Sam Scott watches Adam Voges score 176* as Australia clinically dismember the Black Caps on a punishingly hot day at the Basin Reserve.
As I peer out from under my giant “ladies hat” the field looks an out of focus wash of white on green. Something inside me has broken. It’s a blistering 24 degrees, which for some reason always feels like 42 in Wellington. The embankment at the Basin Reserve has become Jabba’s barge, the Basin itself the cruel desert of Tatooine, and Usman Khawaja the sarlecc, his fiendish tentacles latching on to anything short or too straight. Surely we are done for. There is no hope. If only we had some cloud cover to help with swing or a little moisture in the pitch. Damn you El Niño!
An odd thing happens in the crowd when test matches are going really bad for the home team. People stop paying all that much attention. Is there any sport where thousands of people just sort of vague out for an hour or two? If I were at home I’d turn it off in the superstitious hope that we’ll suddenly play well if I’m not watching. These superstitions have a track record in my life. I’ll never forget the day dad said, “QUICK, turn on the telly, Martin Crowe is on 299!”
Lunch break comes as a mercy. A wonderful anomaly of the Basin Reserve is that they open the field up to the public when the players depart. Spontaneous games of one-hand-one-bounce or bat-down backyard cricket erupt all over the oval. The serious cricket nerds have a closer look at the pitch (“brown, flat and true, what losing by an innings looks like” reported a knowledgeable, if pessimistic, friend). The pitch invasion is a great symbol of the openness of the Basin to us Wellington folk. When there is no game on, it makes up part of the cycle root from Newtown to the city. Unlike most stadiums, the food on offer is varied and not entirely disgusting. It’s never seen the kind of beer controversies damning its northern cousin. And it is of course home to the wonderful cricket museum. More on that place tomorrow, when I attempt to watch cricket and write an article with a five-year-old at my side.
But today I have no child to entertain. I’m in no mood to wander out for a look at the flat, brown pitch. Like Andre Agassi hating tennis, I wonder if I am starting to hate cricket.
I have two options. Eat deep-fried rotten flesh on a stick and die in the sun before our bowlers get one measly wicket or go get brunch like the piece-of-shit brunch-eating middle class asshole I am and come back for the new ball.
I opt for option two, and go meet some friends who don’t care about cricket. As we munch our late brunch, which due to the hour of day should really be referred to as “lunch”, I ask myself; “would it not be nicer to just go home and garden… maybe check the score in a few hours?”
But I will not use this position of privilege to take the easy option and let my team down. I’m here for you Trent “the gent, balti” Boult, you’re my bulzi! Give a man a fish and he’ll say “that’s a bit weird, but thanks”, give Trent Boult the new ball and he’ll take some wickets.
And he did.
Two in the one over. Oh sweet relief. The second came after a failed DRS review for NZ and was an acrobatic caught and bowled.
But there is really no way to gloss over the truth; this really has been a boring day. Khawaja played some great shots, Boult bowled one heck of an over and the old-man/new-guy in the Oz team, Adam Voges made yet another century in his brief career. As of today he is averaging over 100! Better than Don Bradman. Ridiculous. Still though, in a summer of strange umpiring processes and DRS meltdowns, Voges may have had the weirdest reprieve yet. Clean bowled on 7 in the last over yesterday, he was saved by the delivery being called a no-ball. It wasn’t. Ironically, Doug Bracewell has been bowling countless no-balls today and getting away with all of them. Cricket and technology aren’t getting on so great this summer.
But New Zealand shouldn’t be looking for excuses. They simply aren’t playing as well as Australia. It’s day two blues, and the sold out crowd might be feeling a little let down. But hey, the weather is nice and you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. The problem is, you also can’t beat Australia.