December 10th, 2005

New Zealand

The glory of cricket + New Zealand winning a superb victory = happy Axver.

I get the feeling I just watched one of the greatest games of one day cricket ever, and definitely the best I've ever seen myself. I never thought anything would top the game I saw in person a few years ago at the 'Gabba in Brisbane, this amazing match between New Zealand and South Africa where I had my head in my hands halfway through, thinking we'd totally lost, only to watch Chris Cairns score an awesome century to win the game (and leave the South African guy beside me who was so happy earlier pretty much in tears at the end). But my goodness, that game between New Zealand and Australia in Christchurch just then was pretty bloody spectacular. New Zealand broke a world record!

For the uninitiated, Collapse )

Australia batted first and at the end of their innings, Hussey went nuts. He scored 88 off only 56 deliveries and Australia ended their fifty overs with 7/331. In other words, New Zealand had to score 332 to win, an almost impossible target. To add to that, we've lost our last seven games. I didn't think we were going to do this, not in my wildest dreams. Lou Vincent came out and started to bat up a storm, but when he was dismissed for 39 off 33 with Fleming and Astle already dismissed before him, we started to look really shaky at 3/61. But then Styris started to get going. He was soon joined by Chris Cairns, our famous big hitter, and when he fell after scoring a meagre 6 off 11, stepbrother Robby declared "that's the match", thinking there was no way the Kiwi team, now on 6/194, could reach 331 without Cairns and with only seventeen overs remaining.

Oram then came out to join Styris and they turned it on. Styris scored a century, but when Oram fell for 42 (37) and Styris followed him two balls later with 101 (96) with seven overs still to go and New Zealand trailing by over seventy runs with just two wickets left, I thought we were gone for all money. We needed more than ten an over!

Then out came McCullum and our awesome captain and man-of-all-talents, Daniel Vettori himself. McCullum set Lancaster Park on fire, racing to his fifty off just 25 balls, a strike rate of 200! Vettori, meanwhile, had been scoring mainly singles and allowed McCullum the majority of the strike, but with two overs to go, he came to the fore. We had to score 20 runs off 12 balls to win, and if we were to do it, it would be the most any team batting second had ever scored to win a game in international cricket.

Out came Lewis to bowl the penultimate over, a newbie for Australia. First ball of the over, Vettori scored a single to give McCullum the strike. 19 to get off 11 balls remaining. Second ball, McCullum absolutely picked it up and smashed the ball over the fence for six. 13 off 10. McCullum put the third ball of the over away for a single and Vettori returned to the strike, 12 off 9 to go. Victory was so close that it felt tangible. Fourth ball of the over, Lewis runs in and bowls - and with superb timing, Vettori, once the bowling genius who barely even knew what end of the bat to hold, whacked the ball for six! I just stared incredulously. 6 off 8. Five overs ago, we needed more than ten runs an over, but now we needed less than a run a ball - and Danny didn't let up. Fifth ball of Lewis's over, smashed away for four! 2 to win, 7 balls remaining! Just one run behind Australia's score. And then Lewis bowled a wide. He handed the draw to us on a platter. All I could do was laugh. Scores level: 1 to win off 7 balls! Final ball of Lewis's over, and he's already gone for 19. Vettori hits, runs - it's a single, it's all we need, New Zealand wins 8/332 and breaks the world record with an entire over to spare! Australia had previously chased down and beaten 326 put on the board by England, and now New Zealand has chased down Australia's 331 and clinched the world record!

Absolutely amazing. I didn't think we'd hold a world record like this. Lowest score ever, quickest dismissal, worst performance by a respectable cricket country - that's the kind of thing the cynic in me expected. Talk about surpassing all my expectations. I don't even care Australia won the previous two games, and I've forgotten about the heartbreak of losing by just two runs in Wellington in the last game - we've got the world record and done something no-one would've said we could do! That was such a thrilling game to watch.

And I bet only a couple of you even really understand what I'm talking about, or read what I just wrote. Well, it's not my problem the rest of you aren't familiar with the national sport of over a sixth of the world's population. One billion Indians can't be wrong!