New Zealand Tour 2019
Big Trouble in Little Taupo
Kia Ora all
Firstly, thank you for the many kind comments received regarding the previous diary. Positive feedback is always nice, and even if the feedback is negative it is better to be disliked than ignored. Anyway, its taken on board, and I've written less this time.
Taupo was my next stop. A two hour drive northwest out of Napier along SH5, which at home would probably be a scenic drive, but in New Zealand ranks as pretty nondescript, in all honesty.
The drive was not helped by the gathering gloom in the weather, coming from the direction of Mordor in the west, and before too long the rain started to fall.
I arrived early at my motel, the Asure Prince, which is owned and run by Ron and Mairi Hunter.
As I was checking in, a huge Polynesian chap walked past reception cuddling a milk shake.
"Just excuse me a minute" said Ron, "I need a word with that guy!" and he ran outside for an angry exchange with the said gentleman.
After he returned I asked what the altercation was about. It turns out there was an 'incident' last night in his room involving loud music and partying which annoyed the guests in adjacent rooms.
Maybe if there were Two Rons running this motel, such incidents would not occur.
But fair do's, the One Ron demonstrated plenty of balls fronting up to this honey monster.
Thankfully, my unit is situated some distance away from Polynesian Party Central.
Before unpacking I just had to watch the televised rerun of last nights game from Napier. I was surprised to hear Bumble comparing Welsh Fire icon Tom Banton to Kevin Pietersen. Surely if KP were playing in the Hundred, he would insist on playing for the Oval Invincibles, based on their logo alone!
Todays weather forecast proved inaccurate and by 3pm the afternoon had turned into one of those glorious days that makes a person glad to be alive.
I took a walk along the lakeside.
The business end of the lake is dominated by Burger King, KFC and the like.
Most notably, there is a MacDonalds which is billed as 'The Coolest MacDonald's in the World' with a Douglas DC3 aircraft for gawds sake, moored up next to the counter.
Apparently, you can even supersize yourself while sitting in the cabin!
Nice plane, shame about the food.
There now appears a distinct edge walking around this town that I have never noticed before - aggressive beggars with pitches in the best spots facing the lake. Chapters of motorbike riders roaring up and down. Surly gang members and hoodies hanging about street corners.
The world is changing, and not for the better.
The really sad thing is, based on past experience, I have recommended Taupo to Five - O as a good base for the end of his holiday : he is only attending Day one of the Hamilton Test, then moving South.
I don't know if he is a MacDonalds fan, but I'm sure with his VIP visa, the biker gangs will leave him well alone!
I started walking in the opposite direction away from the centre.
About half way along the lakefront I found a pub called Jolly Good Fellows, and the signage here will inform the reader of the target market clientele.
On such a day as this, a pint was called for.
As I sat relaxing in the sun, a family of kiwis occupied the adjacent tables, and we got talking.
To my utter astonishment one of the party, Daniel, told me that he worked for a spell at a meat processing company in Dukinfield, close to where I used to live, called Dalehead Foods.
This description is, in fact, a euphemism. The place he worked at is a pig slaughterhouse which is now called Tulip Foods.
Curious, I looked up this place on t' internet. Can you believe there are REVIEWS??
One particular review gave me food (or not as the case may be) for thought. It read:
"I went here on a vigil for pigs last year. They were crammed in together, truck after truck. Their screams were unbearable and I will never forget them. Evil people gassing innocent lives, it is pure torture. They don't have to die if you go vegan..."
I have lived in and around Tameside for over fifty years and I had no idea such evil lurked there, at least not since Doctor Death Harold Shipman did the world a favour and topped himself.
Since then, Daniel has upped sticks and now lives in Mount Maunganui - and will be attending the First Test. Once I got over the shock of Daniel's desire to leave Dukinfield and move to the Bay of Plenty, another few beers followed, and after three days without alcohol I was beginning to feel somewhat 'slaughtered' myself - until I realised that by mistake, I had brought the car key out with me instead of the one for my motel unit.
That was the end of that. A swift departure was called for to prevent a nights sleep on the back seat of the hire car.
My pre-journey research had told me that my motel had an excellent Thai restaurant on site, and this proved to be the case. Retrieval of the room key, a superb pad grapow, a nice bottle of wine, then one last walk down to the lakefront revealed the dark clouds massing, together with a steep drop in temperature, both of which promised a day indoors on Sunday.
After Napier's heroics I do hope we get a bit of cricket at Auckland tomorrow despite the weather pessimism.
The one area where there can be no argument that the UK is superior to New Zealand is the TV offering. The best I could find to watch in my hazy, half-cut state was a film about bloody Scotland. 'Mary Queen of Scots - Independance Day' I think it was called. Readers of my previous diaries will not need to guess that the TV was quickly turned off and an early night was taken.
A great nights sleep and I opened the curtains at 9am. Grey skies and rain.
I also noticed that there must have been some hi-jinks during the night which I slept through, as the motel side garden outside my bedroom window was now strewn with road cones, pilfered from Fulton Hogan, and spread out in a sinister pattern.
Pointing directly at my room.....
I hope I have not been marked for death by a Polynesian Biker gang.
Out into the rain for breakfast, a naughty conscience - pricking bacon butty. It was tasty though!
Clearly it is too wet for begging, the beggars have all beggared off. However as soon as the rain stops, they are back in position with the precision of a military operation.
Turning the telly on at 1.30pm more in hope than expectation, the covers were on at Eden Park and there was a very sparse crowd inside the huge stadium.
Just like at live cricket however, the constant feed of positive noises from the commentary team keep your hopes alive.
"We will be starting at 2.30pm IF there is no further rain."
Now, where have I heard that before!
Amazingly, we get as far as the toss. Morgan wins it, and given the weather around, inserts the Black Caps. England have dropped Parkinson after his 4 wickets at Napier, which can only be because of the ridiculously short straight boundaries on this ground. There are recalls for Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood, and Mr Attractive Runs, James Vince, who has been surprisingly recalled at the expense of the Pride of Pontefract, Dawid Malan.
Two minutes before the scheduled start, the rain comes again. The covers go on and Sky Sports fill in with Brendon McCullum and Phil Tufnell, who are apparently undertaking a (joint) golf tour of New Zealand.
Younger readers may not be aware that Tufnell's previous visits to this country have been quite controversial.
In 1996 - 7 the story broke that Tuffers had been busted for cannabis use, and it was alleged by the waiters of Bardelli's restaurant in Christchuch that he emerged from a disabled toilet "in a haze of marijuana smoke."
Tuffers got off with that after strongly protesting his innocence but was subsequently banned for 18 months for failing to turn up for a random drug test while playing for Middlesex.
Meanwhile for some time after, Bardelli's proudly displayed a board on the pavement outside:
"Phil Tufnell says this is the best joint in town!"
Readers may gather that like Sky Sports, I too have been filling in until there is a start - and eventually my patience was rewarded. An 11 over match, starting at 4pm.
Surely batting second, this must make England the nailed on favourites?
First over: Curran (S). 17 runs.
Second over: Curran (T). 20 runs.
Third over: Jordan. 18 runs. Fifty up in 2.4 overs!
Fourth over: Rashid. 15 runs.
The camera pans to the England dugout, where chubby Manchester Originals icon Parkinson sports a cheeky grin which says to me : "Thank fuck I've been dropped!"
The first wicket , Guptill, fell in the 6th over, but by then New Zealand had 83 on the board.
Mahmood and Rashid pulled it back slightly and as there had been no sixes for at least three balls, tv attention went to Ginger Druid Bairstow, who was miked up onfield for the occasion. Amazingly, he was speaking in English, I suppose he hasn't had time to learn Welsh properly yet!
Mahmood got the dangerous De Grandhomme out in the 7th over.
After that, honours were about even, and NZ finished on a modest 146-5.
Welsh Fire, sorry England, started shakily with local icon Banton given out on a dodgy lbw decision, despite profound protestations from the Ginger Druid at the non-strikers end.
James Vince scored an attractive 1 before holing out, 5/5 for style though. 9-2.
Captain Morgan came and went. Enter Sam 'Boom Boom' Curran, who flayed Kuggeleijn for 20 off the 5th over. Suddenly we are up with the rate.
In the 6th over the Ginger Druid went to town, hitting Ish Sodhi for three sixes using the short straight boundary to his advantage. He eventually fell, like a gallant Man of Harlech, for 47.
Lewis Gregory, who didn't bowl, hit his first delivery for six. Six, and out next ball. Trent Rockets paid £100,000 for him in the Hundred auction, that looks like a super investment based on the evidence of this tour. They might have been better off in a Neil Woodford fund!
Harum scarum after that until England needed 16 to win off the last over with Billings and Curran (T) at the crease. An uncanny repeat of the World Cup Final!
When Curran (T) got out, it looked as if England would fall short this time. Cue giddy celebrations from the locals - one guy even had a huge drum - until Chris Jordan came in and leathered it.
After 11 overs - scores level. Super Over. Bloody Hell, not again!
England go again. The Ginger Druid and Captain Morgan vs Tim Southee. 17 runs scored.
New Zealand's turn. Guptill and Seifert vs Chris Jordan. A stunning catch by Captain Morgan and the local celebrations are stillborn. Failure again - only 8 scored.
So England win a farcical match and with it the series.
After watching this game, I feel as though I have been given an early warning preview as to what the Hundred will be like. Totally one sided slogging with nothing at all to reward or encourage the bowler.
"It's like garlic bread this, it's the future!" wittered Bumble.
And unfortunately I believe he may be right. It WAS exciting entertainment, but this isn't proper cricket for me.
I now feel like one of the snooker lads in Peter Kaye's Phoenix Club as the Bucking Bronco was delivered. "Snooker's dead, Brian.....!"
Here is a piece of advice for the ECB. Charge Mum premium Hundred admission prices when she buys the tickets, but place a large wooden abacus under each seat for her kids to count the sixes and play with!
That's it for now. On the road to Auckland in the morning.
Another report will follow after Five - O arrives, and the Manchester Originals and Welsh Fire's number one fans go on tour of North Island, spreading the word about the Hundred.
Just don't anyone tell Tom Harrison and Colin Graves of the ECB the type of word we will be spreading!