Samuel Flynn Scott watches the Black Caps, and his newfound high hopes, implode in a nostalgia-soaked first innings at the Basin Reserve.
The lead up to this test series against Australia has been intense. For one thing, it’s Australia. Secondly, we have expectations now. This is new for the Black Caps fan, to go into a series with Australia thinking “we might win this.” Then there is the retiring Captain Fantastic factor. Brendon McCullum playing his 100th test, his second-to-last ever. He’s won over the entire country (apart from sports grinch Mark Reason, who seemingly hates to see us win) but it’s time for Big Mac to go make some good honest T20 cricket millions hitting the ball with gay abandon and also spend a bit more time with the humans and horses in his life. He hasn’t missed a test in 12 years and he’s got chronic back problems. His work is done.
So day one at the Basin, sold out (this never happens). Random strangers are striking up cricket conversations in the streets. Our Wellington rent-a-crowd-Twitterati-liberal-bubblers are taking a break from Bernie Sanders memes to ask the question:
CAN NEW ZEALAND WIN THE TOSS FOR ONCE?
You bet your ass we can’t.
The Black Caps would’ve been keen to have a bowl on the first day. After losing the toss yet again and seeing their batsmen eviscerated by Australia’s green bowling attack on a green pitch, they ended up getting their chance. The first session was absolutely terrible for New Zealand. The second session could’ve been even worse if not for a signature New Zealand tail-ender fight-back (Boult don’t hurt yourself hitting sixes you have to bowl soon!). But cricket is like that, you think you’re on top of the world and then Australia start playing like Australia and all it takes is ten good deliveries and it’s all over.
I’m sitting in my usual spot on the grass at fine 3rd man. Almost exactly where I sat to watch Macca bring up his glorious, career-defining 300. The mood that day was ‘ecstasy’ (perhaps literally, people did seem to be partying pretty hard). For me it felt like the dawn of a new era in our cricketing history. Today is understandably more subdued. Don’t be too glum guys! This isn’t the end of our hot streak. Is it? It’s not like our inspirational leader is retiring or anything. Err. It takes some heave-ho sixes from the guy who will become the world’s greatest bowler, Trent Boult, to pick up the spirits. It’s not so bad everyone. Have a Tui, have a pretend craft beer, have a sausage and enjoy the sun at least.
Josh Hazlewood (4/42) and Peter Siddle (3/37) are quality medium pace bowlers making the most of the opportunity given to them by the retirement of Ryan Harris and injury to Mitchell Starc. It’s not a threatening bowling attack on paper but they put the stupid red ball in the stupid right places on a good pitch and ruined my day. I’d like to hate them more but Siddle was fielding at 3rd man and to be honest he was being a good sport to the unruly morning session drunkards. To be fair to the drunkards, his name does rhyme with piddle.
So NZ all out for 183. At 7 for 97, it could have been much worse.
Why did we expect so much of them? Why did we listen to B Mac when he told us on those stupid bank ads to “DREAM BIG NEW ZEALAND”? I’m going to dream medium and hope you guys can bore us to death grinding out a draw because you have crushed my dreams, crushed them to death.
Of course under Mike Hesson and Brendon McCullum, New Zealand cricket has blossomed in recent years. The public are talking about the games, going to games and, foolishly perhaps, expecting us to win. I try to make it to at least a day or two of any test match on at the Basin. In recent years I’ve made it to more like four or five days per test and to be honest, I loved it all. Because even when we are being taken apart, as we were today, you know this team will fight back. The psyche has changed. Even against Australia you just feel we won’t panic.
So I try not to panic.
Test cricket is meditation for your average emotionally stunted human lifeform and as I drift towards middle age, I need this gentle sport to hang my hopes on. It’s five days long so surely at some point New Zealand will play well enough to fill the void carved into my soul by years of disappointment and jealousy. You don’t have to feel jealous of your national sports team. You own their success. You own their physical prowess. Being a sports fan is a sick, twisted business and I need that sweet, sweet patriotic juice.
At a time when more people than ever before seem emotionally invested in this ridiculous sport, today hasn’t been great. But it’s not over yet. Let’s see what we can do with the ball. Until then, “Dream medium New Zealand.”
UPDATE: At the time of posting, Australia are 35/2. Maybe start dreaming again a little bit.
Day 2: A day in hell