Monday, May 13, 2013

Cricket’s David and Goliath – a lopsided history

New Zealand and England have a storied history, a David and Goliath battle in which prowess with a taiaha (the slingshot doesn’t fit with our gladiatorial nature) occasionally overcomes the brawn and bravado of a playground bully.

If the fierce rivalry with our West Island mates is akin to backyard cricket with cousins, England is more like a bitter sibling rivalry – at some stage the young upstart comes of age and usurps the grizzled older brother, if only to be knocked down to size again and again, harshly reminded of his place in the world.

I grew up watching New Zealand do battle with Australia here and abroad – my earliest memory sitting in the lounge with a Milo late into the night as my parents held back obscenities a lesser pair would have allowed to flow freely as the Chappells destroyed the integrity of our great game. But the fervour that surrounded battles with the English trumped any trans-Tasman trysts, though as a young man crusades in green and pleasant lands were followed in print and on the six o’clock news bulletin – pay television was still the domain of the United States and I couldn’t understand thick Yorkshire accents without viewing the action.

Players may feel otherwise, but as a supporter, the joy of an English scalp is unparalleled – the draw in the most recent series in New Zealand bares that out. Hobart is best kept as a distant memory, the battle at Eden Park, including England’s fight, made me smile like modern cricket seldom does – more so when I shared the final day with my young lad who jumped to his feet and cheered with the rest of an expectant crowd hoping to be part of a contemporary history lesson. 

What's to follow during the tour is a celebration of those enduring Kiwi memories – the clashes and moments that helped inspire generations of young children to pick up the willow and coax dad out into the backyard to re-enact the heroics of Blunt, Sutcliffe or Nash.

It is not meant as a definitive history of famous battles but instead a selection of highlights that stick in the memory – mine and others. I write as much to learn as I do for others – sorry. As the current combatants do battle in England I’ll take the chance to recount a number of those moments, from the first tentative steps onto cricket’s biggest stage in 1927 until Peter Fulton hit back to back hundreds at the Garden of Eden in March.

I have no idea how the final prose will read or what format it'll take, I’ll figure it out as we go along – test cricket deep into the night, watched on a subsistence of espresso and marmite toast may not be the best recipe for a coherent account – time will tell.

If there is a moment that you recall fondly, let me know and I’ll add it to my list – it need not be New Zealand’s finest hour but one that draws you back to the sport of gentlemen.

Thanks to everyone who has offered their views – if you’re looking for fine cricketing debate, and you’re on Twitter, give them a follow – I learned more in an hour than I ever would simply reading books:

I’d love to hear your thoughts and some of the stories passed down through generations – post a comment below or send me a tweet @aotearoaxi. This blog, and especially the posts to follow, are primarily for me to develop a stronger understanding of where New Zealand cricket has come from, and the players who have shaped our great game.

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