I see a wild Wombat walking across a field. Well, you don’t see that every day. In fact I think it’s the first Wombat I’ve ever seen in the wild. Brilliant !!!
Shelly meets me at the bus depot full of smiles, hugs and cheer it feels like twenty years worth of hugs all in one. She introduces me to her 17 year old son, Liam, who will be out learner driver chauffeur today (I will get to meet 14 year old Faith and 13 year old Travis later.) Liam and I shake hands in a much more restrained manner before I insist he drives us somewhere for lunch. The chatter over lunch doesn't stop and it’s great to actually find out what's been going on over the last two decades and our food goes cold before the conversation does.
I’m taken on the scenic route home which includes a stop at Westburry to see the “Big Wickets”. If you're a fan of big things and a fan of cricket you’ll love the big wickets at Westburry. They really are big. Huge in fact. Located right next to a lovely country cricket field and towering at tree height they really are quite impressive. Shelly tells me that they were erected in honour of Ricky Ponting but they are really a tribute to Local legend Jack Badrock who played in 7 Tests for Australia from 1936 to 1938.
Other local points of interest on the way home include lovely rivers and creeks, pig farms and the juvenile detention centre (the only one in Tasmania).
At home I meet the rest of the family and am also introduced to the new pets of the house, three young rabbits. Nightmares of sleepless nights on Myles’ couch return but I’m told these ones sleep through the night.
A big dinner, more family gossip than I can deal with in a single evening and arguments about which child I’m kicking out of their bedroom so I can claim their bed for the night abound until I am exhausted and prepared to go sleep with the rabbits. Eventually Liam draws the short straw and I claim his bed. Before leaving me to get some shut eye he tells me there is a huge huntsman spider somewhere in the room. He doesn't know where but look out for it.
I hate spiders.
This is a nightmare.Sleep is a long time coming.
Wake up early morning, draw back the curtains and am greeted by the spider I was warned about last night. It looks dead though so I get a paper to pick it out of its web and, suddenly, it springs into life and scuttles around before coming back to its original place. By this time I have dropped my newspaper and am standing on the bed like a housewife in a 50s sitcom letting out a strangled scream. It’s a big spider, about the surface area of a fist, but not the biggest if ever seen and it seems to be taunting me saying “Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.” This calls for a bigger weapon so I get my shoe and become a have-a-go-hero or a terrorist depending on your viewpoint. I give it a whack but it’s a tough thing and as it limps away I’m sure it raises two arms at me as if to say “I’m going to get my dad!!!”
Sleep tonight will be a nightmare.
Sometimes people ask me what's the best thing about living in Scotland and I almost always say “Smaller spiders.”
Aunty Shelly and chauffeur Lliam take me sightseeing around the local area and towns today starting with a tour of the Ashgrove cheese factory (where Lliam works) where I sample many of the local cheeses they make. Onto Anvers chocolate factory where we sample many of the chocolates they produce. Pushing onto Devonport where we check out its port (and it’s devon) and not much else as apparently there are more interesting town a bit further down the way. Towns like Sheffield that has a mural theme running all over the town. Almost every building has an impressive large scale artwork on its flank or facade and the mural festival, where they invite artists to paint on large cement canvases in the local park is due to start on April 5th. It’s an impressive theme for a town to embrace but they have run with it and supplied an abundance of colourful character to the community. Sheffield also has a marble factory and after a quick visit I impulse buy some pretty marbles and spent the rest of the day in nostalgia avenue with marbles clinking around in my pocket like a naughty eight year old.
A bit further down the road is Rialton where many of the local households and businesses have shaped topiary trees in their front yard. We spotted an elephant, rabbits, humans of various shapes and sizes including Ned Kelly all in topiary form as we cruised through its main road.
Deloraine is the next town we visit with a little quirk all of its own. It has lots of little brass statues up and down its main street which include a little skateboarder, a little man chopping wood, a little sheep sheerer and a little postman on a motorcycle delivering mail outside the post office.
It’s great to see so many towns providing unique ways of providing atmosphere for its locals and interesting attractions for tourists to admire and I fall in love with this little part of Tasmania. It helps that I’m sharing it with great members of my family on a sun shiny day.
After another massive dinner there is plenty more chat and laughs before I have to call it a night and brave the bedroom with the seriously agitated spider somewhere in it.
Perhaps I should just stay up all night. I probably would if I didn't have to get up early to travel back down to Hobart in time for Scotland's last big game of the World Cup.
The BIG game.
Scotland V. Australia.I can’t wait.
Another early start as I have a travel day ahead of me to get back down to Hobart from outside rural Launceston. Breakfast as Aunty Shelly organizes her troop of youngsters and whips them into some sort of shape and then drives them to various destinations (school, a friend’s house so they can walk to school together, a different school) before dropping me off at the country town bus station with plenty of time to get the connection at Launceston. We squeeze in enough hugs to last another 20 years but promise that we won’t leave it that long between visits next time. Then she’s driving away again to continue the family errands which never seem to end.
Bus into Launceston then Launceston to Hobart. The bus is due to arrive in Hobart at 1.30pm and the game between Australia and Scotland due to start at 2.30 !!! it was always going to be tight in the best of conditions and, naturally, things don't go my way. Lots of road-works on the highway sees the bus arrive in Hobart at 1:55. Thankfully the landlords of my accommodation are super nice and helpful people who offer to come collect me from the transit centre and take me to the B&B. Brilliant. That will save me some time. They even offer to drive me back to the shuttle bus collection point in central Hobart and I let them do this favour for me. At 2:15pm I’m waiting at the bus pickup point with a bunch of other hopefuls waiting for the shuttle that will get us to the ground in time for the first ball.
No such luck though as the last shuttle left at 2:12pm with no more scheduled until after the game ends. Public transport then and we all trundled to the next stop down and wait. It’s due now but naturally it’s late and we are all getting a bit agitated. 2:27pm the bus arrives and we are all going to miss the first ball because it’s a local bus and it takes its sweet time wandering through every suburb on the way to the ground.
Eventually I make it to the ground 30 min late and miss Coetzer getting out for a duck.
I make it to a viewing area to catch the score, 36/1, and then instantly watch MacLeod get caught out at point to move the score along to 36/2.
Using the time between batsmen changing I rush to my designated seat and claim it just in time to see Mommsen get out to an awful shot and move the score along to 37/3.
The Scottish 50 comes up in 10 overs, 50/3 and at the 10.1 over mark Scotland are 50/4.
The nightmare of a potential blowout is on the cards. It’s something that Scotland have been flirting with all competition but have so far managed to fight their way away from, but the prospect of being blown away for less than 70 runs is a very real possibility at this stage especially with Australia desperate to claim the points for this match and claim an easier semi final berth on offer. The threat of rain coming into play will also be on their minds as there's a very real possibility of interruptions during the game, so wrapping things up quickly is paramount for them.
Maxwell on to bowl the 11th over, success first ball, Berrington caught in the covers for 1. Scotland now 51/5. Where's the chocolate? My comfort eating begins in earnest.
The drinks break brings a bit of rain, a change of bowler and a wicket. Machen walks of the ground for 40 and takes Scotland's best hope of posting a respectable total with him. 78/6.
Cross out 2 balls later. 79/7.
Taylor out in the 22nd over. 95/8.
Leask and Davey form a partnership that takes Scotland over the 100 run total and was the only real opposition to the rampant Aussies and when rain stopped play at 4:25pm they had moved the score along to 130/8 and looked to be doing well.
Play was restarted at 4:55pm and Scotland needed these two to continue where they left off to hope to press past 150 and beyond.
Davey out instantly. 130/9
Wardlaw out instantly after that leaving Leask stranded at the other end. Scotland all out for 130 with 24 overs left unused.
Australia need 131 runs to win at a run rate of 2.62 per over. It doesn't look good for Scotland with their only hope of walking away with any points in the tournament resting on rain.
Mommsen misses a chance at 2nd slip, Captain Clarke promoted himself to opener in the hope of getting some time in the middle, dropped on 5. Scotland do get a breakthrough in the 4th over as Finch is out for 20. Watson gets out to an ugly looking sweep shot that caught his hand and ballooned to the keeper taking a running catch but at 88/2 (less than 50 to win) it wasn’t really a contest.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for local boy James Faulkner coming out to bat but it should have gone to Michael Leask for his superb running and diving one handed catch in the outfield that removed Clark for 47 runs on the boundary edge. A classic catch that was under appreciated by the largely Australian crowd.
Rain again stopped play at 6:05pm and the players took an early dinner break (Australia 92/3) before resuming when the frustrating showers had finally passed over at 7:30pm (Australia need 39 to win).
Showing no mercy Faulkner starts the resumption of play with a 6 and ends the game a few overs later with a 6.
Game over at 7:45 Within 16 overs
Australia claim a crushing win over Scotland and move into the quarterfinals knowing they will play either Ireland or the West Indies (depending on results tomorrow). Scotland know they are going home without a win. Which is a shame as, although there wasn't much good cricket displayed from them here today, they have shown a lot of good over the course of the tournament. The pointless scenario they find themselves in at the bottom of the table isn’t a totally accurate reflection of their ability or position in world cricket, although there is still clearly some work that needs to be done. But I’m sure the upper management will be talking about how to address it on the flight home.
I stick around for the captain’s interviews but I’m the only one who does, the Scottish supporter’s stand, which was close to packed at the start of the day, now only has one cricket nerd in it ... and I’m packing up my bag and leaving.
Tomorrow I fly back to Melbourne and wait for my next match.The Big Game : Quarter Final 2 !!!
Another early start as I have a travel day ahead of me to get back to Melbourne. Out to the airport in plenty of time and queue to check in. I’m travelling with hand luggage only but I wouldn't exactly say I’m travelling light. It hasn't been a problem for me so far on any of the previous flights and nobody has even asked to check the weight of my luggage. This changes today. I notice that two out of the three tellers are getting everyone to weigh their hand luggage and charging them for storing them in the hold if they are too heavy. I start sweating. I know my bags are well over the new 7kilo limit for hand luggage but even with the old 10kilo limit, which was in place when I booked my tickets, I’m still going to be over the limit. My one-in-three chance of getting away with it comes up trumps as the girl who is not weighing people bags called me forward.
“Morning Sir. If I could just see your passport and pop your bags up on the scale for me.”
“Ummm, it’s just hand luggage for me today. Thanks though.”
“If you could pop them on the scale for me anyway Sir. Thank you.”
“Ohhhhh .... OK”
Oh no. this is going to be bad. I place my two items of hand luggage on the scale ... 13.3 kilos.
I smile at her blandly hoping to dodge the $50 charge for hold luggage and jovially say to her “That’s all right, eh? Not bad. So which gate do I go to?”
No luck though and she informs me that my luggage is too heavy as it is over the 7kilo limit. I inform her that I get much more allowance than that because I booked my flights ages ago. She checks her computer and informs me that I do indeed have additional weight allowance of 10kilos but I am still over the limit by 3kilos and will still have to charge me the $50 to put one of them in the hold. In a last ditch effort to dodge the bullet I squeak out that it seems a bit unfair because I have a big heavy jacket from “Cat Cafe Melbourne” that probably weighs 3 kilos on its own and if I just happened to be wearing it when I came up to the counter we wouldn't be having this problem. She politely informs me that I can go away, adjust my baggage and then come back to complete check in when I get the weight adjusted.
It’s clear that what she is saying to me is that, if it’s on your body it doesn't count towards the weight of your luggage. I resist the urge to point out the complete lack of logic this situation holds. If the point of limiting people hand luggage weight allowance (and charge them for storing it in the hold) is the keep the weight of the plane down and therefore use less fuel thereby saving money, then just redistributing the weight to carrying it on your own body does not solve this issue at all as I’m still carrying the same amount of weight onto the plane. But I thank her and set off to do exactly that.
Finding a quiet corner of the airport I dig out the “Cat Cafe Melbourne” jacket. It’s big, bulky, super warm and not as heavy as I thought. Be lucky if it’s half a kilo on its own. This is going to be interesting. I eat the sandwiches I was saving for my lunch and discover a bottle of pre mixed cola and rum that I’d forgotten about. It would have been confiscated from me at airport security anyway so, waste not want not, I down that baby in one. How much does 600 millimetres weigh? Not enough. I need to keep adjusting. Thankfully the jacket has big deep pockets so in goes the camera, the charger for the camera, the charger for the laptop, electric razor, mp3 player, headphones and anything else that I can fit in. That’s gotta be more than 3 kilos but I don't want to get back up the counter and still be over so I look at what I can do about the clothing in my bag. Theres really nothing I can do to reduce the amount of clothes I have unless I want to dump some dirty undies (tempting, but I might need them later in the trip). I’m wearing my pin stripe trousers but if I change into my pin stripe jeans I could probably exchange some weight there ... or, what if I just put the jeans on over the top of my trousers? I don’t know if the cola/alcohol drink I downed a few minutes ago had anything to do with it but I thought “Hell yeah. That’s a genius idea.” And then I’m doing it, putting on jeans over my trousers in a quiet corner of Hobart airport.
That’s gotta be enough so I head on up to the counter again and go through the check in rigmarole with a different lady this time. Bags on the scale ... 8.3kilos !!! Ya dancer!!!
“Ohhh, you’re a little over the weight limit there Sir. But you’re welcome to go away and adjust your items if you like.”
It's a roasting hot day, I’m wearing a massive jacket with pockets loaded to the brim with electrical gear, I look like a slightly fatter version of the michelin man, I’m slightly drunk and am wearing two pairs of trousers and all I can think is ‘Don’t do this to me Tasmania. Don’t make me hate you. I’ve just fallen in love with you.’ when the previous check in lady walks by and explains to the new girl that my luggage limit is actually 10kilos. Smiling widely and sweating profusely, I take my boarding card, head over to security (where I put the jacket and all my electrical gear back in the bag they came out of... thus completing the circle of pointlessness) and by the time I get through to the other side I’m desperate for the toilet as all that cola/alcohol has gone straight through me. I’m bursting and desperate and there is an awful moment of near disaster as I forgot that I was actually wearing two pairs of trousers but, thankfully, I managed to hold it all together and get the second zip down just in time.I was still a bit happy and tipsy when the flight was boarded in Hobart but sober and grumpy when it landed in Melbourne. Managed to catch the Ireland V. Pakistan game (nice try Ireland. Quality tournament from you.) and Myles brought in pizza when he finished work to round out a pretty good day.
With the group rounds finished and the quarter-finalists decided all cricket has come to a halt in the World Cup while the remaining teams gather their thoughts and take a few days to get ready for the knockout phase of the competition.
The nations strong enough to make it through are...
Sri Lanka v South Africa, Wednesday 18 March SCG
India v Bangladesh, Thursday 19 March MCG
Australia v Pakistan, Friday 20 March Adelaide Oval
New Zealand v West Indies, Saturday 21 March Wellington
And because all the players are taking a break from playing for a few days I think I will have a break from writing my diary for a few days too.
Well, I’m not travelling to any games for a while (so there’s not likely to be any drunkenly putting on two pairs of trousers to avoid paying excess baggage fees in airport stories to tell) and there aren't any games for a while either so the action has died down for a while. And now that I’ve commandeered my Melbourne mates, Myles, couch again I just intend to kick back and chill for a few days and recharge the batteries. Myles has the entire Tom Baker years of Doctor Who on hard drive and it sounds like a challenge to watch them all before the week is out. A challenge I am keen to rise to, or sit down for as the case may be.
Besides, only good boys have time to write a diary.
But, just for fun, here are my predictions of who will win through to the Semi Finals.
South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand
The next game I have tickets to is the Big Game: India v. Bangladesh game at the M.C.G.I can’t wait!
A few days just kicking back and chilling out have left me refreshed and ready to get back into the cricket.
Quarter Final 1 was yesterday where South Africa blew Sri Lanka out of the park in what was one of the shortest quarter final games in history. Surely that kind of mismatch couldn't happen two days in a row ... could it?
Quarter final 2 is today's big match in Melbourne and the one I have tickets for and I’m looking forward to it too. India V. Bangladesh.
I must admit, I laughed myself silly when Bangladesh knocked England out of the running for the quarter finals. It felt like irony was watching as England, who were keen to devise a format of the world cup that would ensure only the “top” teams progressed through and the “minnows” were left behind, were the ones who were actually left behind. But now that it comes down to the day of the match that England could/should/would have been playing in I had to admit that I probably would have preferred to see them playing in this knockout match. They only have themselves to blame as they didn't play well enough to deserve to be here. But Bangladesh did and that’s why they’re here and England is not. (I wonder what format will be devised for future world cups that will guarantee “Great” nations like England are guaranteed Quarter final berths)
And perhaps Bangladesh will pull off a surprise victory over India today. They have beaten them in the past and Bangladesh have played with a certain amount of composure in their victory over Scotland and Determination in their victory over England. If they manage to pull both those things together in this game they could topple a giant.
Today’s family member that I haven't seen for twenty years is my Dad. What can I say ... families are difficult. It’s a strange relationship and an estranged one for a long while too, broken only by sporadic bursts of emails that descend into anger far too quickly. When I bought my tickets for the World Cup I bought a spare for this match, sent Dad an email telling him I have a ticket for him if he wants to join me, and waited, and hoped. Months later he replied with a yes.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months wondering if he would show up and a lot of time over the last few days wondering what I would say if he did. We have arranged to meet at the Shane Warne statue outside the M.C.G. and when I arrive there bang on time ... he’s not there.
I’m sure that this is the last chance for both of us to get things back on track. How will I handle it if he doesn't show up today? What will I say if he does? How am I going to handle this? The oxygen seems thin today. I Lean on Warnie for some support when a guy who looks a bit like my Dad, except 20 years older, comes round the corner of the statue. He stops and looks at me and holds out his hand for shaking, crunch time, moment of truth, how do I handle this, I brush his hand away a go in for a hug. Twenty years of hurt starts to chip away in the shadow of a legend.
We make it inside the ground with plenty of time to see the toss which India won and chose to bat first. A four off the first ball shows India is intent on setting a big score today. Both openers look keen and up for it. There are a few close instances that keep Bangladesh hopes that a breakthrough is coming at any moment, an edge to slip that falls short, the ball nearly getting chopped back onto the stumps, but the breakthrough eventually comes via a quality stumping to send Dhawan out for 30 in the 17th over. India have walked to 1/75. Kohli walks out and is greeted by the biggest cheer of the day and an over later he walks back to the dressing room, out for 3, to a large cheer from a different section of the crowd. You would struggle to say that Bangladesh are on top at this time but they have squeezed the usually fluent scoring Indian batsmen into a less free scoring mode with some tight bowling and sharp fielding highlighted by the Indian hundred finally coming up in the 26th over. Wickets are the key for Bangladesh though and when Rahane is out well caught off an ordinary shot for 19 the celebrations from the Bangladesh team are so exuberant that it leads to two of them knocking each other to the floor after an energetic chest bump goes awry. It’s the funniest moment of the day and puts Bangladesh in a good position to press home the advantage (India are 115/3 off 28 overs) but also the last thing that Bangladesh had to laugh about for the rest of the match.
A drinks break and a short rain break brings some sloppiness into the Bangladesh outfit, missed catch, overthrows, fielders caught on heels allowing singles all allow India to step up their attack and cut loose in the batting powerplay.
The bangers need a breakthrough and they think they have it when dangerman Sharma is caught at midwicket. Don’t celebrate too early though as the umpires have called it a no ball. From my ‘fan in the stand’ point of view I can't figure out why it is a no ball. There’s no free hit signalled so it can't be front foot error, the big screen replay looks fine to me (sure it’s a full toss but it is below the waist), so I’m left thinking that there were too many men outside the infield circle. It’s not until I get home hours later and check the internet that I find out it was controversially called a full toss no ball on height above the waist. Ridiculous. Bad decision made by the umpire at a crucial point of the game. Sharma was breaking India free of Bangladesh bowling shackles at the time and even though there’s no way we can tell what-would-have-been if he was given out there and then the fact is he was on 90 at the time with India 196/3 in the 40th over and went on to be 136 when eventually out in the 47th over having helped India on to 273/5.
India eventually finish their 50 overs on 302/6.
Holding their composure is the only hope Bangladesh have of chasing down this total and a good start has hopes floating as Tamim Iqbal races to a run a ball 25 before nicking one to the keeper. He stands his ground and refuses to walk and the umpires take an age to refer it to the 3rd umpire for help, the 3rd umpire takes an age to give it out, and the batsman took an age to walk off the field. End decision: out. Caught behind. The very next ball there is a silly, comical, run out. Bangladesh lose all composure and with it their chance of taking this chase close
Mahmudullah is caught on the boundary edge to a juggling catch by Dhawan who has to lob it up in the air before his foot touches the boundary then return to the field of play to complete the catch. For the second time in the match a Bangladeshi batsman refuses to walk and the 3rd umpire is called in to adjudicate again. The replays at the ground look inconclusive one way or the other but the TV umpire deems it a fair catch and the last of Bangladesh’s hopes walk off the field with Mahmudullah.
The Bangers try hard to stay in the game and at the 28 over point are not far off the pace (at the same point India were 115/3 : Bangladesh are 105/5) but even if they stay on target it’s hard to imagine them scoring 100 off the last 10 overs.
They don't stay on target and a succession of soft dismissals and pressure shots trying to pick up the pace lead them to lurch to being all out for 193 in the 45th over, 109 runs short of the required target.
After eight hours of cricket and eight hours of talking painful family history things over with my Dad a couple of things have been sorted out become clear. India will progress through to the semi final in Sydney next week while the progress Bangladesh made in getting through to the knockout stage of the competition has given them a new plateau to push on from and continue to be more competitive in the future.
And the new plateau of understanding that my Father and I have arrived at should also give us a more stable grounding on which to stand on in the future.
The healing power of cricket eh?
Is there anything wrong with not leaving the flat for a whole day? Well, no. Not really. I am on holiday after all and the getting home ordeal from the M.C.G. after quarter final between India and Bangladesh left me wiped out (I don't know what it is about Melbourne but my sense of direction has completely gone. Every time I start walking down a road it’s always the wrong direction I’m heading off in. I’m constantly getting on trams and heading off into the suburban wilderness instead of the city and no matter how I look at it the map is always the wrong way up.) I accidently got of two stops before flinders street station and then spent ages looking for, what is probably one of the biggest landmarks in the city, heading in the wrong direction every time until I just happened to randomly stumble on a stop for the tram to take me to North Melbourne, get on it only to discover I’m heading in the wrong direction .... ARRRGHHHHH !!!
So, quiet day in the house it is then. Besides, the 3rd quarter final between Australia and Pakistan is being broadcast of free to air TV and considering the winner of it goes through to the semi final in Sydney that I have tickets for it seems only right that I should be able to watch it in its entirety without leaving the couch... all in the name of research.
So that’s what I did.
And it was bloody brilliant.
I’ve hardly seen any cricket broadcast on TV the entire trip so far. I thought it would be everywhere all the time like it was last world cup out here in ‘92 where free to air broadcaster channel 9 broadcast almost every match. But things have changed and now Australia thinks it’s is a mini America which means that everything interesting has moved to the pay TV channels leaving the terrestrials showing nothing but reality programs and adverts. So many adverts. They even schedule adverts in the TV guide; 9am-9:30am Infomercials. Watch as some guy tries to sell you a lawnmower for 30 minutes
So it was a relief to find something worthwhile to watch at last as channel 9 is only showing world cup games that feature Australia on free to air TV.
Well, if that’s all there is I will take it.
What a brilliant day. I didn't even get changed out of my pyjamas. I thought about going out to the shops during the innings break to get some more cola but decided to just drink the orange juice in the fridge instead. My Melbourne mate, Myles, was working all day and all night so I had the whole flat to myself and I had an all day breakfast fry up for my main evening meal. Watched cricket till my eyes turned square, enjoyed the commentary banter between Shane Warne and everyone else and Atherton’s astute analysis. Was surprised to see Mark Nicolas chairing the host seat and being even more plumy middle class than he is in Britain, almost like a poor man’s Austin Powers. Golly, Gosh, and Golly again!
Australia went on to win and send Pakistan home in a game that had a few twist and turns in it along the way. Pakistan will rue some dropped catches and just not getting enough runs to truly pressure the Aussie batting as these two factors saw them bundled out for only 213 in their innings and allowed Australia to win with 6 wickets in hand with 15 overs to spare.The next quarter final is between New Zealand and the West Indies. I have a pound on New Zealand to win the world cup so I clearly have a vested interest in how this game will turn out. Perhaps another day on the couch could be in order ... if only the cricket was on the TV.
The last quarter final between New Zealand and the West Indies is not being shown on free to air TV in Australia so there’s no excuse for spending all day on the couch and after staying inside all yesterday I’m feeling a bit stir crazy. My Melbourne mate, Myles, to the rescue and he invites me out to lunch. There is a burger bar near his work that he’s keen to try and I head into town to help him sample their wares. When we arrive at the place we discover it’s closed on Saturdays!!! There is a fair amount of disbelief that a restaurant would be closed on the busiest day of the week, and as we rattle the doors checking if it really is closed (it is), this disbelief turns to incredulous anger from Myles that sets me off on a giggle fit for the next 2 hours and spend the rest of the day coming up with reasons why a food eatery in the city centre would close on the weekend..
“I don’t really like money, so I’m not gonna open on Saturdays.”
We head over to a second choice place but when we arrive the kitchen has closed for lunch service but is helpfully due to reopen for dinner at 6pm.
“See all the hungry people with money to spend, I’m gonna make them go hungry and not take their money off of them. ‘Coz I hate money.”
Eventually we find somewhere that will give us food in exchange for money and sit outside Queen Victoria markets and let tempers cool in the roasting heat of the day. Big lunch leaves us feeling lethargic in the afternoon heat so we head over to a nearby park and people watch from the shade of the trees.
“See all this money we’ve been making, I’m never gonna spend it. Let’s just not open on Saturdays.”
As the afternoon closes out we head to a pub to watch two time Australian Record Industry Award winning singer songwriter, Monique Brumby, play a free gig. A tram debacle on the way see us show up late but we haven't missed anything as there is quite a delay as they sort out the sound. Eventually they turn it around from sounding like Wall-e playing static through a tin can into a really clear and crisp sound. The gig is amazing and if they had had any merchandise for sale I would have been tempted to purchase a couple of albums but instead nick the set list when the gig finishes.
A big and late lunch has sustained Myles and I through most of the evening but as the gig looks to wind up Myles tries to order a pizza from the bar/restaurant. I can hear him complaining over the band playing to other random punters that “This is the third time today I’ve tried to give my money away to a kitchen and been rejected. What’s happened to capitalism?”
Another tram debacle on the way home sees us walking half way back to the flat in a fit of pique until we both decide to save our legs and spend some money on a taxi.
Once back in the flat I check the cricket score ... ohhhhh, big score for New Zealand there ... and didn't Guptill do well. Good to see my pound is still safe with New Zealand still in the running to win the World Cup.
This good news rounds out a pretty good day.
“I hate working Saturdays but I never want to retire. Let’s work every other day of the week for the rest of our lives.”
“Saturdays are just too busy”
The last quarter final has been played and now the Semi finals are on the horizon. We now know the line-up for the games and first up its New Zealand v. South Africa on Tuesday.
This is a tantalising prospect as two powerful one day nations come head to head in what will surely be a clash to remember. Both teams have the ability to turn it on both with the bat (McCullum V. De Villiers) and the ball (Milne V Steyne) and both have produced phenomenal fielding displays throughout this World Cup. Not to mention that both Nations have a history of choking at the semi finals stage of world cups.
In lots of ways I almost wish this was the line-up for the final. That way both nations would have shrugged off that tag of semi final chokers and we would also be guaranteed that the world cup would be lifted by a nation that had never won it before. That would be a sight worth seeing.
But unfortunately that isn't the way it has worked out, but at least one nation who has never made the final before will be in with a chance of taking the gold home with them for the first time ever.
My money is on New Zealand for the win, and not just because I have £1 on then to win the whole tournament, but also because they come into this game undefeated having dealt with pressure in the game against Australia and crushed every other opponent in a brutally ruthless manner. Meanwhile, in the only game I watched South Africa play they buckled to a Pakistan side that managed to chip away at their armour and actually challenge them.
No matter how the past has played out, the future is where it’s at for both these great nations and I kinda wish I was going to that Semi Final in Auckland instead of Semi Final 2 in Sydney.
The Semi I have tickets for is Australia V. India on Thursday which also promises to be a great match. Both teams have been in the final numerous times, both know how to score big and bowl hard and both have been running into better and better form as the competition has gone on.
That game promises to be a HUGE game too and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it, just not as much as the other one. It doesn't help that I have to visit one of my least favourite cities in the world to watch this big match because I hate Sydney. I’ve been growing less enthused about going there as the time draws closer and closer. But as awful as I find the prospect of spending three days in an unnecessarily aggressive city, I won’t miss out of some top quality cricket.. But will keep a low profile. My prediction for that game is Australia for the win.Kept a low profile for most of today but Myles still dragged me in to help him set up a new C.C.T.V. camera in his place of work ‘Cat Cafe: Melbourne’ It wasn't particularly hard but it was time consuming as we had to work around all the cats who were curious to see exactly what we were up to. A lot of time was lost by me constantly patting the little cutie cats especially as it was after hours and we were the only ones in the place and therefore guaranteed their affections. I was in charge of reading the instructions and found it difficult to fathom what was going on until I started reading them from the beginning instead of the middle. Then things became a whole lot easier. I wonder if that’s how it works all the time? Nah, couldn't possibly be.
After a late start I packed and then repacked my hand luggage ready for the flight to Sydney. I’m travelling as light as possible for the three day excursion to Sydney as I don’t want a repeat of the Hobart check in kerfuffle. As a nerd project I decide to keep it under the current regulations of 7kilos (I booked this flight before the regulations changed so I am actually allowed the 10kilos permitted under the old regs) but it’s next to impossible. The laptop and its charger weigh a few kilos on its own plus the weight of the suitcase won't leave me with much weight for any clothing. I wonder how many days I can wear the same socks for! Eventually give it up as a bad idea and accompany Myles to the comic store as a day of nerds about town begins.
It’s been years since I was in a comic shop with any real intent. Somewhere along the way I just kinda grew out of them. This is a concept that Myles just cannot grasp (a bit like the Duckworth Lewis method for most people) as he has retained all the energy and enthusiasm of a teenage lad for the medium well into his adulthood. Myles is actually a published graphic artist so he justifies his huge pile of comics he has put aside as research. I toy with the idea of buying a comic myself, just for old time sake, but can't figure out if the Batman comic I’m holding is a standalone adventure and an ongoing series. I come to the conclusion that if I can’t figure out even the basics of modern comic book series I’m too old for it and reluctantly put it back where it belongs, in the past.
Further nerd adventures happen in the evening as the regular Monday night role-playing group get together. I make my second guest appearance at the dice table and roll for luck. A night of great laughs is had until my luck runs out and my character is eaten by a giant cricket (the bug, not the team sport). I’m disappointed that my time in the game is over but considering I will be back in Scotland by the time the next meeting takes place it’s probably a good ending. But when Myles rips my character sheet up right in front of me I feel like a little piece of my heart is broken.
A few episodes of game of thrones rounds out a day of nerdism nicely.
Thankfully I can indulge my true nerd passion tomorrow as there is cricket on when New Zealand take on South Africa in the first semi final.Must find a cheap pub to watch it in.
Arrange to meet Dad again today as he is still in town before he wanders away heading up the east coast looking for warmer weather again like the grey nomad he has become. It’s slightly cold in Melbourne today, I’m wearing a long sleeve t-shirt for the first time in about a month to keep the chill out but dad arrives in every jumper he own and complains about the cold weather bitterly. I warn him that, if he thinks this is cold, he must never come to Scotland. We head to Federation square for a bit and join in the watching of the semi final between New Zealand and South Africa on the big screen with the ten other people braving the frigid conditions.
I have a good feeling about this game. Like it’s going to be a good one. A close one. And that New Zealand will prevail, just, and make it to their first World Cup final.
By the time we join in the watching there are only a few over remaining of the first innings but South Africa have managed to racked up 281/5 from 43 overs (which subsequently gets rounded up to 298 by Duckworth/Lewis thanks to a rain delay).
Only 10 minutes for innings change over so, quick, find a cheap pub and get out of this infernal cold weather. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a cheap pub in Australia so we settle for a close one and sip expensive alcohol slowly.
The pub is busy but not packed and has a big screen where many people aim their faces towards. Some are into watching the game while some are casually checking it out now and again meanwhile the people at the back of the room have no interest in the game whatsoever. There’s a fair bit of background chatter but we can still hear the commentary. No one is really cheering for one side or the other at the beginning of the innings as we all keep up the social imperative of being respectful of other people’s experience.
McCullum gets the Kiwis off to another blistering start as usual, his 59 comes off 26 balls, and gets New Zealand ahead of the run rate early on. The crowd in the pub was silent when he started his onslaught but by the time it ended there were clear divisions as South Africans cheered and the Kiwi supporters groaned. There were more Kiwis than Saffas, but the Saffas were louder.
And from there on in everything continued to get louder. The cheers for boundaries grew louder, the cheers for wickets grew louder, the crowd grew in size and grew louder. The game remained evenly poised all the way through and at the halfway point New Zealand were 148/3 and bang on track to claim a berth in the final as long as they keep on pace and didn't lose wickets. Next over - Taylor out, New Zealand 151/4 and the crowd in the pub grows as the game tightens up.
There are some nervous people in the pub watching the game and it looks like both the teams on the field are nervous too. There are plenty of silly runs attempted and enough missed run outs to make a compilation and you get the feeling that the team that holds their nerve the most will force the other one to choke. And everyone in the pub is waiting for the choke to happen. It feels inevitable. Both these teams have a history of it and everything points to it happening again here today. Who will it be? What will be the decisive moment?
Is it De Villiers missed run out chance against Anderson? An easy chance with Anderson stranded mid pitch; a decent throw to the non strikers end and the usually excellent hands of De Villiers drops the ball, knocked off the bails in the process of re-gathering it and fails to execute a simple run out when he had enough time to run out three batsmen.
Anderson and Elliot push on and both bring up half centuries. New Zealand's future looks assured until Anderson gets a huge top edge that goes straight up and is taken by the keeper. Long delay though as the 3rd umpire takes an age to see if it brushed the spider-cam wire on the way down. If it did he’s not out due to the ball being dead, but eventually he’s given out. Replays inconclusive. 252/5, 46 runs required from 30 balls. (What’s this tightening in my throat?)
Ronchi in, Ronchi out. N.Z. 275/6, 23 required from 12 balls. (Cough.)
No need to worry though, in walks Dan Vettori, one of the greatest all rounder ever batting at number eight. He will see New Zealand Home (I seem to have been saying that a lot over the course of this tournament ...) there is genuine pressure here though and you can feel it in the pub as now all eyes are on the big screen. There is no other chat in the room besides what will happen next.
Desperate for runs New Zealand hack away. A top edge falls between three fielders. A catch that would have been taken is dropped as two fielders collide attempting the catch. The batsmen fail to run on it because they were ball watching. There is a lot of shouting in the pub. Both sets of fans are feeling the pinch. (Cough, cough.)
Last over. 12 runs required for the win. For the first time in the match I start to get a bad feeling that my £1 investment in New Zealand to win the world cup is in jeopardy. It’s a bad feeling. Two singles of the first two balls of the over is not enough. Boundaries are needed. Steyn has a calf injury but there no way he’s not going to finish this over.
10 needed of 4 balls.
Styne to Vettori. Legend to legend. Vettori squeezes out an attempted yorker to the third man boundary. 6 off 3. They run on a bye and the keeper fails to throw down the stumps for about the third time in the match. 5 to win off 2 balls and I feel like both teams are going to choke and end up with a tie. Which would actually be a fitting end to what has been an amazing game of. A tie will see New Zealand through to the final as they finished higher in the group stages than South Africa did.
Elliot has other ideas and claims the outright victory for New Zealand with a towering six over long off that sets the crowd alight with outrageous cheers and applause from all round the bar.
The atmosphere has been electric in the bar, almost like a mini stadium full of passionate fans, and the game has been on a knife edge all the way through. Although there were plenty of mistakes made by both teams during the game I wouldn't say that either of them choked. Both let the pressure get to them at points but in the end South Africa were just beaten by a slightly better team on the night.
In lots of ways this should have been the final but this result does allow the first part of my dream final for this World Cup to slot into place. Now all Australia have to do is overturn India on Thursday to set up an all home nation final. During the match I discovered that a lot of Australians were cheering for New Zealand in the hope of a Kiwi / Aussie final too so I’m not alone there. But I probably am the only Aussie that will be cheering for the Kiwis when/if Australia make it to the final. Gotta protect my investment.
Dad and I try to round out the night with a meal in Chinatown but I cannot get my bearings of which way is up in Melbourne so naturally we make a wrong turn and completely fail to find Chinatown. End up finding a Chinese restaurant somewhere else though and the impatient waiter makes the choices for our meal for us. Good choices they were too and it rounded off the night perfectly.
Next stop; semi final two in Sydney.
India V Australia.
Travel days are always dull. I’ve done it so often on this trip that I’m sick of the sight of Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. So to mix it up a little bit and keep everything fresh my flight to Sydney today leaves from Avalon Airport.
No, I’d never heard of it either. There is a shuttle bus that runs to it from Southern Cross in Melbourne but there are so few flights in and out of Avalon that the shuttle only runs out there at certain specific times to meet them. So I have to leave at noon for a 3:30pm flight. I bet there’s no wifi at the airport either. In the end it’s probably a good thing the coach leaves so early because the airport is miles away. I thought it was a long way out to Tullamarine, Melbourne's main airport, but that's just peanuts to Avalon. There was enough time to have a 30 min nap, wake up all grumpy, and for that grumpiness to dissipate before arriving at Avalon. It’s probably closer to Canberra than it is to Melbourne.
Check in, weigh my hand luggage which, despite all my careful packing and travelling a light as I possibly can still comes to 8.3kilos. The girl at the desk knows that I have the old limit of 10kilos so doesn't really say anything but I have come to the conclusion that it is physically impossible to travel with hand luggage less than 7kilos.
Arrive in Sydney and try to avoid any rudeness that the inhabitants excrete so effortlessly by not talking to anyone. Tonnes of being jostled around and pushed on public transport (just ask politely, I will move for you.) leave me fed up already and at an interchange I jump ship and get a taxi the rest of the way.
The Taxi driver is as grumpy as I am so we actually have a decent chat for a while complaining about traffic and cyclists. I tell him I’m in town for the cricket and he says it’s a sell out and I could probably sell my ticket for ten times face value. I tell him I actually have a spare as my Sista flaked out on me claiming to have a better offer and that I could sell him that for face value. He scoffs at the idea of anyone having a better offer than the semi final of the World Cup in Sydney and says that he knows a guy who would take it off me.
One of the things I hate the most about my Sista standing me up for this match (besides the general not-seeing her part) is that it has turned me into a scalper. Even if I’m selling the ticket at face value I am still turned into a scalper and it’s more hassle than I want, especially in Sydney. Capital of rudeness.
We exchange numbers and I hope that someone nice and polite, who is actually a fan, will get to see the game in my Sista’s place.
Check into the accommodation which is lovely with two big dogs as house guests and overlooks a little bit of the ocean (if you crane your neck and look through some buildings in a certain way). A walk into Coogee to enjoy the cooling sea breeze softens my harsh view on Sydney a little bit. Maybe it isn’t such a bad place after all. I buy an ice cream to round off the day nicely and the lady insists on handing it to me before giving me my change which leaves me struggling to put the change in the wallet without ice cream ending up all over my hands, my wallet, my coins and my trousers.
I hate Sydney.
After two weeks sleeping on a mate’s couch the lure of sleeping in a real bed is too great to get up early and I wake up without a sore neck for the first time in a fortnight. No chance of a sleep in though as the taxi driver from yesterday has handed on my number to several people who all insist on phoning me at 7am. I tell the first guy my story and that I will take face value for the ticket and he offers me half the ticket cost claiming to be a poor student. I think back to my student days and remember that it was the most affluent time of my life. I tell him good luck in his quest to find a ticket for half price in a sold out stadium and hang up. The next three calls follow a similar theme. By the time the fourth call is taken I ask for more than the ticket price and say ‘No haggling’. Naturally haggling ensues and we settle on face value. (Uggh, Sydney!)
When I arrive at the S.C.G. the place is buzzing with people who are up for a good time in the afternoon sunshine. Fun, laughter, music, dancing... it’s all happening. I join in something that looks like it might be trying to be a conga line for a while because it was heading toward the meeting point for my spare ticket buyer. When I get there I discover that one of my bottles of cola has burst in my bag and has been leaking all over the place. Thankfully the open bag of crisps I had in there has soaked up most of the spillage so the damage is minimal but the crisp packet resembles the inside of a stomach. It puts me off eating anything for a while.
My buyer, Jay, arrives once I’ve finished cleaning up and we exchange tickets. He is cheering for India and I’m for Australia so we have a laugh about the potential tension between us that will brew throughout the day but both end up saying that we just hope for a good game. I head into the stadium but he waits for some of his friends that are still scrambling for tickets to arrive.
Australia win the toss and choose to bat first. The chat is that a score of 370 looks on offer and everyone licks their lips in anticipation. The atmosphere is electric before a ball has been bowled with an almost equal amount of Aussies and Indian fans mixed up in the stands. Various chants start up and the competition for loudest fans starts in earnest.
When Warner is out in the 4th over it’s the Indian fans that are winning the chant wars. Smith and Finch form a big partnership that set up Australia with a huge platform to launch from and at the 30 over mark they are 155/1 on pace for a huge total. Smith brings up his 100 in 89 balls. There are still 17 overs to go. There’s a feeling that he could get a huge score but a drinks break sees his wicket fall soon after and he’s out for 105.
Ground staff are handing out free flags and I claim one as a nice wee souvenir but a lot of other people use them to taunt other people around then. (uggh, Sydney)
The 200 comes up in the 35th over and considering that most teams have been adding 100 runs in the last 10 overs throughout this tournament it still looks like a massive total is on the cards. But India choke the runs and Maxwell and then Finch are out to ugly shots and all of a sudden Australia’s innings looks like it could fall apart to the point where it’s possible to think that they might not make 300. Eventually they end on 328/7 thanks to some late lofty hitting from Johnson but a good start has been squandered.
India lose a wicket in the first over... or do they? looks good on first view and even the replays look fine, well, besides that last one, and the 3rd umpire gives it not out after being consulted by the on field officials. A dropped chance by wicketkeeper Haddin sees India riding their luck but they are still behind the run rate early on. That is until Faulkner’s first over which goes for 16 which gets India back in the run scoring groove. Australia dish up some ordinary bowling and India are keen to punish all the rubbish until Dhawan is out for 45 giving the Aussies the breakthrough they were looking for in the 13th over.
The chanting competition between the Ozzie and Indian fans heats up and becomes more taunting as Australia claw their way back into the match with the wickets of Kohli for 1 and Sharma for 34. The taunting in the crowd is reflected on field too as Raina and Stark have a mid pith ‘discussion’. Three short balls has Raina ducking and walking down to confront Stark and words are exchanged. I hope it doesn't get any uglier on the pitch or in the crowd too.
When Raina is out caught behind in the 23rd over there is a flashpoint in the crowd near me and security have to remove two beery Ozzie oiks (uggh, Sydney.) At no point in any other game has there been any prospect of violence erupting, but that’s Sydney for you. It’s a city with an aggressive edge that bubbles to the surface with a minimum of effort at any, and almost every, opportunity. It takes a certain type of person to live here and it’s usually the type of person I go out of my way to avoid. Awful.
After 30 overs India are 138/4 (D/L par = 205) and are well behind the pace. Dhoni comes in and settles in. India need to get a move on if they want to stay in the match. With 18 overs to go the run rate is already at 10 per over. After a drinks break some intent is shown but the crowd think it’s too late and start to filter away. The Aussies because they think they have it won, the Indians to avoid watching the final indignity and the neutrals because they are bored. A dropped catch in the 41st over sees the Indian 200 come up but by this point everyone in the crowd wants to be put out of our misery. Dhoni gets his 50 with a 6 but he’s left his run too late and a direct hit sees the end of his innings. He didn’t even look like he was trying to make his ground, all he had to do was put his bat down and he would have been safe. Perhaps he was as bored as the rest of us by this tailing away of the Indian effort and wanted to end it sooner rather than later too.
A few more wickets and then that’s it. Game over. India lose by 95 runs with 3.1 overs remaining as they ran out of steam.
Comprehensive victory to Australia who go on to join New Zealand who are already waiting for them in Melbourne at the final.
p.s. The chap I sold my ticket never showed up in the seat next to me. Perhaps he was just a collector of tickets and needed this one to complete his collection. No matter, my bag had a seat to itself for the entire game sitting in the seat where my Sista was meant to be sitting. Every now and then I would say to it “Here, hold this for me a minute Sista.” and put my drink bottle back in it. Well, that’s what she gets for standing me up and turning me into a scalper. Being compared to an old bag seems like a light let off really.
Another great sleep in a real bed and another sunny day in Sydney (Uggh, Sydney.) As much as I hate Sydney and as much as I like free accommodation at my Melbourne mate, Myles, place I am not looking forward to returning to his neck twisting couch. The only reason I’m in Sydney for this day was in case there was a rained out game yesterday and this would be the reserve day. But with nothing but blue skies for as far as the eye can see there was no chance of that yesterday and with similar weather today it’s just too good to stay indoors. I decide to take a walk from South Coogee to Bondi beach. It’s only a couple of suburbs up, can't be that far, and there's a coastal walk path that starts just outside my accommodation. I’ve never been to Bondi and now that I’m a British citizen it seems like its compulsory so off I trot.
On the way my mind travels to the upcoming final of the World Cup. It is my number one dream scenario: Australia V. New Zealand was my first choice line-up for the final (well, assuming Scotland didn't make it that is!!!). The two home nations, two great nations with rich history between them, the traditional underdog of New Zealand V. the traditional powerhouse of Australia. New Zealand in resurgence before the World Cup and dominant/unbeaten throughout the tournament, Australia rebuilding and ironing out kinks before the tournament and peaking at the right time during it. This is truly a clash to saviour.
Despite my Australian heritage there is no doubt that I want New Zealand to win the world cup and during my walk along the stunning Coogee coastline I wonder why that is.
It's not just because I have money on them to win the cup, after all that £1 investment is more of a fun joke bet than a serious get rich quick scheme, although the £8 I stand to make from it if they do win won't be sneezed at.
It will give me another occasion to wear the New Zealand supporters T-shirt I bought as an impulse buy after they crushed England in Wellington. I was thinking just the other day that that was probably an expensive outlay for a T-shirt I will never have an occasion or desire to wear outside the house once I get home. So having the opportunity to wear it another time is appreciated but that’s not a valid reason for wanting them to win the cup.
I think I want New Zealand cricket team to win the world cup for the nation of New Zealand. I loved my time there travelling around watching cricket in all corners of the country and found it to be a nation of full of friendly people, beautiful country side with a great atmosphere. I would love to see them gain the boost that winning one of the world’s biggest sporting tournaments would give them bringing in new confidence to continue taking on the world in the exceptional and progressive way that they already do.
From a cricket point of view New Zealand have been a nation that always produces amazing talent and often fights above its weight but has never managed to pull it all together at the same time. This time feels different. This time they have several world class talents all peaking at the same time and to challenge Australia, the noisy and sometimes unpleasant neighbour, and beat them at their own game, in their own back yard would really shut Australia up for a wee while. And that’s something truly good to hope for, but still not the main reason I want them to win it.
In the end I think the main reason why I want New Zealand to take home the cup is because it gives Scotland some realistic hope of what can be achieved by a small nation on the big world stage. Both are small nations with a similar population size, both in close proximity to bigger, more dominant (population/economic) nations that are also antagonistic towards them. New Zealand taking home the trophy should give Scotland hope and encouragement for the future and a path to follow towards not just competing on the top of the world stage but winning at it.
Of course the road is long and not straightforward for any nation including Scotland, and New Zealand has a hundred year head start on us, but there they are, shining the light for other smaller nations to follow.
Show us the way New Zealand. Take the cup home. Dream big.After two hours of wondering and wandering I am only about half way to Bondi beach. The coastal walkway has been amazing and I grudgingly have to admit that Sydney is a stunningly beautiful and pretty city; it’s just a shame that it has such an attitude problem. As I turn back to walk home the sun is in my eyes and I get a glare headache. (Uggh, Sydney.)
Today is a travel day as I escape the awfulness of Sydney and head back to the marvellousness of Melbourne. My flight is not until 6pm so I have a full day to waste and I decide to make it a no spend day and hang around the B and B reading and enjoying the ocean view until it’s time to head out to the airport. Buy myself a public transport card with enough credit to get me the hell out of this hole and set about joining the throng of rudeness on the public transport to the airport. Bus to the train station goes smoothly but from there on in things go downhill. Apparently, even though I had enough credit on the card, there now isn't enough credit to get me to the airport. Argue this point with the rail guards who won't let me in past the barriers to no avail and they send me off with directions to a top up machine. I follow their direction annoyed that I have to put more money on this thing that I’m never going to use again and when I get to where the machines are they are all out of order. (Uggh.) Trapes all the way back talk to a different guard who lets me through but tell me to change at central station for the airport link and get some credit there. Fine. I decide to do that and keep my end straight so find somewhere to top up credit in a newsagent by central station. I only need $1.30 to reach the exact fare but the lady tells me they only do top ups of $10 or $20. (UGGH, Sydney.)
I am speechless at this as this is the exact opposite of what everyone had been telling me up to this point, so either she's lying to me or everyone else has been lying to me. An extremely terse conversation follows, mine through clenched teeth as I struggle not to lose it like a volcano about to explode, and hers through that typical Sydney aggressive attitude that they love so much here. Eventually I end up shouting “Fine. $10 then.” and swearing under my breath how much I hate Sydney. I HATTTTTE IT !!!
I storm off, slap my now overloaded with credit travel card down on the turnstile, and push my way angrily through the crowd and bustle my way through people as if they were made of damp paper without stopping, pausing or speaking.
When I board the train to the airport I realise that the thing I hate most about Sydney is that it has turned me into someone as rude as one of them.
I spend the rest of the journey fuming at this realization.
Upon getting out at the airport all the turnstiles are open and people are free to just walk through so the entire ordeal of getting more credit for the card was a complete and total waste of energy. (Uggh, Sydney.)
Thankfully check in goes smoothly and so does security. I had a little leftover booze after the Sydney game so I decided to bring it to the airport and down it before I went through security and see if I could make it through to the other side before the alcohol made its way into my bloodstream. I took the idea from my Tasmania experience but at least this time I wouldn't end up wearing two pairs of trousers at the same time. Drink it, do security, and make it through just as I feel the edge of the stress and anger of the day starting to slide away. I’m almost dancing as I find my gate but I think I’m just glad to be heading back to Melbourne.
Flight takes off, flight’s fine, flight lands; get the bus into Melbourne city as I start to dry out again. The transfer shuttle to Melbourne hotels is closed at 5:30 pm on weekends (Who does that? WHO CLOSES ON A SATURDAY?) (Uggh, Melbourne.) so I wander out and get a tram. Naturally I get one going the wrong way and have to get off and walk back to where I started (Uggh, Melbourne.) Eventually make it back to my Melbourne mate, Myles, place just before midnight. We are both exhausted from big days out (Me travel, Him work) but stay up late chatting, catching up, telling stories and adventures, and bitching about Sydney. We both hate Sydney (as any sane person should) but as I make up my bed on his spine twisting couch I have to admit, I do miss the bed I had for a few days there. Nothing else though. It’s an awful city.
I go to bed dreaming of the BIG MATCH
AUSTRALIA V. NEW ZEALAND.
I can’t wait.
Dear Diary, (sorry this entry is a little later than usual but a decent hangover saw me laid low for quite a chunk of time.)
Today is the big day.
After 49 matches and 44 days the final has finally arrived.
Australia V. New Zealand.
Everything about this is huge.
Finals of the world cup have traditionally been quite one sided but I have a good feeling that this is going to be a classic game. High scoring, free flowing with lots of twists and turns along the way before my team hit the winning runs off the last ball of the game to win it with a 6 (which I subsequently catch in the crowd, one handed, and claim the ultimate nice wee souvenir for myself.)
It is a baking hot day in Melbourne today and my seat is in the sunshine. I am thankful that security didn't confiscate my bottle of frozen water as it’s the only thing that is keeping me from melting in the strong afternoon heat.
The place is packed. I’ve never seen so many people in one place before and even before I get inside the ground the noise is deafening from people talking, yelling, shouting, chanting and singing. There’s even a little bit of spontaneous dancing every now and then. It takes an age to get to my seat because people are wandering around so slowly, trying to drink in the “G” in all its domineering splendour.
Everything seems bigger for this match. The ground seems bigger, the crowd seem bigger, the ground announcer seems to have a bigger voice today and when the national anthems are played the sound and the pride from everyone seems even bigger.
A crowd member manages to get onto the ground during the national anthems and makes it three quarters of the way across the ground, including running on the pitch before he is brought down by security. Once the anthems are over and before the players take the field the big screen informs people that pitch invading is a crime for which the fine is $8300. Nobody even thinks about running on the field after that news.
New Zealand win the toss and choose to bat. The stage is set for McCullum to score a big century and give his team the platform to push on and get a mammoth total. I kinda hope that McCullum tempers his natural aggression and plays like a normal person for a wee while at least, but even as I’m thinking it I know it’s a fool's hope and that McCullum will continue his over attacking way. It has worked for him almost all tournament so why change now.
He is out for a duck off the third ball he faces and there is a squeaking noise in the stadium as every Kiwi supporter’s butt clenches a little tighter. I’ve spent a lot of conversations trying to convince people that New Zealand isn’t just a one man team but when I say this to the lady sitting next to me it feels like I’m trying to convince myself. Stark is bowling well and hostile and it’s easy to see why he’s the competition's leading wicket taker and when he is replaced by Johnson New Zealand must have been thinking ‘You just see off one terrifyingly fast Mitchell and another one comes along.’ After 10 overs New Zealand have made an uncharacteristically slow start and are 1/31. Amazing what a difference McCullum makes. Guptill is out to Maxwell in the first over of spin. 2/22 and the Kiwis need some impetus and staying power. Ross Taylor is the man for that and lucky for N.Z. he’s the next man in. Taylor gets off the mark with an elegant boundary for 4 and New Zealand need more of that if they are to mount a serious challenge. Kane Williamson is caught and bowled shortly afterwards and the Kiwis need a new hero. Taylor and Elliot join forces and steady the innings with the best partnership for New Zealand and take the score past 50 which comes up in the 15th over (doesn't this Kiwi team usually bring up 50 in 5 overs? and most other nations in 10 overs?)
The 150 comes up after 35 overs and everyone pins their hopes on the batting powerplay bringing some runs. Unfortunately that doesn't happen as Taylor is out off the first ball of it for 40 N.Z. now 4/150. Anderson in, Anderson out. N.Z. 5/150. Ronchi in, Ronchie out. 6/151. Daniel Vettori, one of the world’s greatest all-rounders (‘Maybe five years ago’, comes the chat from the lady next to me), comes in batting at 8. Perhaps he can save this failed New Zealand innings. Nope. He’s out for 9. N.Z. 7/169.
Wicket, wicket, wicket and New Zealand are bundled out for 183 with 5 overs left unused.
It’s a disappointing total but hope springs eternal and perhaps we could get another low scoring thriller like when the last time these two great nations met back in the group round.
Australia need 184 to win and the short version of what happened goes like this ... Australia get off to a good start, oh, they've won it !!!
The slightly longer version goes like this ... Australia get off to a bad start when Finch is out in the 2nd over for a duck. New Zealand looking good in the field and are up for this challenge but Australian bat normally and hold everything together. After 10 overs they are 1/56 and on target to wrap up the game in 25 overs. The Kiwis need something brilliant to get the breakthrough. When Warner goes, falling into a short ball trap/failing to get on top of one, caught a deep square leg, Smith and Clark form a partnership that ends all hope of a New Zealand comeback in this match.
Clark had some luck along the way, a played on ball actually hit his stumps but didn’t dislodge the bails, dropped immediately after making his 50, (‘How is all the luck going the Aussies way?’) Some inventive field placing couldn't help McCullum buy a wicket and the 100 partnership came up in 102 balls. Clarke is bowled as New Zealand claim a consolation wicket but the game is over a few minutes as later as Smith gets his 50 and hits the winning runs with a 4 that brings fireworks, confetti and huge cheers from all around the ground. The crowd has been marvellous at this game and almost all of the record making attendance hang around for the post match presentation, all 93 013 of us!!! The game may have finished early but nobody wants this night to end. Even though the game didn’t go the way half the crowd, and an entire nation, wanted it to go but no one wants to walk away from history.
There are a lot of grey men in suites at the presentation ceremony but Sachin Tendulkar get the biggest cheer of the presentation party, probably because he is the only one of them that has actually done something !!! I thought the player of the tournament would have been McCullum as his scintillating batting had everyone tuning in but the Player of the tournament award actually went to Mitchell Stark. Fair enough, leading wicket taker, and game changer, in a tournament dominated by batsmen. Good for him.
After the lap of honour and more fireworks and confetti it was time to leave history behind and head off into Melbourne town and join in the party that was happening everywhere. I knew I was going to regret having that last pint in the morning but nights like this, and world cup finals, don't come along very often.
One last look as I left the stadium and I saw on the big screen ‘See you in England, 2019’
You bet I will.
I can’t wait.
29/3/15 (part two)
As I left the stadium I realised that I was already a bit drunk. Either that or the ground had become a little less stable than when I first entered the Stadium. No time to ponder this strange phenomenon, off I popped to get the tram back into town. The pathway back to the tram stop seemed to be swaying a bit as I walked along it but I pushed on regardless breaking into a little sing-song at various random points along the way. While waiting at the tram stop and talking a little too loudly to the other punters trying to get back into town, a moment of clarity struck me. “Oh my word ... I’m really, REALLY, drunk.” It was surprising because I hadn’t drank any more than I had at any other game I’d been to and yet, this time, I am noticeably much more drunker. I ponder how this could possibly be the case when a tram arrives and I blindly get on it. Four stops later I start to panic that I have gotten on a tram going the wrong way again (like I have every other time I try to catch a tram) but miraculously I have managed to get on one going the right direction and find myself in the centre of Melbourne. Perhaps that was the trick to mastering the public transport in Melbourne all along, get really drunk and then it makes a lot more sense!!
Once in town all the people I had been chatting to on the tram scarper off in different directions quicker than a double visioned chap could keep track of, almost like they are trying to avoid some random drunk loud guy who constantly looks lost, and I am left dancing with myself at flinders street station.
I had lose plans of pushing onto a club after the final to kiss the cricket goodbye and dance away the post tournament blues but a little sensible voice at the back of my mind says that I’ve had enough already and takes hold of my arm and leads me to the tram stop that will take me back to my Melbourne mate, Myles, place. Miraculously, for only the second time in two months, I get on a tram heading in the right direction and set about starting up as many conversations with the fellow passengers as possible.
Ten stops later I get off the tram waving goodbye to all my new friends who return my friendly alcohol fuelled cheerfulness with stony silence and barely concealed relief. “Oh no.” says the sensible section of my brain. “I’m THAT guy.”
No matter. Press on. Head home. I wonder if Myles is still up?
It’s almost midnight when I get in but Myles is still up and I regale him with a slightly too loud version of everything that has happened up until now. He feeds me leftover potato bake and hands me several glasses of water and a few cups of tea while I tell him all about the South African ladies I was sitting next to at the game who were also supporting New Zealand. Somehow, during the tram ride home I have lost my watch, which is a right bummer as it was a nice wee souvenir from Hong Kong that I bought from a night market on a stopover on the way out to Australia, and once I realize this I tell Myles all about it more than a couple of times in a row.
I get a little animated during some of my storytelling and Myles has to tell me to quiet down a few times, which falls on my deaf ears, but when one of his rabbits comes out from under the couch and nips my toe I take the hint a pipe down for a while. Eventually, at 3am, Myles decides that I am now sober enough that I’m not gonna do anything silly or throw up over his nice and tidy lounge room and wanders off to bed, turning the light out as he goes.
I decide that now is the best time to send a few emails off and fire up the laptop but promptly fall asleep before I can even manage to type Dear Diary. Probably for the best really.
I awake at 5am, still in the typing position, and decide that the best thing to do would be to get some sleep before the hangover hits hard.
I wake up a little too early for my liking and while I gather my wits around me, which takes a little longer than usual due to a rather annoying hangover, I do a damage report on myself. Body: No damage, Stomach: No damage (surprising considering how drunk I was last night), Head: Oh yes. There is the damage. Sore head that will require more than a glass of water to fix and desert mouth that will require more than one glass of water to quench. Unfortunately once the cold water and paracetamol concoction hits my stomach it starts an unpleasant chain reaction that involves a lot of internal churning where once it was calm. There's nothing for it but to sit as still and as quiet as possible and wait for the internal storm to pass through my body and the thunder cloud to dissipate from my head.
While I endure the slow passage of time with a hangover my mind wanders to other awful times and events over the course of this World Cup adventure.
I cast my mind back to the very beginning of the trip and how I started out with the dehydration sickness. This hangover has nothing on that and I thank my lucky stars that I don't feel as bad as I did back then when every breath into my body brought the possibility of coming back out with vomit and every heartbeat was merely a countdown to the next wave of explosive diarrhoea. No. As bad as this hangover at the end of the competition feels it's nothing compared to how I felt back at the beginning of it. Small mercies I suppose but I continue to feel pretty bad.
There was only one city added to the list of awful cities of the world which was pretty good going but Christchurch earnt it’s addition to the list of ‘Pretty Shitty Cities’ by being freezing cold on my first visit for the opening game AND somehow still managing to give me a sunburn that lasted until my second visit there weeks later. The accommodation was awful on both visits too with my first time relegated to the ‘bed in a shed’ outhouse while my almost sister, Mase, lived it up in luxury with the rest of the family but even worse was to come one the return visit when the accommodation I booked into claimed to be only 20 minutes stroll from the ground was over and hour and twenty minutes walk away. Scotland lost to England while failing to rise to their standards AND I lost my jumper there too!!! I still haven't got over that you know. Loved that jumper. Even in transit through its airport on the way from Dunedin to Auckland, Christchurch still managed to be awful to me by picking that moment for my Sista to send me a flaky email telling me she wouldn't be coming to join me for our planned reunion in Sydney (a city that was already on the shit list of awful places to avoid at all costs). Added to all this is the fact that Christchurch has the word “Christ” and “Church” in its name making it sound unpalatable to rational, secular thinking people ... and ... it’s just crap ok !!!
So Christchurch easily slots into the top five “Shit Cities I Have Endured” that also features Avignon in France (interail backpacking nightmare ... don't ask.), Adelaide in Australia (I still have not forgiven Adelaide from the last time I was there, 23 years ago, for the previous Australia/New Zealand World Cup... don't ask) and the crapest of all crap cities, Sydney. Sydney was as awful as it usually is. Aggressive people, aggressive crowds, crap service in a variety of shops, it really is a place to be avoided as much as possible. Better to leave it to the locals and hope that they all kill each other in some pathetic version of Thunderdome that they will all think is actually brilliant when in reality is still, just, ordinary, average, and overrated Sydney. Uggh. The only way Sydney could have been made palatable to me on this visit was if Sista had of been there to sweeten the bile that bubbles uncontrollably out of its stinking cesspool but perhaps she couldn't face going there again either. Smart move by her but it left me high and dry and turned me into a scalper in an attempt to flog her ticket, another awful experience I could have done without
Family flaking out is one thing but friends who flake out are another. I had a Scottish friend called Mair who had moved out to New Zealand and was working in Nelson national park and we had arranged to meet up while I was kicking around in Nelson waiting for the Scotland V. Bangladesh match. Unfortunately, despite having been given the dates I would be in Nelson six months in advance she chose to go travelling at precisely those dates and didn't bother to contact me about it either. Which was a shame as the couple of days I had put aside to catch up with her were wasted waiting by the computer waiting for her to bump me from 200 miles away with information that would have been useful two weeks previous!!!
I’m still waiting for her reply to my last email to her saying that, considering she was due back the day before I flew out, we could still meet for a coffee and chat in the hours before my flight.
Sometimes it’s as painful as a persistent hangover when you realize that some friends are crap friends and deserve to be the first against the wall when the annual friendface cull takes place.
Talking of hangovers, I managed to dodge them on most occasions but a couple caught me out in Dunedin and Auckland and, of course, this daddy of a hangover I now have in Melbourne. Ahhhh, marvellous Melbourne. But Melbourne was not without its faults too, namely the bloody trams that were always going in the wrong direction no matter where I got on them, streets that start their numbers over again half way along the same street, and hamburger joints that don't open on Saturdays .... WHO CLOSES ON A SATURDAY !!!
Three hangovers in two months. Not a bad average. I would take that in any two month period let alone one with as much drinking as in it as this journey had.
The only other thing that could be considered as bad as a slowly lifting hangover was the fact that Scotland didn't win a single game during the whole campaign. I was sure that they were going to claim their first World Cup victory during this tournament, and I wanted to be there when they did, but there was no such luck for my adopted nation on this occasion. We did show some top quality fight at various times but not enough, and not consistently enough, to breakthrough to the league of winners.
And then there's New Zealand shitting their pants in the final. That sucked too. I’m sure they are to blame for this hangover I now have. Lost a whole pound, Sterling, on them. Wankers.
By the time Myles gets up and out of bed my headache has cleared up and my stomach has settled down. He asks how I’m feeling and I tell him ‘Not bad.’ He exclaims surprise at this considering how wasted I was last night but I tell him I’m made of tougher stuff than that and am ready to start again right now if he thinks he’s hard enough.
Thankfully he suggests spending a lazy day on the couch catching up on season four of ‘Game of Thrones’ and continuing our quest to complete the Tom Baker Dr Who years.
In the absence of any cricket to watch or hangovers to deal with it's the best suggestion of how to spend the day ever. I guess you could say that things turned out nice again.
After yesterday's hangover, and the dark mood it had me in while I was fighting it off, today I woke up in a great mood to the native Australian birdsong, sunshine, blue skies and nothing to do except enjoy a relaxing day thinking of all the truly great things I had experienced over the course of my World Cup adventure.
Great things like catching up with various family members in various places. Like spending some quality time with Mum, Step Dad Murray, and my almost sister Mase in New Zealand. For the best part of a month I was able to travel with and enjoy quality time with this lovely bunch of kind, generous and loving people whom I am proud to call family (even if they do sometimes spontaneously burst into playing ‘eye spy’ like some poor parody of the Brady Bunch). It was a rare opportunity to spend an extended amount of time travelling with them again, something that hadn't happened since I was 15 years old and Mum and Murray took me to Mexico for nine weeks during the school summer holidays. It was a trip that eye opening, to the point of life changing, as it opened my eyes to the rest of the world by showing me that there was a world outside of Australia, and an experience I could never thank them enough for. They certainly added a different dimension to the New Zealand part of my World Cup adventure and I loved every minute of time spent with them.
Mind you, I loved the time in New Zealand when I was travelling on my own too. It’s a beautiful country and I fell in love with it in no time at all. Wellington was a particular favourite and a night spent dancing to buskers on Cuba Street with the hip and trendies was a particular favourite memory to take home. Dunedin was wonderful in a different way. Smaller, quieter but with just as much individual character to make it interesting and it must be the city that is most like Edinburgh in about the furthest away place from Edinburgh possible. If ever I get forced to leave Scotland I’m moving to Dunedin.
The reunion with my Dad was a long time coming and even up until he was standing right in front of me I was unsure as to whether he was going to show up or not. It was the last chance saloon for our often tense relationship. A lifetime of difficult history is hard to untangle in eight hours of cricket but we did our best and have cleared enough up to give ourselves a new platform to stand on and take things forward from here.
Part of this whole World Cup trip and adventure was always meant as an attempt to catch up with and reconnect to as many family members as possible, and while I didn't make it to Brisbane on this trip thereby missing a whole bunch of Uncle, Aunts and Cousins who I hadn't seen for a couple of years, I did get to make it to Tasmania, where I’d never been before, and catch up with my Aunty Shelly. Two days with her and all her family, including meeting three of her teenage children, all of whom I had never met before, wasn't enough time after 20 years apart but it was enough to make it a highlight of the trip.
Tasmania was beautiful too and I fell in love with it in a heartbeat. Probably because of the great view from the accommodation I had in Hobart facing out over the harbour. Looking back I can say that I had great accommodation everywhere I stayed with amazing views (except Christchurch ... don't ask, happy thoughts, happy thoughts!!!). Even the accommodation in Sydney was great with a good view of Coogee to escape into.
And, of course, on a cricket holiday there was some pretty awesome games that I witnessed too. From New Zealand demolishing England in Wellington, which, from start to (early) finish, was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed on a cricket field, to Scotland’s heartbreaking last over loss to Afghanistan in Dunedin and Scotland's best ever effort on a cricket pitch where they scored over 300, and Kyle Coetzer scored an elegant record setting 150 plus (the best ever for an associate nation batsman) against a Bangladesh team who held their nerve to overturn a large total and start to show the world their improvement on the big stage. Not to mention the absolute low scoring classic between New Zealand and Australia in Auckland where New Zealand managed to push over the Aussies (just) for the first time in more than five years.
All in all I managed to see 13 games out of the available 49 which is a pretty good average for such a vast tournament, and loved every second of it.
Even the weather was pretty good for the entire two months of my adventure with only three days of rain or bad weather affecting my travels. Towards the end of my time in Australia I realised that, even in Melbourne (where you can get four seasons in one day) the weather was more reliable than the weather in Scotland and I started venturing out in sunny weather with just my shorts and T-shirt and not a whole second wardrobe “just in case” the weather turned nasty on me. Yep. As clichéd as it is to say so, one of the highlights of the whole trip was the weather. Beautiful one day, beautiful the next.
And I can honestly say that his has been one of the best holidays I have ever had in my life.
Sunshiny days with genuine warmth behind them, watching cricket with friends, family or even by myself, embiggened a sense of optimism in me that I knew I would end up envying as some point in the future ... but perhaps that was just my Scottish pessimism coming through there. Or maybe this optimism would last forever ... but perhaps that was just my Australian optimism talking there!!!Quite the conundrum. Better take a few days kicking back on the couch to think this one over.
1/4/15 - 4/5/15
There were four days till I had to catch my flight back to Scotland. Four days of kicking my heels waiting for a plane. Four days trying not to get to underfoot at My Melbourne mate, Myles, and his lovely wife, Anita, feet. For the life of me I can't remember why I left it five days after the final to get a flight home but I’m sure there was some logical reason. I know that one of those days was put aside as a rain day for the final but even that left me with 4 days twiddling my thumbs. It must have been so that I could spend some quality time catching up with Myles without the distraction of the cricket being on, or maybe it was just so I could get some proper relaxing done before I was back into my day job at home and boring everyday life resumed. Whatever the reason I had plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine, enjoy relaxing and think about all the good things I had been able to enjoy on this trip.
There were many great things about this trip, most of which I had already realized were great at the time, but there was one that was particularly good that I didn't even realize was great until late into the trip as it just kinda crept up on me without me even realizing it.
And that was my friendship with Myles.
We had always been friends, even if we came to be friends through a roundabout way (my wife and his sister are workmates (and friends too) and Wife and Myles became friends through that association and also through walking each other home, often via the pub, after work. Eventually I met the young man who was leading my Wife astray, but failing to out drink her, and Myles and I became friends too (whereby we both failed to outdrink Wife).
It was always a loose and easy friendship with plenty of common ground to tie us together but lacking any serious glue of shared experience over a long period of history to bind us in any serious way. But we did have an uncanny knack of knowing when the other one was at a loose end and fancied a couple of pints that could, and often did, turn into a big night out.
Myles married an Australian girl (the lovely Anita), moved out to Australia where they started Australia's first cat cafe “Cat Cafe Melbourne”, continued to develop his drawing and became a published Comic book author.
I was sad to lose him to Australia but glad to find out that he settled in Melbourne as it was one of the rare cities in Oz where I don't have any relatives living in. I teased him about crashing on his couch for the world cup for five years before the event rolled around. When it became a reality I was worried that perhaps we wouldn't get on as we had before. Times change, situations change, people change and friendships change too. What if things weren't as easy going as they were previously? I had a month to bludge off his hospitality (more or less) and no plan B if things turned toward the cold end of the shoulder.
I needn't have worried though as things were as they were when we were back in Scotland. Fun, easy, laugh a minute with healthy doses of taking the piss out of each other the last four days were littered with good times and good laughs with a good friend. We talked about everything and nothing, from starting a movement to bring back a modern interpretation of the “Carry On” films, debating the merits of different songs featuring the concept of ‘our house’ through the prism of class structure, to deciding what each of us would get if the other was to die (Myles would get my DVD collection from me while I would get nothing from him except the memories I already have!!! Which might sound a bit unfair but I’m sure I have the better end of the deal.)
Four days of sunshine, smiles, fabulous food adventures and marvelling at how many times that “Slow Ride” song kept coming up from out of nowhere.
Four days of reading back over my old diary entries and loosely working out a loose plan to add his loose art to my loose words.
Four days of looking back over modern adventures, old escapades, and making fantastic new memories to take away with each other for future tropes to thread through our life.
One such trope that will live on in our friendship is the phrase “Turned out nice again.”
It was just a phrase started coming up in normal conversation, usually when I was talking about the weather clearing up in the afternoon or an average day out turning into a brilliant one. Myles always repeated the phrase back to me in some sort of bizarre accent (that was supposed to be some sort of northern England accent but was nothing at all like it) and although I didn't get the reference I was happy to play along with it taking the trope to sillier and sillier heights until, on my last day, after I had finished packing and was just sitting around being a little bit stressed about the impending 30 hour flight back to Scotland we stumbled across the George Formby movie called “Turned out nice again” playing on midday television and both laughed our asses silly about it. The chances against something like that happening must be astronomical and yet, here we were, two silly grown men, almost laughing ourselves to the point of unconsciousness, over some ridiculous running joke between us that, by a simple coincidence, had been reflected and amplified back towards us.
The laughter kept us company all the way to Southern Cross where I finally climbed into the skybus for the last time. Despite being determined not to give way to sentimentality, we ended up hugging each other goodbye three times before I turned to go through the bus door. As I walked through I heard Myles yell after me, like some overprotective parent “Sit up front with the driver and wait for him to tell me when to get off.” Embarrassed beyond belief and struggling with my 20kg suitcase I tried to hurry down the skybus as far as possible to get away from this embarrassment but not before I heard Myles telling the driver “ It’s his first time on a plane and he's a little worried can you make sure the wee laddie get off at the right stop.”
When I eventually found a seat I turned to glare out the window only to find Myles there laughing at me and my mortification. I joined in the laughter too and we were still laughing as the bus pulled away from Southern Cross taking me away from Melbourne, out to the airport, and back to Scotland. A single tear rolled down my cheek at leaving such a great friendship behind and the official coming to an end of the second best holiday of my life, ever.
But I was on the way home now. Back to my live, my wife and my cat, all of which I was desperate to get back to having not seen them for two months, and the sunshine quickly dried my tear away.It turned out nice again.