ICC World Cup 2015 – New Zealand v Australia: One For the Ages

by Wayne Ball


Before coming to Auckland, I thought I’d do the right thing and buy all my merchandise from the locals, instead of importing it from Sydney.  An extensive search of the city found no merchandise available for sale anywhere.  Apart from some bunting on the light posts around the city central, you wouldn’t think there’s a major event on in town.

There is one store called “Champions of the World” and their sales plan is a direct cut from Henry Ford’s business plan.  You can buy any jersey you like, so long as it’s ALL BLACK. There’s the new 2015 model for $150, then there’s the “reduced to clear” 2014 mode for $90.  It’s the same jersey.

Finally it’s game day and I’m the only person in a yellow shirt on the train to Kingsland, and the mood is quite jovial.  The locals are hoping McCallum does an AB deVelliers from last night’s match at the SCG.  I’m hoping he does a Chris Gayle.

On arrival into Eden Park, both teams are on the field warming up.  The Black Caps are in Port Adelaide teal, the Australian Grade Cricket Club (so far, they only play on Saturday afternoons) are in their lime green tracksuits.

It’s 26 degrees, no cloud over the stadium, but there’s cumulo nimbus behind both the east and west terraces.

The crowd is building, but is only a quarter full when Michael Clarke wins the toss and elects to bat.

There’s an occasional smattering of yellow, but most of the crowd are hoping to win their share of a million South Pacific peso’s in their orange shirts.

The teams are introduced on the big screens, not much reaction for the Australians, but there are loud boo’s for Johnson and Warner.  A mark of respect for the biggest threats to your opponents.

Last name listed is Shane Watson.  This is accompanied by a warning about the recent discovery of Queensland Fruit Fly in Auckland.  Can the fruit fly replace Watto at number three?

Little kiddies in red shirts carry out large flags of the two nations.  On the day we woke to the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, these red shirts know they won’t be around for much longer.

The Umpires, referee, third and fourth umpires make their way to the ceremony, followed by the teams.  And the joint is suddenly full to brimming.

Advance Australia Fair comes from the speakers with the strains of Julie Anthony.  She is such an accomplished singer, it makes it almost impossible for anyone else to sing along with, particularly that last strain of Advance Australia Fair.

The crowd sings both the Maori and English versions of God Defend New Zealand.  You get the feeling something special is going to happen here today.

Southee takes the new ball at the Southern end. Wide, 3, wide, 1, 4, dot, 1, 4 byes.  That last one should have been 4 wides down the leg side.

Second over and Warner hits a top edged six and the next over Finch an on drive for six.  These straight boundaries are ridiculously too small.

Next ball Finch tries to repeat the effort but is cleaned Bowled by a Southee in swinger.  The crowd as one erupts and it’s a great sound as the locals get behind their lads.

1-30 and its only the third over. Watto is gifted a leg stump full toss which he whips to the long square leg boundary.  It’s followed up by another, but it’s only two.  1 – 36 from three.

1-50 from 5.3 overs.

Boult is clearly the more dangerous of the two opening bowlers.

Vettori replaces Southee at the South end.

Suddenly the scoring rate slows as Watto looks scratchy and Vettori kept Warner to just two from his first over.

After having Watto on toast, Boult comes around the wicket and is dispatched for four. 1-68 after 10.

Southee replaces Boult from the north with a wide, but he’s hooping it around.

50 run partnership is up but next ball Watto dutifully bunts one to the man at deep mid wicket to be out for 23.  The fruit fly, meanwhile, is still of concern to the home country.

A round of boo’s greets the Michael Clarke to the crease, it’s 2-80 from 13.

Warner is then caught plum in front next ball from Southee. Why review?  LBW for 34.

Smith joins the skipper.  Two new batsmen at the crease and neither are yet to face a ball.

3-87 after 15.

Pressure, what pressure?  These two skippers look assured.  The third skipper for the year is the 12th Man today.

Interesting field from McCullum for Clarke, two short covers.

3-94 at drinks.

First over after the break and Smith is caught behind off Vettori. 4-95 and there’s still more than 30 overs to go here.

Boult is back from the north end.  Maxwell and Marsh came and went very meekly.  Haddin strides to the crease like a man who’s been here and done it before.  It’s time to dig in as it’s 6-97.

Clarke then fends one to Williamson at one of those short cover positions and the tail is exposed, 7-104

I came here to experience this very small stadium where you can see the faces of the people on the other side of the ground. The atmosphere was at fever pitch as the crowd began buying for blood.  The locals around me were saying it doesn’t get this loud at Bledisloe.

Suddenly Clarke is gone and in quick succession so is Johnson and Starc.  9-106.

Australia are down to their last man, Pat Cummins.  I saw him score a hundred for Penrith in the Sydney Grade Comp while he was on hiatus from bowling.  It was no surprise to me to see him on driving and looking mostly comfortable out there.  Haddin, however, had other ideas.  Suddenly he was refusing runs so as to hold the strike.  We have forsaken some important runs.

We reach 124, and the locals next to me say “you’ve scored more than England.”  I jump up and cheer “We beat Eng-er-land, we beat Eng-er-land.”

Haddin lost his wicket trying to hit a boundary.  Dismissed in the 33rd over for a miserable 151, and New Zealand will start their innings before the dinner interval, just as they did against England.

Johnson starts from the north end with a no ball that goes for four. The free hit next ball is hit over cover for six.  Eleven from the first ball bowled and McCullum yet to face.  The crowd are beying for a quick execution.

The bowling plan is clear, pitch it up and swing it around, just like Trent Boult did.  The ball isn’t swinging.

After 3.2 overs of carnage Clark changes the plan. Two men now out on the hook and a short leg is now in place along with three slips.  We need 10 wickets, so a test match plan of attack it becomes.

The runs slow as the Kiwi openers don’t have the freedom to bunt the half volleys to the short straight boundaries.

The ball is now coming through at chest height and thumping into Haddin’s gloves.  The mood in the crowd has changed.  They know it’s now game on.

Clarke is methodical with each field placement.  A delaying tactic, to be sure, to slow the momentum down.

And then it happens, a Johnson short ball stays down and smacks into McCullum’s left elbow.  That hurt and we all felt it in the stadium.  The game is delayed a good ten minutes.  It’s still only the third over of the innings and it’s 0-35.

Then Guptill drives Starc to Cummins at mid off and it’s one for 40, then McCullum brings up his 50 from 23 balls and is then caught in deep cover by Starc from the bowling of Cummins.

Starc replaced Johnson at the northern end and his first ball swings in viciously and bowls Taylor for one. That’s dinner, 3-79 after 8.1 overs.

My new found mates for the day tell me “you’ve taken more wickets than England did.”  We celebrate together at just how crap the poms are.

During the break we are treated to the induction of Martin Crowe to the ICC Hall of Fame.  New Zealand’s first 2 inductees were Sir Richard Hadlee and Debbie Hockley.  Crowe says in his speech he’s the first North Islander to be added to the Hall of Fame.

Starc resumes his over after the break and again the ball hoops in and breaks the wicket of Elliott. He’s on a hat-trick.

The danger man is Williamson, he’s waiting for someone to work with him to run down this total before more wickets fall.  Corey Anderson is up to the challenge, a collapse is averted and they are comfortably running down the chase.

Something has to change and Clarke literally goes for the change of pace and brings Maxwell on from the south.  Anderson tries to get him past mid on, but Cummins takes the catch down low.  Everyone in the stadium saw it was a clear catch, but the video umpire feels the need to try to justify his existence as super slow mo and super magnified pixelated footage casts some doubt on the catch.

The crowd cheers hoping to influence the outcome, but the dismissal stands.  5-131.

By now there is a cause of a near riot in the North stand.  The group next to me have learnt new drinks service restrictions started at 7pm.  Only one beer per person in the queue – no buying for anyone else.  I offer to defuse the situation, declaring that it’s time for my shout.  My kind offer was politely declined.

Ronchi is the new man and slogs Maxwell into the southern stand.

Johnson has to be replaced at the North end and Clarke turns to Starc again.  New Zealand only need a dozen to win.

Ronchi knicks one to Haddin and it’s 6-139.  Vettori is greeted by a standing ovation, his experience will get them to the finish line.

Cummins is back on from the south end and Vettori hits one straight to Warner and now the NZ tail is exposed.  7-145.

Williamson takes a single off Starc, exposing Milne.  He lasts two balls, Southee only one.  Starc is on a hattrick for the second time this match.  Do we dare to dream?  The stadium is now as quiet since before they opened the gates at 12.30.

There’s only one ball left in the over.  For mine this is the game.  It leaves his hand and it just won’t swing back and innocently passes the popping crease wide of the off stump.  Boult survives.

This is it. Williamson has had a front row seat to the mother of all fight backs.  He is the last man standing in a nation’s desire to beat their big neighbours across the ditch.

Cummins pitches up, it’s straight, and Williamson benefits from the frightfully short straight boundary.  New Zealand win and the crowd is delirious.

Once the dust has settled, I’m still sitting in seat 17, row TT, bay 407 in the North Stand, the people who have seen me cheer each wicket of the fightback came and offered their condolences. Friendly handshakes all around.  Everyone said how much they enjoyed a game that will live on in our memories for a long time to come.

The walk back to the train station, and on the train.  It was all good natured conversations as everyone shared the roller coaster that was this match.

Eden Park is a modern and well laid out stadium.  If you get the chance to come here for a Bledisloe or a Chappell/Hadlee trophy game, do it.

A nice city, wonderful hospitality and not an unpleasant moment from arrival until the delayed departure.



Follow Wayne Ball on Twitter – @wtball73


About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

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