“Leaving the ball outside off stump is a waste of time.”
The above quote kinda summed up a Twenty20 which more-or-less rehashed the first of the series, with the same outcome – albeit via a slightly more nervewracking methodology. So why was it such a fantastically compelling game of cricket?
Firstly, the quote’s author is Virender Sehwag, whose innings of 24 off 11 versus his first game returns of 26 from 10 should have tipped us to the Punxsutawney Phil-indebted nature of the match from the start. Gambhir mirrored his first match ineffectuality, Yuvraj took over Raina’s role as the respectability provider, and Dhoni mirrored Harbhajan’s I-ate-all-the-balls knock from the Christchurch game. Final analysis: a score about 30 short of defendable again, notwithstanding the dog’s breakfast we made of chasing it down. At least the crowd was different:
The massive Indian presence at the cake tin (the more ‘Mystery’ Morrison tells the nation to stop calling it that, the more attached I become to that thoroughly innocuous piece of nicknamery) gave the game a real atmosphere, and may well have played a part in its extension to the ultimate ball of the match. The way the second string Indian bowlers scrapped their way back into the match after Sharma’s unfortunate pants-falling-down injury* was truly heroic, particularly Pathan’s ruthless 3rd over.
But McCullum completed the whole very-recent-history-repeats thing by carrying his bat (an expression I’ve now had to use three times this year as a New Zealand cricket fan, after it lay musty and neglected for eons prior) for a match winning half century. I was sure we’d tooled it when it came down to nine from three, but those fours, then that marvellously ungainly shoulda-been-a-catch stroke to seal the victory… If they keep turning out so wildly entertaining as this I’m going to have to remove most of my objections to Twenty20.
So far, then, this series is going according to a weird alternate-reality script, one in which the Indians again succumb to hubris, and the New Zealanders find out something new about one another in every match. Maybe one day we’ll make DeadBall’s first TV movie out of this series? I hope so. I could definitely play Neil Broom, pictured here shelling a catch he really should have taken.
Before I go, here’s some more of my famously rubbish sports photography, and couple of burning questions:
* That actually happened right? An international cricketer named Ishant Sharma fell over fielding a regulation ball, pulling his pants down in the process to reveal either some mega-weird 18th century gentleman’s underwear, or, more prosaically, some Skins. Then got up wiggling his shoulder round like a maniac and left the field soon after, never to return. Fantastic sport, cricket.