New Zealand Tour 2019
Everything's Iconic Nowadays
Kia Ora all
Since the last diary, I have been contacted by an ECB marketing manager - a Scotsman who freely admits knowing nothing about cricket - asking me to 'cool it' regarding the Hundred competition.
I think it was the same guy that did an ECB County Members presentation at Old Trafford who, when asked about the target market for the Hundred once the existing cricket fans had been frozen out, replied:
"I might know nothing about cricket, but I do know that Mum buys the tickets!"
Well, at my age I buy my own tickets. And I won't be buying any for the Hundred.
In possibly the most confusing transfer affair since Carlos Tevez, I now hear on the grapevine that Trent Rockets, Middlesex and England's South African icon Dawid Malan has now signed a four year deal with Yorkshire.
When Malan was dropped from the England Test team, Cool Shades Selector Ed Smith gave as the reason: "It may be his game is better suited to overseas conditions."
A move up to Leeds clearly makes sense for all then.
Maybe down in London, Yorkshire is considered a Northern Subcontinent.
Obviously, long gone are those halcyon Yorkshire days when a call was made down t' pit in Barnsley for a new player to scrub up and put on the whites, but does this also mean Trent Rocket Malan will now be playing in the Hundred for Northern Superchargers as well?
Or has he moved to Yorkshire so he can get a lift down to Trent Bridge with fellow Rocket Joe Root? If so, no prizes for guessing which Sir Elton song will be on the car stereo as the pair travel down the M1.
Involved with that many teams, I'll be surprised if Malan remembers which ground to turn up at. Anyway best wishes to Dawid, he seems a pleasant enough lad, and I hope Yorkshire find him a nice terraced house in Pontefract to live in.
It won't be much like St. Johns Wood!
My final night in Wellington and an overdue reunion.
A curry at the Indus with Nick, Baz and Block of Nae Nae CC - home of Ewan Chatfield, Jesse Ryder and Grant Elliott to name just a few of the famous kiwi cricketers who have played there.
We all first met in 2013 during a boozy night in Rosie O' Grady's bar in Napier, and that chance encounter has evolved into a lasting friendship spanning the years, and the miles. On previous visits to New Zealand, Lofty and I have been made most welcome at Nae Nae Cricket Club. Their season does not start until next Saturday, so a visit will not be feasible this time and as the boys had travelled specially into Wellington, tonight was my turn.
As I paid the bill: "This is on me lads, atonement for the Cricket World Cup Final!"
Block : "Huh! It will take more than a bloody curry to do that!"
Just the response I was hoping for. Till next time, fellas.
I returned to the hotel having quaffed only a modest quantity of Sauvignon Blanc given the 'four hour' drive to Napier ahead in the morning, but gale force winds sprung up from nowhere and my room on the 9th floor felt and sounded like a precarious eyrie.
Sleep totally eluded me. I gave up trying to doze at 5.30am and turned on the TV.
There's no escape!
It's Sky News from the UK and another Scottish Lady with a chip on her shoulder is on, jumping up and down like a spoiled wee bairn.
This time, it's Jo Swinson, who is upset because she has been excluded from some televised political debate. Maybe she should organise a march for a Second Peoples Vote to decide if the nation wants to see her waffling on telly, and bring London to a standstill for another couple of days.
Preferably, while I am still away.
I quickly reached for the 'off' switch.
My last breakfast at the Thorndon. They have run out of black pudding, so its definitely time to leave. Over cereal, I read the Dominion Post. Berlin is in the news this morning, the local authority there are installing 'sex cabins' in the public conveniences for the neighbourhood prostitutes to use.
How romantic. I bet these sex cabins will do a roaring trade on Valentines Day!
"Vell, officer, its like zis. I vas in zere minding my own business doing a nummer zwei und I heard a funny groaning noise vom ze next cubicle. I vent to investigate und ja, zat is ven ze fight started...." (German courtesy of Derren Nesbitt, Where Eagles Dare.)
I sincerely hope my $47 Visa money isn't being used in New Zealand for anything quite so sordid.
With matchsticks propping up my eyelids I phoned Omega car hire, the company I always use, to pick me up. Omega is now owned, incidentally, by ex-Black Cap Adam Parore.
On inspecting my car, I noticed a number of dints and scrapes, which I queried.
"Oh, listen bro. Its just that we remember you from last time and we thought if we gave you a pre-damaged car, it would save you the time and trouble of doing it yourself later in your trip!"
Can't fault the logic there I suppose. Bloody good customer service, really.
"Well, alright then. How long do you think it will take me to get to Napier - about four hours maybe?"
"Yeah, I mean nah. There's lots of road works at the moment bro. More like six."
This buggered my chances of watching the Nelson T20 live on TV straight away so I thought, let's just take it easy and enjoy the drive.
My car was a Nissan Tilda as usual and its first test was climbing and descending the Remutaka Pass leading to the pretty Wairarapa towns of Featherston, Carterton and Masterton. The pass used to be called Rimutaka, but a Maori Treaty in 2016 changed its name to Remutaka. Sounds like a job well done, eh? The world 's gone bloody crazy.
No need for any Highway Cops on that hill climb. My car was so slow and sluggish up the steep gradient, it would probably have performed better in first gear with snow chains on. I pulled in at a viewpoint out of sheer relief at having made the summit.
An hour gone, and hardly any distance on the clock. Still nearly 300km to go. At this rate, I will be lucky to arrive for the evening cricket highlights!
Once the hill and the Wairarapa were out of the way, our friends from Fulton Hogan Contractors duly appeared on the scene with their omnipresent road works and temporary lights, liberally showering gravel everywhere.
All the while, I was bursting to spend some of my $47 visa money.
Half way into the 325 km journey lay the town of Dannevirke, where I just had to pull in before there was a non-car accident. I'm glad I did stop though, it was a fascinating place.
It would seem that like me, the entire population of this little town are fans of the iconic 1958 Kirk Douglas movie 'The Vikings', which also starred Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. The film also featured a Hollywood role for Dandy Nichols (aka the Silly Moo in sitcom Till Death Us Do Part) as Ms Leigh's frumpy maidservant Bridget. Hopefully, the photo I took of the towns emblem on entering Dannevirke will explain!
All the way up the rest of the SH2 to Napier, I was humming the memorable Vikings theme tune and wondering if the wind that had caused my sleep deprivation last night had in fact been sent by Odin.
Arrival at last in Napier where I am staying at the Quality Inn on the seafront. As I drove into the car park, the hotel room layout above looked reminiscent of Alcatraz including the bars, and then the recollections came flooding back.
When we were here in 2008, there was no accommodation whatsoever to be had in Napier due to a clash of Easter holidays, the England Test, and a Jack Johnson concert at the Mission Estate vineyard. People were actually paying to pitch tents in private back gardens.
Under these circumstances, the best digs that Sky could obtain for Messrs Atherton and Lloyd, covering the Napier Test, were at the Quality Inn - and the pair spent the week moaning about it to anyone who would listen, as it didn't meet their inflated expectations!
Well, never judge a book by its cover. The room I was shown had everything required, including a balcony and sea view. There is also a basic little indoor pool in the centre of the campus. No complaints.
Thoroughly knackered and coming down with a cold, I now needed dinner and an early night. The car is staying put.
Two meal choices locally:
1) A degustation platter at a posh restaurant on the seafront, starting at $65 - without the cost of wine.
2) A three course carvery buffet at the RSA Club (Think British Legion) with a beer included - $32.
I wonder if you can guess which choice this patriotic Northern lad plumped for?
Napier holds some life changing memories for me, some good, some bad.
My first Series away win in 2008. Sidebottom. Tim Southee smashing Monty around.
My near fatal spider bite, also in 2008. I never tire of telling people the 'amputation or death' story, but as per the above we won the Test and Series so it was all worthwhile.
My best ever live ODI - the tied match in 2008 when Captain Collingwood miscalculated on the bowling meaning Luke Wright had to bowl the last over.
My best ever legless night on tour - previously described on the Addis site in one of Freddie's many questionnaires. A Small Faces tribute show at the RSA club, black Sambuca shooters and the messy aftermath in Rosie O' Grady's!
My chance meeting with the Nae Nae cricket lads and Silver Dave in 2013.
So it's a place where things happen and I'm really glad to be back.
Napier was struck by a devastating earthquake in February 1931, the whole coastal area was lifted by two metres in a matter of minutes and what little was left standing was then ravaged by a widespread fire as the gas mains blew. Over 250 people were killed, or 1% of the population.
What was rebuilt here is essentially a time capsule from the period and the locals are justly proud of their Art Deco city. It is a pristine photographers dream. Walking around is like entering the pages of an old Superman DC Comic. The word 'iconic' has been much misused of late (mainly by the ECB marketing team) but for Napier, its use is correct. I hope Freddie can get enough photos into the piece to do it justice.
Now, what of the cricket at Saxton Oval, Nelson, what of that, sir? I hear you all ask.
Well, here's something amusing. When I arrived late at the Napier Quality Inn they did not have the requisite Sky channel to watch any live cricket from Nelson. So I have had to watch the highlights today, Wednesday morning, on a different sky channel.
I'm sure most of you saw the game in the UK before I did in New Zealand, as I deliberately shielded myself from the result. Now that's funny!
But now, I have watched it......
First, as Peter Moores would say, let's look at the positives.
A superb innings of 55 by Dawid Malan.
Clearly, like any sensible person, he is inspired by the thought of leaving the London rat race and moving North to Pontefract.
Runs too for James Vince. As always, attractive runs, and he was unlucky not to make a fifty here, holing out on 49 with an attractive miscue.
A first wicket for young Parkinson who is a T20 specialist to all intents and purposes nowadays. Hopefully the first of many. Why only two overs from him, Eoin?
The Curran boys bowled aggressively in tandem and with a vivid imagination its not hard to imagine them as Anderson / Broad replacements in due course at all.
Now, unlike the England coaching staff, let's look at the negatives honestly and without the usual prosaic excuses.
I think a few of these lads, Brown, Gregory and Mahmood in particular, have been thrown in at the deep end and are struggling to tread water. To be fair to Mahmood, he is primarily a red ball County bowler who has also done well in a few T20 games for Lancashire. He will take a shedload of Championship wickets next year - especially if he is only bowling in April, May and September!
Between the three bowlers above, 102 runs were conceded in ten overs. You aren't going to win many T20 games like that.
The collapse at the end of England's innings was absolutely woeful, I hope they are not trying to demonstrate an ability to match the collapsibility of the Test team!
The match also raised a few questions. For instance, will Mitch Santner, Manchester Originals overseas star, be eligible for free Harry Potter style glasses on the NHS when he arrives in the UK? Because on the evidence of his bowling yesterday, he needs a new prescription.
So, another defeat, leaving Napier on Friday as a must win watershed, which suits me fine as I am not attending the game on Sunday at Auckland.
Chilling out time for the next couple of days. I took a bus ride over to the other side of the Napier headland : pensioners get a cheap fare in New Zealand providing they live here, and can show some ID. My fake kiwi accent combined with my UK Senior Railcard worked perfectly.
Now just to prove I've nothing really against the Scots, here is some evidence that they do have a thriving sense of humour. As the bus drove past the St Andrews Anglican Church I saw a large notice outside.
THE BEST VITAMIN FOR A CHRISTIAN IS B1
That had me in stitches. Nicola Sturgeon has occasionally been accused of being humourless, maybe she should ask her scriptwriter to try and work that joke into one of her clarion call Independence speeches.
I bumped into New Zealand cricket stalwarts Jeremy Coney and Brian Wattle having lunch and being a cheeky sod I introduced myself and sat down for a chat about the series.
One question has at least now been answered.
The zig zag pattern of the T20 venues is apparently down to New Zealand Airlines flight scheduling eg most flights to Nelson either come from or have to go through Wellington. Then there is a direct flight from Nelson to Napier and so on. I'm glad that's been explained.
The pair had both visited Manchester many times during their careers and were most uncomplimentary about the weather and the hotels. Can't help the weather but I have offered to get them into the Hilton Garden Inn at Old Trafford using my members discount should they ever return!
I've managed to see Terminator: Dark Fate now. Its not bad, better than all the other crappy sequels since Judgement Day. Linda Hamilton is superb, but Arnie's jokes are really corny and I think he needs to enrol in the Scottish Anglican church for some humour coaching.
A visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand on Thursday. Once again, my Senior Railcard unlocked pensioner discounts, I'm so glad I brought that card, it's worth its blagging weight in gold! The exhibits were impressive but the absolute highlight occurred as I strolled about. A female aquarium employee was giving a fish body part lesson to 20 or so lively kids using a life size, blue plastic display shark.
"This is the Dorsal fin" she pointed, "and this is the Anal fin."
"What does Dorsal mean?" Shouted one of the kids.
"It means it's on his back."
Same kid :" What does Anal mean?"
"It means it's next to his BOTTOM. Are you trying to IMBIRRISS me?" (Bit of kiwi there)
I'm sure she heard my guffaws even though I was out of sight behind a fish tank.
In the late afternoon sunshine I enjoyed a guided tour of the Art Deco buildings by 72 year old Barry, a pensioner volunteer. He kept trying to bait me about Fridays cricket.
"Listen Barry. In Lancashire we don't give a hoot about T20, we call it baseball. It's just a bit of fun. We don't give a toss about the Hundred either, nobody wants to watch it!"
This seemed to work in taking the wind out of his sails.
Barry's tour was two hours long and most informative but the most useful bit was when he took us to see the building that housed the Angkor Wat Bakery.
"Best pies in Napier here!" he said.
Steak and kidney pie for breakfast next morning, and sure enough Barry was correct.
The big game on Friday was an evening kick off starting at 6pm. The reason for that may be a phenomenon known as Napier sun - strike.
Previous International games have had to be halted at a certain point in the afternoon as the angle of the sun blinds the batsmen. There used to be similar issues at Derbyshire and Old Trafford in years gone by - don't laugh, its true!
On the TV Friday morning news at 8.30am however the following strip line was carried:
BLACK CAPS TO WRAP UP T20 SERIES WITH ENGLAND THIS AFTERNOON
Either they know something I don't, or maybe they have just seen the weather forecast for Auckland on Sunday. Apparently, its gonna hose it down.
First things first. Apparel. Freddie, that long sleeved shirt is perfect for night matches. You need to get to work on an Addis version as soon as possible.
England lost the toss and were inserted at Napier by Tim Southee, the NZ captain.
It didn't prove to be one of his better decisions.
Welsh Fire opened the batting. Bairstow the Ginger Druid got out for just 8, but icon Tom Banton batted really well for his 31. Glamorgan really ought to offer him a County contract too!
Once Banton got out, Pontefract's own Dawid Malan strode to the crease. Finally free from the stifling London Metropolis, in the spirit of 'Cry Freedom' he lashed out with gay abandon.
There were so many sixes in the partnership between Malan and Captain Morgan, the tins on the scoreboard got stuck and the ball was begging for mercy.
Morgan eventually holed out on the boundary in the last over, but not before England's record T20 partnership for any wicket had been broken.
After the top billing, we had Sam Billings. I felt sorry for the poor lad. Coming out after all that carnage to face two balls. However, he managed a respectable 0 not out.
Malan finished on 103 not out. What a superb knock!
The transfer negotiator at Yorkshire will be doing cartwheels tonight.
At last, the White Rose have another batsman to match the style and grace of Gary Ballance. No doubt I will be getting about ten emails per week from the Tykes about tonights events in a pointless bid to persuade me to purchase a membership for 2020.
England's record high T20 score meant New Zealand had little chance, but they made a decent fist of the reply, getting to 50 without losing a wicket in good time.
Once the first wicket fell though the writing was on the wall and batsman after batsman fell on the boundary attempting home runs.
Manchester Originals own chubby little icon Matt Parkinson was the chief beneficiary.
He took four wickets, but should have had more.
There was still ample evidence of England's fallibilities from the previous games, and Pat Brown in particular had a wretched night.
One minute, he was signing autographs on the boundary for three ball boys that couldn't have been much younger than he was, the next minute the ball shot up in the air towards him from the bowling of Parkinson and he shelled a sitter.
In Parkinson's next over, the hapless Brown spilled another routine catch.
Lewis Gregory's sole contribution of the evening, meanwhile, was a piece of Keystone Kops fielding, allowing the ball to run past him for four.
He didn't bat or bowl. Bit pointless picking him, really?
Anyway enough moaning for once. A great result for England and a fabulous game of cricket - iconic, even!
After such a great game it seems somehow fitting that I pay tribute to a great bloke.
On a more sombre and important note, now I must put the humour on hold as I received some awful news from home this week.
A fellow Old Trafford member, Trevor Gordon from Warrington, has suddenly passed away after a short illness - most of us only realised something might be amiss when he did not make it to our annual post - season lunch in Oldham the week before I left the UK. Trevor was to be seen supporting Lancs both home and away, and always ready with a smile and a great sense of humour. He will be greatly missed by many. In that spirit I hope he would not mind this small acknowledgement here. Deepest sympathy to his wife Denise and sons Jonathan and Christopher.