jonathan emailed me from australia yesterday to see if i thought that nz's victory over australia in hamilton was the greatest game of cricket i'd ever seen...
on tuesday i drove over to hamilton in my father-in-law's little green barina to go to the cricket with jamie. nz had already secured a historic series victory over australia with their wins in auckland and wellington in the days before. so i was off to see if we could do the impossible - make a clean sweep of the series. of course, when jamie and i got our tickets months ago we had no idea that this would be the scenario.
in the event, australia batted first and scored an enormous total - 346 - featuring a history-making innings of 181 n.o. from matthew hayden. this set nz a target well beyond anything that has ever been accomplished in nz before. nz lost early wickets to be 4-41 at one stage - not a dream start. but incredibly, the remaining batters got up and we defeated australia in the final over. craig macmillan's 117 was something special. the highlight of the game was when brendan mccallum hit a 6 off the first ball of the final over - giving nz 5 balls to score just 1 run - which we did.
the crowd went absolutely ape - there was dancing and hugging and kissing everywhere. 3-0 in the series.
when nz were 4 wickets down, i text aaron to see what score he thought we'd get - 249 all out he said. jamie thought 300. i thought 180. i can't vouch for the other guys, but the reason i thought we'd only get to 180 is that when you demoralise a nz cricket team they often give up. well, at least, they used to. this season we have seen a nz team that doesn't give up. in the game early in the season where nz got thumped by sri lanka, craig macmillan refused to quit - i wonder if that was a turning point? i thought to myself then - if this team's form catches up with their new determination, we're going to be good. i think this latest series is the fruition of that. we are now watching a nz team that is playing like an australian team and beating them at their own game.
needless to say, nzers are celebrating this victory. it means a tremendous amount to us - every time nz scores a big sporting victory we know that we are a nation of only 4 million people that has taken down a giant. when we beat australia in the cricket, one reason we celebrate so hard is because of their perceived arrogance. nzers don't like arrogance and we harbour a belief that if you get too cocky your fall is around the corner. nzers like to celebrate those falls... at the beginning of the commonwealth bank series in australia (a tri-series between australia, nz and england), australia made comments to the effect that nz and england wouldn't provide any serious opposition and so they were setting goals against themselves - aiming to score 400 during the series. if that doesn't reek of arrogance i don't know what does. as far as nzers are concerned australia deserved to lose.
at the end of the game i secretly took a photo of every fan in an aussie jumper that came near me. i planned to post them on this blog with a little caption saying "disappointed aussie fans". when i got home and looked at the pictures, the looks on their faces were too sad and i couldn't bring myself to do it. one guy looked straight into the camera as i took the photo - it is actually quite heartbreaking... the formally invincible aussies have shown they have a weakness. having lost about 5 games this season, australian fans are beginning to know what it feels like to be a cricket fan the world over.
so, was tuesday night the greatest game i've ever seen? honestly, for me the best game was game one of this series - our 10 wicket victory over australia - a complete performance - catapaulting nz cricket into what i hope will be a new era.
pictures: jamie keeps hydrated in the hamilton sun; peter "two-metre peter" fulton fielding on the boundary; the lights on, nz batting and battling; victory - the black caps on a lap around the field.