As a sequel to the previous year's tour, the NZRB cricket team's tour to Australia had a lot to live up. The location had changed from Brisbane to Sydney and some of the personnel had changed (out went Craig Twiname, Thad Taylor and Blair Nicholson and in came Darryl Taljaard, Murray Munro and Simon Thomas) but the basic competition was still the same. The team from the New Zealand Racing Board were charged with heading to Australia to capture the prestigious First Option Credit Union Shield.
The location for the tournament was out in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown. Bankstown is about 45 minutes by train from Sydney City centre and its fair to say that it does not enjoy the best of reputations. It has a reputation for being unsafe at night, but certainly in the time we were there neither saw nor heard any problems. In fact, the locals were incredibly friendly - on two occasions during the walk from our accommodation to the ground, I was stopped by locals curious as to what the cricket being played in April was all about.
The accommodation was quite interesting as well. We were staying at the Bankstown Sports Club - a huge complex with a TAB, half a dozen restaurants, 3 or 4 bars and hundreds of fruit machines. Great entertainment for the gambling afficionado. Not such a great place for those of us who don't have a gambling addiction. The games themselves were to be played at the Bankstown Oval - a ground used only weeks before for the Women's Cricket World Cup and one which has hosted top grade cricket for decades.
Anyway, true to form from our cricket experienced in Australia, there was a torrential downpour of rain the night before the first match. This meant that the wicket for our first match against Victoria was not going to be easy for the batsmen to play on. Sure enough, we lost the toss and were put in to bat and struggled on an old fashioned sticky wicket. Our top order collapsed and in our alloted overs, we only managed to set a score of 89 thanks to a solid rearguard batting performance from BJ Martin. It was at the fall of our sixth wicket that we found out that the rules of the tournament allowed us to have twelve batsmen, one of which could bat no higher than 8 and could not bowl. This helped us to some extent as Murray Munro, one of our spare batsman could come in to support BJ.
A score of 89 was not going to be enough on a drying wicket, and despite dismissing a few of the Victorians, they cruised home by six wickets.
The second game against New South Wales was a nail biter. They set us a target of 112 to win, following good bowling performances by Steve Hunt and Simon Thomas in particular. The chase was going to be tough given the heat and the huge boundaries at the Bankstown Oval, and our top order struggled against the new ball and the accurate bowling by the New South Wales opening bowlers. However, a solid innings from Darryl Taljaard and a useful contribution from Steve Hunt saw us right in the game in the last over. With one ball to go, we needed 2 to tie (and to force the game into a super over) and 3 to win outright. Unfortunately, Steve couldn't get bat on ball and whilst they managed to steal a bye through to the keeper, we finished just one run short of a tie. A highlight of this match was a hattrick of run outs from Andy Monk. In the last over of the New South Wales innings, in three consecutive balls, Monkey managed to action run outs. Two direct hits accounted for two New South Welshmen whilst a great throw from Monk through to our keeper, Taljaard, accounted for the third of these run outs. A pretty unique achievement.
This meant that we were in with very little chance of making the finals when we played our last game. The match against the Queenslanders will always prove to be the biggest battle in the Trans-tasman TAB rivalry, having contested the McGregor-Grant Trophy back in 2007 to kick off New Zealand participation in the 20:20 tournament. This time, the Kiwi team ran out victorious as Thomas and Hunt once again rattled through the wickets. The Queensland opener, Dunkson battled well for a quickfire 46, but other than that their batting went missing. Still, a top order collapse and some great bowling and fielding from the Queenslanders meant the run chase turned out to be pretty hard. Murray Munro anchored the innings, but with one over to go 10 runs were required. Andy Monk came to the crease and managed to score 8 runs off three balls to steer us to victory and get New Zealand off the mark in the First Option Credit Union Shield.
New Zealand's Man of the Series was named Steve Hunt with him scoring valuable runs to go along side his wickets and miserly economy rate.
Outside of the cricket, the team managed to take advantage of the other sporting events going on in Sydney. Four of us - me, Byron, Darryl and Simon managed the long train journey out to Penrith to watch the Rugby League. On penultimate day, before the cricket presentation ceremony, most of us ventured into Sydney to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the Australian Rules Football match between the Sydney Swans and the Carlton Blues. It was a great spectacle at a jam-packed SCG with the crowd pretty much split 60/40 between Sydney and Carlton fans. Whilst most of us were at the AFL, four guys (Brendan Popplewell, Murray Munro, Roger Moore and Steve Hunt) were at the Doncaster Derby at Randwick Racecourse as guests of a horse owner who had a horse running on the day.
So, we played cricket and made the most of the opportunities that Sydney offers. Next year, New Zealand will be hosting the tournament. It'll be interesting to see how the Aussie batsmen, used to a nice bouncy Australian wicket will fare on a nice skiddy Kiwi greentop. We'll find out soon enough.
|Firstly, here's some
photos of the cricket and the
ground that we were playing at - the Bankstown Oval.
Top Left: The pitch and wicket at Bankstown. One of the best surfaces you're likely to get a chance to play on - especially good for the batsmen out there. One small problem was a massive electrical storm on the day of our arrival managed to blow the covers off the wicket and make it pretty damp for the first game. Who'd want to be the unlucky team to bat on it first? Well, we got given the opportunity due to losing the toss. Whoops.
Top Right: Murray Munro demonstrating to all and sundry just how to execute his favourite shot - in this case the perfectly timed forward defensive. A masterclass in defensive technique from Muzza.
Right: A list of Bankstown players who've played First Class cricket over the years. A number of notable names there that have gone on to play international cricket for Australia - Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Jeff Thomson, Nathan Bracken and a few more besides.
Bottom Left: BJ Martin hits the bowling crease against New South Wales (TABCorp) in our second game of the tournament. New South Wales would once again go on to win the tournament. I wonder how they'll enjoy batting in New Zealand when next year's tournament comes around?
Bottom Right: Sitting in a pub near Darling Harbour on the 2nd night that we were in Sydney; watching the sunset in pleasantly warm late Summer heat. A beer, good company and a good back drop. Not too shabby, really.
|So, outside of the
playing of cricket, the *Wonderful*
Bankstown Sports Club and the host of Vietnamese restaurants available
for your orders in Bankstown, what else is there to see in the
surrounding area? Well, here's a few photos from outside of Bankstown.
Top Left: En route from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, we found this fantastic example of Australian parking technique. Obviously someone took exception to the position that this car had been parked in and decided that the solution was to drop a boulder on top of it.
Top Right: A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in a gum tree in the Sydney suburbs. A great thing to see as a tourist, but with all the noise they make they'd get pretty annoying if you had to live with 'em in your garden day-in day-out.
Left: The Credit Union Australia Stadium, Penrith. Home of Australian Rugby League team, Penrith. A few of us went out to the deepest, darkest Sydney suburbs to watch the game between the Penrith Panthers and the Brisbane Broncos. It was a pretty exciting game which was largely dominated by the Brisbane side, but one that Penrith did well to stay in touch until the last twenty minutes. This view is taken post-to-post just before the start of the match.
Bottom Left: Darryl Taljaard - New Zealand's South African import. Darryl had an enjoyable night at the Rugby League, becoming quite popular with the local crowd. I cannot confirm whether the beverage in the bottle is Coca-Cola. There's a chance that the coke may have been contaminated with another liquid.
Bottom Right: A scrum. Not exactly the big push and shove that you see in Union. In my opinion, this is a good thing as the setting of scrums in Union is usually just used as an excuse for both teams to waste a good five minutes. Why is it that professional rugby players are completely incapable of setting a scrum correctly first time?
And here's a last couple of photos:
kind of eagle that I can't specifically name, but I'm pretty sure given
the hooked beak that this is some kind of Eagle. Probably...
Right: Obviously, a game between Penrith and Brisbane is a popular one, because as you can see from this picture, the stands were pretty much sold out. The standing room at both ends of the ground was pretty crammed too.