Cricket World Cup: Australia & New Zealand 2015
A Red Dragon at the Mardi Gras
Kia Ora all.
It has now been three days since the Wellington drubbing against New Zealand,and it is impossible to turn on the radio in the morning without listening to Kiwis basking in the glory of their fantastic win - this is how much it means over here.
In terms of the English press and media reaction, Sir Ian Botham has described the NZ game as the worst performance he has seen in one day cricket in forty years of playing for and watching England.
Michael Vaughan has been bemoaning the fact that England are too predictable by half,and has been fairly critical of Peter Moores.
KFC, the "Official Restaurant of the World Cup" now feature three special dedicated cricket meals called LBW, All rounder, and Hot Spot.
I am surprised they have not rushed out a selection of England themed dishes, featuring 90% chicken with a few ducks thrown in for good measure.
I'm afraid for me the gloves have now been removed for the duration of the World Cup regarding the performance of this England team, and if this upsets any readers, the off switch is within easy reach.
Still, even I must admit is is hard to stay down too long in a wonderful place like Wellington.
Known as the coolest small capital in the world, it fully lives up the billing, and the very Englishness of the place and its surrounds makes one feel immediately at home.
A mere look at the map gives it all away - Blenheim. Picton. Marlborough. Nelson.
The City was made what it is by an Englishman from St Helens, Richard Seddon, who is still New Zealands longest serving Prime Minister, and is known fondly by posterity as 'King Dick' - supposedly because of his autocratic leadership style!
We are staying at the Shepherds Arms on Tinakori road, which is at the top end of the city behind the Botanic Gardens.This old style pub features many pictures of politicians disguised as sheep, as well as sundry others of sheep grazing in various poses, so as you can imagine Welsh Wayne feels right at home.
We are surrounded by great pubs and restaurants, some with prices steep enough to make Lord Lofty's wallet run for cover.
And we are served by a regular bus service into the city centre. The bus service is made easier by the obtaining of a 'Snapper' card, which can then be then topped up at various shops and gives 20% discount on all fares. When you board the bus you tag on, and when you leave it you tag off - otherwise your card is charged with the full price of the bus route journey.
All sounds easy enough - unless your name happens to be Lofty.
After topping up his card with a miserly $10, each subsequent time he used the card the machine gave him a loud, spoken warning to 'CHECK YOUR BALANCE! CHECK YOUR BALANCE!' - which it does automatically once the balance drops below $10.
The next day, he forgot to tag off on leaving the bus and the doors closed before he could remount the vehicle. This meant that his snapper card was charged with the full cost of a journey to Lyall Bay, which I think is near Auckland somewhere.
On having this error pointed out, Lofty reacted with typical calm style.
"Oh bollocks! Well,I don't care!"
The next time he boarded a bus he tried to use the card again after having overdrawn it and this time the machine barked out: "PENALTY! PENALTY! PENALTY!" to the immense humour of all the people on the bus.
For Lofty's sake, I hope it was John Terry taking the spot-kick.
Today's highlight was England v Scotland from Christchurch on tv, and maybe I am getting old and tired or just plain cynical I don't know but I chose to miss the first ten overs of the England innings in favour of a swim at the local open - air pool. On the way back to the pub I was regaled by various text messages bemoaning the snails pace approach being adopted by Ian Bell, and eventually I settled down to watch in the company of Ryan, our friendly barman from the excellent Sprig and Fern pub across the road.
Bell continued to bat as if playing a Test match before giving it away, and when Ballance came in,the red warning lights started flashing. He looks unfit,overweight,and is clearly out of nick.
Sure enough, Ballance slowed down the scoring rate for half an hour and then played on to a horrible scrape shot whilst rooted to the crease.
His dismissal posture reminded me of a great big blob of Plasticine with a cricket bat inserted into it - there was no foot movement whatsoever.
So three abject failures for the out of form Ballance and once again our Head Selector James Whittaker has played a blinder - not.
I wonder how and by whom HIS performance is being assessed?
I don't know who Alex Hales has upset, but it must be fairly serious not to get into this team! Surely he must get a gig against Sri Lanka.
On the plus side Moeen Ali played brilliantly for a well-deserved century, and Finn's bowling improved - it could hardly get any worse, could it?
England won the game as expected by 119 runs but I found the crowd far more interesting to watch for the last two hours as the game petered to its inevitable conclusion.
Loads of pissed-up 'Braveheart' types with blue faces, up from Otago to support Scotland, and probably never having traveled off the South Island in their lives.
One guy even had a fluffy Loch Ness monster on his cap,trailing half-way down his back,bless him - I bet he also wears a jester's hat at football matches.
The best bit was a Scottish banner which read "You should have voted YES".
Maybe somebody should tell the authors of that banner that if that had happened, Scotland would probably by now have a lower credit rating than Greece due to the falling oil price, on which of course all the bullish independence forecasts were based.
Unfortunately some of the England fans weren't much classier, and the fanatical cheering and singing that greeted the England win towards the end of the game took the biscuit for me.
Lets put this into perspective - Scotland have never,ever,beaten England, for f***'s sake.
The bowling that England had to face was pedestrian and predictable, at best.
For the avoidance of any doubt I remain to be convinced by this England team and a win over mighty Scotland does not give me great comfort.
Especially as the same Scotland team collapsed in a heap against Afghanistan just a few days later. I doubt whether Scotland will accrue a single point in this group unless aided by the weather.
The remainder of the week was spent in Wellington sight seeing and,ahem, social drinking.
The Sprig and Fern on Tinakori Road has quickly become our local and the friendly owners Michael & Hayley,and staff there such as Annabelle, Luke, Chelsea and Ben(from Bradford,and whose name is pronounced as in 'wheelie' over here) have looked after us well.
Special mention here for barman Ryan, who met us the first time we went in the pub and has since watched cricket with us, bought us beer, bought the 'Disgruntled' book, and is now showing an unhealthy interest in Freddie's Addis Army website.
Our latest Addis Army recruit by unanimous vote of myself, Lofty and Wayne.
During one beer session in the Sprig & Fern a sign outside the pub advertised the forthcoming pizza night.
"Midnight,whats a 2-4-1 pizza?" asked Wayne, to the incredulity of Lofty and myself.
As we clearly did not know the answer to this profound question we sought advice from Tremers on the phone.
"Two foot by four foot by one inch deep. Welsh hey?" offered Tremers.
On Thursday we traveled to Island Bay by bus, all rugged rocks and breakers, and it was disconcerting to see that this area was actually in a Tsunami Evacuation zone. On the way back we found out that the England team were holding an impromptu training session at Karori Park, so we headed up there on the bus, only for this to break down half way up a steep hill due to overheating.
By the time we arrived most of the team were already getting ready to go, and Peter Moores made a very sharp exit for the pavilion once he saw the cameras coming out!
Undeterred, Wayne and myself took ourselves off to the Basin Reserve on a hot tip at 9am the following morning and sure enough our boys were already warming up - playing touch rugby.
"They are better at rugby than they are at cricket" offered the security guard - no argumentative comment from us.
They all seemed fairly chirpy, apart from Anderson, who was his usual grumpy self. Whats up Jimmy - for God's sake - you are playing a game of cricket for a living and earning a lot of money doing it - as Broady would say , #Stay Positive# and #F***ing Cheer Up#.
As the rugby ball flew about Wayne and I independantly counted the backroom staff in attendance and we both arrived at 14, not including Peter Moores - this gives a whole new meaning to one to one coaching and the question must be asked again - what do all these fellows actually do?
Master of the Universe Paul Downton was present, protecting his investment no doubt, and as he hovered around the players offering smiles and encouragement I could not help make comparison with the Emperor trying to befriend Luke Skywalker in 'Star Wars'.
Towards the end of the session Broad and Anderson had to sit on a large plastic box and be talked to by Downton - I think it may have been a 'naughty' box or similar, and it had a large G on the side.
What could this G stand for?
Gemma Broad in the Sprig & Fern last night? Oh yes she was...
Gary Ballance's tuck box?
Gary Ballance has something on someone?
Garbage One-Day cricket?
Going home soon?
Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler came over for photographs.
Broad was very positive and optimistic about Sundays encounter with Sri Lanka, saying "we will play a lot better".
Buttler seemed more reticent and my photo experience was sullied by a Yorkshire supporter from Bradford who,on hearing that I was a Lancashire member, proceeded to offer Buttler the following advice:
"Eeeeh, tha dinna wants tooo play second division wi' that lot Jos - come over t' hills and play for a proper team in Leeds."
On Friday evening the Sprig & Fern held a Mardi Gras event in which most punters were in fancy dress. Wayne and I attended and were rewarded by a couple of free beers and having our faces painted. I opted for a Kiwi Fern, and Wayne for a Red Dragon - clearly the serial killer film of the same name has not reached Swansea yet, despite this being the birthplace of Anthony Hopkins,and the customers seemed strangely reluctant to engage with him for the rest of the night!
We watched NZ v Australia on tv the following day and how we laughed as the convicts capitulated - then bit our nails as the Kiwis's very nearly messed it up. In the pub that evening we met a Geordie man who had emigrated to New Zealand six years ago and he extolled to us the virtue of his heating system and English radiators in general for about two hours.
And so to the final England game vs Sri Lanka at the Cake Tin and we trooped down to the stadium with some trepidation, given England's last three scores in ODI's at this ground have been 89, 130, and 123.
Mr Blade texted from Adelaide to say that he thought England would be better off losing the game because of the eventual quarter final placings, and his theory was soon to be put to the test.
Our trepidation turned to astonishment and anger once we saw our team sheet.
Ballance is playing again!
What the f*** is going on here?? Get Hales in this f***ing team, Moores & Whittaker!
Sure enough after a decent start, we lost a wicket and Ballance came in, wasted a few balls,then got out to the tamest of return catches.
The middle of the innnings was pedestrian, despite Joe Root's fine hundred, and only when Buttler came in with too few overs left did the run rate pick up.
We eventually scored 309, but the Sri Lankans knocked them off with ease for the loss of just one wicket.
Another demoralising,embarrasing,will-sapping thumping.
The Emperors New Clothes have not only fallen off for all to see, he is doing a naked jig in front of the whole world, who are laughing loudly.
The 1st of March is St David's Day, and Wayne led us to the Welsh Dragon bar on the seafront after the game where we enjoyed a typical Welsh Celebration dinner - lamb and vegetable soup, followed by roast lamb.
What a great pity Tremers could not be with us!
Lofty & I fly to Auckland tomorrow and Wayne goes back home even more quickly than the England team,on Wednesday.
Lofty says he cannot get out of Wellington fast enough, but I beg to differ. Cricket apart, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and staying on Tinakori Road has given me a whole new insight into Wellington life - but I wish my room had English radiators.
Regards, and #stay disgruntled#