Thoughts from abroad – Kiwi style!

This is my last blog of my latest Southern Hemisphere journey. The next planned is Sri Lanka in March 2020 but who knows…?

I have had the MOST marvellous and wondrous time over the last six weeks or so. The people I’ve met in Oz and in NZ be they friends, rellies, fellow cricket nuts – old and new – or hoteliers, shopkeepers and restaurant teams, they have each and everyone of them made me feel welcome (after all it’s a bloody long way from anywhere) and some have even taken pity of a confused Pom as I wandered about clearly looking bewildered!

The welcome everywhere has been fantastic, the scenery and views just amazing and ever changing with each corner but what has impressed me the most is the warmth of the human spirit. Things can be done with the right attitude and being away from Brexit and the GE has been so refreshing as the U.K. seems to have spent since time began gazing at its navel and getting increasingly bitter and annoying with each passing hour. There is a lovely world out there – we Brits need to stop our infighting, decide what we want to do and get out there!

What’s impressed me about NZ is a range of things – it’s no longer the ‘UK in the 1950s’ which seemed to be a prevalent view some time ago. It’s not as fast as it’s Aussie cousin but it knows what it wants. Tourism and agriculture are the big things here; environmental issues and first-nation concerns are also important but there seems to be less of a disconnect between Maori people and the ‘interlopers’. But that may just be me and my impression.

On the lighter side, everything seems to close down early in the evening – it’s not been unusual for a pub to close or take last orders at 9.00 pm but if anyone wants to carry on, then it’s ok – for a little while anyway! Early closing hasn’t helped my liver – the range of beers here is astounding and the wines are great so, my liver could do with a rest!

Incidentally, shopping trolleys are called trundlers, skimmed milk is trim milk (couldn’t find any semi-skimmed), roads are sealed and not tarmac’d, a dairy is a local shop, a superette a small supermarket not much larger than a dairy.

An off-licence is a ‘Bottle-o’, spring water – natural water (as opposed to artificial) and hot dogs come on sticks with no bread roll!

In the past three weeks or so, I’ve seen the most wonderful scenery, natural phenomena, been processed like a tourist but also been off the beaten track – walking up mountains/hills, falling over on the flat bits, conquered my irrational fear of infrastructure held up by ‘string’, thrown myself down a tourist luge track over a dozen times, seen two tests – ok, the cricket was not the ‘crash bang wallop’ of what tests have become but more true to the meaning of the word ‘test’ – a test of character, skills, application, tenacity, method, technique, strategy and that’s just the spectators! And also watched long periods from grassy banks with the most stunning views (well, not perhaps in Hamilton – a city I would venture, put together at a town planners Christmas party when everyone had been at the sherry! I’m not impressed)

As in Oz, the approach to cricket is more relaxed than in England; it’s more family orientated, a much more relaxed experience overall and everyone – including the stewards – was most welcoming! Ok, there’s space to make cricket watching such an event but they have their stadia too! But it seems so much more pleasant.

So what’s the best bit I can hear my readers ask (well done, if you’ve reached this point)? Well, the answer is…come and see for yourself and you can decide!

I’ve taken over 2,000 photos on this trip so I hope the selection which follows gives a flavour of NZ and if I invite you round to see my holiday snaps and to talk about each one…I understand if you have a life!

All according to plan – Day 5, NZ v E

And so, the end is near…the final days play on this tour and heading back to the UK tomorrow.

Rain is forecast for most of the afternoon so England need lots of quick wickets if they’re to force a win. As I write on the approach to lunch, that hasn’t happened and nor has the forecast rain (yet). NZ reach 201/2 with Taylor 82 and Williamson 88. And the prospect of a wicket looks remote. Taylor and Williamson both exude class – the latter just has so much time. He’s a pleasure to watch and to travel the world to do so.

If the match peters out into a draw then England can look at two errors – not selecting a front line spinner and not batting when they won the toss. It would have given them a better chance but I suspect the pitch would have still come out on top.

Both pitches in NZ have been too dry and favoured batting too much but we are where we are but it was down to both sides to make something of it and NZ clearly did!

Five overs after lunch see both batsmen make their centuries – Root really bowled some filth to Taylor who dispatched him with disdain. The promised storm then came and washed the game away at 241/2 – eventually called off but as I write this (nominally in the last session but back at the hotel near the ground) its a fine sunny afternoon- but that’s life!

So…to conclude a few action shots from the morning session whilst I’ve time tomorrow and on the flight back home to compose a retrospective blog of the NZ part of the tour.

It’s a shame the match petered out but that’s the game!

Broad bowling from beside the wicket! New approach!
Stokes brings up some dust

This made their day! This has been a feature of both sides in the field every day – just connecting with the fans to make them feel ‘special’

And some question my fashion sense
Cloudy from ball one today

NZ v E Day 4 – the things you see!

There’s always things to see at a cricket match; be it the latest fashion, an interloper or even a spectator scoring. This is often a joy, is where art meets science – the art in a neat scoresheet, the science in the maths. Those who can do both are a rare breed.

Art or science or both?
Kiwi haute couture

Kiwi head gear
Spot the interloper

A morning of class – pure class from Pope and Root. Ok, it’s not the prime Kiwi attack and they didn’t look like taking a wicket but nonetheless you can only play the team presented.

Root progressed like a ship in full sail to 178 at lunch, Pope follows with 46 as England gain a lead of 4 off 138 overs.

The game is heading for a draw as rain is forecast for most of tomorrow but nonetheless the cricket is gripping. If anything, to my mind Pope is the classier player of the two!

From Root, pure class rather than graft as yesterday was but still as enjoyable. When I think about it, how lucky am I to be able to live the dream of test cricket in NZ…just unbelievable

Manhood practicing at lunch time. Looks a bit quick!

Drinks mid afternoon see England at 435/5 Pope 66 and Root 214 – the best individual test score ever at Seddon Park. Looking at the pitch at lunch, we could still be here in a weeks time and still no result. There’s nothing in the pitch to suggest otherwise.

Celebrating a double hundred
Slightly tangled up in a reverse sweep

Kiwi bowling is about as effective as England’s was but the scoring rate is increasing – a lead of 60 and with a bit of oomph could be 130/150 at tea which could cause some Kiwi embarrassment. Rain is forecast for tomorrow at about this time so England need to force the pace to stand any chance of winning.

Tea arrives with the departure of Broad and a total of 476 – lead of 101; Wagner 5/124 after (1 for probably a lot). England lose 5/21 in trying to set a decent target to put pressure on the Kiwis. If England can get among them by the end of the day…?

In forcing the pace, Pope goes for 75, Root 226 and the rest fold. The prospect of a result has increased but draw must still be the likely result.

After losing two quick wickets Williamson and Taylor restore order and by the end of the day are almost level. These two are sheer class too – NZ will need some succession planning!

Bouncers still fly tho’

The forecast infers a draw but…a few quick wickets tomorrow morning, a small score to chase before it rains? Who knows? What I do know is that there’ll be things to see!


Pope – doing a creditable job as stand in keeper

Tons for Burns and Root – 2nd test 3rd day NZ v E

Sunday dawned a fresher day than of late; warm early summer sunshine but a stronger breeze to reduce heat levels.

Another early start to catch up for the overs lost on Friday see England progress to 113/2 after 90 minutes – Burns reaching his 50 and Root nears his.

The locals are turning up in good numbers and with the touring parties, there’s a good crowd.

Kiwi haute couture not seen since the days of Bubbles de Vere

This is an ‘engine room’ session for England – build the foundation for power later on whilst NZ need to take wickets to sink the England boat. The track looks flatter and flatter and a Kiwi pundit call of England making 600 looks ridiculous but you never know.

Lunch 142/2 – Root 50 Burns 76 partnership 118; off 53 overs. Has all the hallmarks of a one innings ‘shoot out’ on day 5 if weather allows. Both look well set; Root needs to convert to silence critics, pitch looks close up v flat; indentation as expected.

Ask 100 people to stand in a field and watch grass grow…their reaction would be?

NZ bowlers struggling this morning as England did. All they need to do is draw to take the series!

By mid-afternoon, I’m annoyed- in fact very annoyed. I’ve travelled half way round the world to watch cricket and this afternoon session has seen Joe Root take a drink at 2.20pm, we had drinks at 2.40pm he then had another at 3.00pm and now it’s 3.30pm he’s had another and tea is 10 minutes away. If I’d wanted to watch people drink I’d have gone to the pub! And the umpires do nothing! If I’m shortchanged of overs at the end of the day…then Root owes everyone here a drink!

In the interim we’ve seen some fine strokes by Burns – cuts and drives a delight – and some gritty batting by Root as he reaches the 80s before tea. Burns went for 101 after an endless deliberation by the 3rd umpire and excellent fielding by NZ. England reach 215/3 as tea approaches.

Rory reaches his 100

Stokes goes for 26 and Crawley for 1 (v nervous) as England reach 266/5 at drinks. Root is 113no – not one of his finest innings but one of grit and grind and should help silence his critics for a while. However he still needed drinks at 4.45 pm, 4.50 pm and again now! Everyone was waiting each time just for him – this is not acceptable!

Creepy’s first ball!

Increasing cloud cover and a chill in the air all add to the Englishness of the situation.

Lights have just been switched on…we should get through the day! But no…as soon as the lights are on, it starts to rain (not forecast) and after 30 minutes or so, play for the day is abandoned with England 269/5 – 106 behind.

Draw seems most likely but who knows?

And finally…some action shots:

Kiwi bowling efforts

One of Root’s best shots