As the hills around the Basin Reserve burn, along with the Black Caps’ chances, Samuel Flynn Scott turns to a legend’s blood-stained shirt in a search for salvation.
Day 2: A day in hell
Mt Victoria is on fire. Genuinely burning. It’s unnerving for the crowd. Is it affecting the players? Guptill holes out, Latham is dropped, Williamson gets off to a nervy start. Day three is usually when the Black Caps fight back at the Basin. Today, at the tail end of a mostly terrible test, it seems even the elements are conspiring against them.
It started so promisingly. As Guptill and Latham headed out to bat, a morbidly hung-over individual sitting in the dust of what was once the grass embankment moaned a greeting, leaned toward my 5-year-old son and said, “I am Dustin, Dustin the Oracle… I’ve been drinking too much piss mate!”. He continued. “Don’t worry guys I predicted it all. We’d lose the toss as per, get rolled, Australia would pile on the runs and then Kane will get New Zealand’s first 400…Glorious draw in the bag.” He took a swig from his 3 litre bottle of water; “Fuck I feel like shit! Oh little dude you’ve got a juice carton. Sorted. I wish I was young and all I needed was a cold juice to make life perfect.”
Dustin The Oracle had a massive ginger beard and a well-worn Black Caps beige strip. I wanted to believe him. Maybe I did believe him. Today would be a good day. After all Corey “Coriander” Anderson had caught and bowled Nathan Lyon with a flying front flip. Surely that was a good omen. The fire in the hills would be seen off, the shine on the useless Kookaburra ball would be seen off.
As the smoke kept billowing from the hills, my hope faded. Wickets began to fall.
Damn you Dustin, you were wrong.
I’m here with my father and my son. Three generations of dudes that love cricket but can’t play it for peanuts. To be fair to young Ralph he probably only says he loves cricket to keep me happy and I shouldn’t really be ‘sports shaming’ a five year old. Two things I know he does love: Brendon McCullum and the New Zealand Cricket Museum. I’m not sure quite why he loves McCullum so much, but at New Zealand primary schools Big Macca sits somewhere between BB-8 and Silentó (he of the Whip Nae Nae) as one of the foremost cultural icons of our time.
As I’m hoping we won’t see Brendon bat for a few hundred overs, we decide to take in the hallowed surrounds of the museum. Its social media branch have caught wind of our visit (yay Twitterati!) and we are met by the mysterious Jamie, who has offered to show us into their secret vaults.
Jamie leads us to his archive of treasures. It’s deep in the bowels of the crumbling museum stand and with all this talk of earthquakes, it’s a little unnerving. But it’s a beautiful building with a grand entrance and friendly ghosts. We have lost so much beautiful architecture in this country. Somehow saving this building would be a wonderful thing.
We continue past a series of sacred artifacts until we get to the museum’s most remarkable hidden gem: a test shirt splattered with the blood of none other than New Zealand’s Finest Ever Batsman™, Martin Crowe. Some scholars say the blood spatters doth bare the likeness of the one they call Kane’ye Williamson, others argue that it is Ross Taylor-Swift who has been revealed in the blood of the first prophet. Regardless, it is truly a thing of power. When Crowe received a Bruce Reid ball to the chin on that fateful day in Christchurch he was forced to retire on 51*. Groggy and bleeding, he received ten stitches and slept off what we can only speculate was a mild concussion. He returned to the crease on the ill advice of John Wright and Glenn Turner, but somehow batted on to a glorious 137.
We need some of that grit now. If not blood, our batsmen at least need to spill their isotonic sports drink-infused sweat as they grind through session after session of glorious slow cricket.
Alas, they don’t. In the final over of the day New Zealand lose their 4th wicket. It’s McCullum. This test has two days to go, the Black Caps are 178 for 4, 201 runs and an innings behind Australia.
New Zealand managed 680/8 against India here in 2014 and 524/5 last year against Sri Lanka. Can we do it again? Can the flying Coriander Son be our hero with the bat? It’s time for another generation to embrace the spirit of the Shroud Of Martin and Crowe and make some serious runs against the odds.