Stories from Prison – ICC World Cup Semi-Final: New Zealand v South Africa

Four Kiwis locked up together, with their eyes locked onto the prison TV set. My single cell has been selected as the viewing grandstand for what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch New Zealand play a World Cup semi in our own backyard. Sadly we are thousands of kilometres away, not exactly enjoying Australian ‘hospitality’, but that is the price we are paying for our stupid actions.

South Africa win the toss and elect to bat.  My fellow inmates are OK with this.  Boult and Southee the New Zealand quicks have been in sublime form so far in the tournament.  After claiming some early scalps the mood in my cell is positive and energetic – just like New Zealand’s fielding.  The Eden Park crowd (a 48,000 sellout) are well and truly behind the boys.  On more than one occasion I catch myself imagining what it would be like to be there.  The lads in my cell start a “Kiwis” chant……oh well, it’s the next best thing.

A middle order partnership with an ever threatening AB de Villiers sees South Africa cruise past 200.  Then the match takes a dramatic turn as the land of the long white cloud delivers some dark grey ones.  At midday the match is postponed due to a classic Auckland downpour.  Meanwhile, in prison a siren sounds signalling the midday lunch muster.  Time to recoup and discuss the merits of the Duckworth-Lewis system for calculating scores in rain delayed matches.  Will it result in a fair outcome for both teams?

The match resumes a couple of hours later with a restricted number of overs due to the rain.  New Zealand are still in the driver’s seat but a late showing by the Proteas tail end sees them post a competitive total of 281 runs.  Four Kiwi inmates have a tense wait for the Duckworth-Lewis deliberations and the adjusted target for the Black Caps is set at 298 from 43 overs.  Come on boys – step up.

Brendon McCullum answers a nation’s prayers, smashing a blistering half century from not nearly as many balls.  Blasting their way past 70 without the loss of a wicket and New Zealand appears in control.  Our celebrations are abruptly brought to a halt as McCullum’s wicket brings South Africa back into the game.  The Eden Park crowd are becoming more vocal, as are my cellmates.

New Zealand appear to be on track when there are 100 runs required with 50 balls remaining, but ample wickets in hand.  Elliot and Anderson have built a solid partnership.

“Patience lads – no need to panic.”

But two wickets fall in quick succession and our expletives can be heard from across the prison.  Other inmates gather at my door wondering what all the fuss is about.

“It’s alright, just the bloody Kiwis at it, watching their team again.”

Elliot remains at the crease and is joined by a true legend of New Zealand cricket in Daniel Vettori.  Could this be our last roll of the dice?  Butterflies in all our stomachs as we are glued to the TV set, willing our team over the line.

Twelve runs required from the final over and the Kiwis are still in with a chance, but momentum is favouring the Proteas.

“What is Vettori doing at the crease?”

“Rotate the bloody strike.”

As if to prove us wrong, Dan the Man shows us why he has been a stalwart of New Zealand cricket for well over a decade.  Sizing up a marginally wide delivery he full stretch slices the ball through square leg for four.


After a dropped catch that prompted a near heart attack in me, Elliot is at the crease with New Zealand requiring 6 runs from two balls.  We can hardly bear to watch as our nation’s hopes rest on a knife’s edge.

“Play it safe bro, hit a four.”

Then it happens, a moment I’ll never forget.  Charging down the pitch Elliot smashes a glorious drive up in the air.  Time slows.  Our hearts race.

“GO. GO. GO……….The ball is caught……………….by a spectator high up on the second terrace…………………….YOU LITTLE RIPPER.”

In that moment the four of us were all kings.  It felt like the scene from the Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne plays opera over the prison PA system.

For a few glorious minutes we are transported –free – among the thousands of screaming Kiwis at Eden Park.

A Kiwi prison officer comes in to check on us.  He is grinning from ear to ear.  I want to high five him, but even touching an officer can get you on charges.  We all know the rules.  But in that moment we are men together; Kiwis together; not guard and prisoner.

What a match.  What a win.  What a feeling.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good stuff the inside man you can feel your emotion and excitement . A honest perspective is you admit you are inside for your own stupid actions good luck for the future . ( we Delayed the start of a Ad Uni FC meeting to watch the finish and the majority of us were barracking for the kiwis )

  2. Being engrossed in a sporting contest can tear down the walls. It was a terrific game, Inside Man. Great summary from you with a very different perspective. Well played.

  3. John Butler says

    Nice work Inside.

    The shared experience of sport, no matter your viewing situation.

    Elliot played a blinder this night, in the game of the tournament.


  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Inside Man,

    I didn’t watch this game so I have now lived with your experience of the game, bar the bars. Keep writing. Great tale well told. My sister, ever the stirrer, was happily barracking for the Kiwi’s against Australia. They were being cheered for wide and long, not just in your cell or your country. Sports bring us all together, in some of the best ways.


  5. E.regnans says

    G’day Inside,
    Thanks for writing your account.
    A couple of things strike me about this;
    The nature of a shared experience is one. I guess all of us will one day end up as a collection of stories; built on shared experiences. When we’re dead that’s all we are, perhaps.

    Another is the value of having a go.
    As NZ did this night.
    And as you have here.

    NZ and the way they played were, in a lot of ways, the real winners of the World Cup.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Inside Man, wonderful writing. What a fantastic, tension filled game that was. Glad you and your Kiwi inmates got to see it. All the best, hope your time inside is relatively short, and keep writing.

  7. Brilliant write up on one of the greatest one day games I can remember

  8. I watched this nail-biter myself, and was suitably impressed with the bull-by-the-horns approach to the run chase. Brilliant stuff, made all the more enjoyable by all the excited Kiwis in the commentary box and out on the terraces.

    Nicely written – took me back to the moment, and your observations of how moments like this can transport you resonate strongly.

  9. It was a great tournament, eh? The Minnows provided some thrills and The To & Froms were sent home early All good for cricket. But I’ll tell you what, those Kiwis were a revelation. Need to see more of them Inside. I guess we will, with a one-off Rugby test coming up. That should give you something the cheer about Mate. Can’t see us getting within cooee of The All Blacks.

  10. Inside man – sport can be a great escape for sure – no pun intended. glad you and your bros enjoyed the Kiwi’s fantastic efforts in this WC – just a pity it wasnt closer in the Final tho’ an Aussie supporter. A great write up reliving the tension, excitement & ultimate exultation from across the detch. Hang in there and keep on putting pen to paper! cheers

  11. Well played, Inside Man.
    That semi final was the match of the tournament.
    I went to the final, but unfortunately the Kiwis didn’t bring their A game.

  12. Peter Crossing says

    Great report on a game where the fortunes ebbed and flowed and which produced a sensational finale. Best wishes.

  13. Great game and great report bro.

  14. Thanks for that Inside. A great account of a great match.

    Lots of excellent lines, but

    In that moment the four of us were all kings. It felt like the scene from the Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne plays opera over the prison PA system.

    struck me especially.

    Look forward to more.

  15. Nice one.

    Now can you explain what the bloody hell McCullum was doing in the final?

  16. Thanks all for your positive and motivating feedback. I just spoke to the Inside Man and read him all your comments. He was very touched and that connection is a powerful motivating force to keep him focussed on turning his life around. I will photocopy and mail the article and comments to him (no internet in prison).
    He says his next article will be about the 4 team footy comp inside prison. Played on a half size oval with 30 footy’s in reserve as “out on the full” has a special meaning behind the razor wire. Things move slowly with corresponding from prison so the article is probably 2 to 3 weeks away. IM tells me the 4 prison teams are the Bombers, Hawks, Saints and Tigers.
    All sound like criminals to me.

  17. Resourceful Miss says

    I have no idea about cricket. I was put onto this article by someone I know. What a beautifully articulated account of patriotism, camaraderie and an acknowledgement of self-responsibility. Writing is a great escape and you obviously have a gift IM. Keep on writing, please.

Leave a Comment