Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Extremely frustrating

New Zealand is the undisputed home of Extreme Sports. Base or bungee jumping? Take your pick. Sky-diving, kite surfing or running off the side of a cliff, you name it, if there’s more than a 50% chance that you will die doing it, then it’s on offer here.

But then there’s the cricket. Before today no matter where you come from and how you pronounce tomato when it comes to watching cricket in New Zealand I would have described it as relaxing with a capital ‘R’ and you would have said "BORING!" But after today I’m almost ready to agree with you.

As you will know by now I am no daredevil. Walking the streets of South London after midnight with more than a fiver in my pocket is as reckless as I’ll ever get. But after sitting through seven hours of today's installment of the thrilling 'First Test between New Zealand and England'. Or 'England versus England' as it’s fast becoming. I am just about ready to set my gonads on fire and hurl myself off the top of the nearest high-rise. No doubt passing several Kiwis on the way (who paid $100 for the privilege).

Don’t get me wrong. I was enjoying myself. The first two days were a joy. As relaxing as cricket can possibly get. The match had enough going for it, there were no annoying Aussies getting escorted from the premises, and after four solid days of rain leading up to the game the sun neatly made a welcome re-appearance at the start of the first day. All was well with the world except for one minor problem. I was already clock-watching.

After spending the first two and a half weeks of our holiday together since leaving England I had left Fe in Auckland and travelled the two hours to Hamilton on my own to report on the match scheduled to finish on Sunday. I had gambled it wouldn’t last the duration. I figured that if the weather was good it would all be over inside four days enabling me to finish the work I need doing and catch a bus back to the huge party Fe’s mum is hosting for her birthday.

After the first days play it was all to play for and I was confident I'd be back in time. After the second I was relying on a bit of magic from either side but still in with a shout. And then came along day three. A day so lacking in excitement that it’s a surprise there wasn’t a David Koresh style group suicide session between innings.

Fuck me it was bad. For seven hours straight hardly a run was scored nor a wicket taken. The only excitement in the ground happened just after lunch when a group of youths started blowing whistles and a burly woman bounded over and started lecturing them. She didn't care about the shrill noises emanating from that side of the ground. She just wanted something to take her mind off the mind-numbing fare on offer. Good, young people with so much to offer were passing out all over the place.

And all the while I was gnashing my teeth, swearing under my breath and getting more and more stressed. Didn’t these players know I had a very important birthday to attend? Couldn’t they do something about the desperately poor run rate? Were they really paid so much to do so little?

Apparently so as after the days play Kevin Pietersen described his 131 ball innings, where he scored just 42 sodding runs, as one of the best he’d ever played. I’ll beg to differ on that one. I’ve never seen so many eyebrows simultaneously hit a ceiling as they did in the press conference following those comments.

So we go into the fourth day with me almost hoping New Zealand win as it’s the only way I’m going to get back to Auckland in time to celebrate Fe’s birthday. Almost, as after I spent all last winter watching England lose five matches in a row, I’m fairly keen to shake the ‘Jonah’ tag that is starting to stick.

So if anyone can think of a way that I can make it back in one piece and without memories of England losing another game of cricket in the Southern Hemisphere I’d love to hear from you.

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