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NZRB Cricket Tour to Sydney - April 2013

I consider myself Fast-Fast.
The 2013 New Zealand Racing Board Cricket Touring Squad.
From Right to Left:
(Back Row) Mark Mills, Aaron Hunt, Brendan Bourke, Stephen Lwee, BJ Martin, Andy Newman, Byron Mabbett, Paul Maoate, Scott Hunt, Steve Hunt
(Kneeling) Dave Macalpine, Sam Kelly (c)
The Squad

(Captain) Sam Kelly
Brendan Bourke
Aaron Hunt
Scott Hunt
Steve Hunt
Stephen Lwee
Byron Mabbett
Dave Macalpine
Paul Maoate
BJ Martin
Mark Mills
Andy Newman

Andy hadn't worked for the New Zealand Racing Board for quite some time (over 2 years). However, in early 2013 despite having very little cricket under his belt for the season, he got the phone call from his former colleagues. They were off on their annual cricket tour, funding had been cut by the New Zealand Racing Board and they needed more players. After a while considering the offer, Andy decided that he would go. It had been 4 years since Andy last toured with the NZRB team, and three years since he had played with them in the 2010 tournament held in New Zealand. The team ended up a bit makeshift with a couple of other fillers being roped in, but the Kiwis managed to scrape together a line up, and with expectations low they took flight over to the familiar climes of the Bankstown Sports Club in Sydney.

As it turned out, the Australian teams were in a similar position with funding being tight and their teams maybe not being at full strength as a result. However, the teams each fielded a number of familiar faces and Sydney offered up perfect weather for the occasion.

The first match for the New Zealanders on the first morning was against Victoria. The New Zealanders batted first and put up a good score thanks to a brisk start from Byron Mabbett - who hit a decent six on the large outfield of the Bankstown 2nd ground before being caught out at the same boundary spot next ball - and Scott Hunt who fell just after scoring his 50. Andy ended up batting at 9 and scoring a couple of quick singles before the overs ran out and it was time for the Victorians to bat. The Victorian innings never really got going and they were never up with the run rate. The match was as good as won for the Kiwis when the Victorians' best batsman was given out caught behind rather dubiously. The New Zealanders ran out deserved winners by about 40 runs.

New Zealand 138/7 (Scott Hunt 51, Byron Mabbett 19, Steve Hunt 16)
Victoria 110/9 (BJ Martin 4 - 0 - 22 - 3, Byron Mabbett 2 - 0 - 8 - 2)

The afternoon match was another win for New Zealand after another solid batting performance and good work in the field. The top order put together a number of 20-odd scores, but no one went on to make a big innings. A comical run out saw local lad Mark Mills run out the fiery Kiwi Steve Hunt, but the end result was another tough target for the Australian opposition. The Queenslanders found a tough chase even tougher when they lost their quality opening batsmen for reasonably low scores. After that, they never threatened the target ensuring the Kiwi Fruit Cup (contested between New Zealand and Queensland) would remain in New Zealand hands. It also meant that barring a shocker in the last round robin match against pre-tournament favourites New South Wales, New Zealand should make the final.

New Zealand 136/7 (Mark Mills 29, BJ Martin 27*, Dave Macalpine 24)
Queensland 112/5 (BJ Martin 4 - 0 - 18 - 1, Steve Hunt 4 - 0 - 14 - 1)

The final round robin match was a cagey affair. New South Wales needed to win and win well to reach the final after Queensland defeated them in game one and they resoundingly defeated Victoria in game two. This game was in the morning of the 2nd day of the tournament and some players were looking a little worse for wear following the previous night's festivities. This may have contributed to a huge collapse from the New Zealand top order which left it looking like the Kiwis would struggle to get anywhere near to setting a reasonable target. A couple of dubious Lbw calls from the neutral umpires (Aaron Hunt given out Lbw with the ball sailing down leg and Andy being given out Lbw about a foot outside off stump with the ball swinging away) did not help. A lower order hit and giggle from Sam Kelly and BJ Martin ensured respectibility for the Kiwis. New South Wales made very hard work of chasing the target down as some tight bowling and some great fielding (including the undoubted catch of the tournament from Andy diving in the covers) as well as the New South Wales team trying to chase the target down in the 13 overs required to overtake New Zealand on Net Run Rate ensured that they could not build momentum. In the end, it all came down to their last wicket pair who just managed to get the ball through the infield in the final over, bowled by Aaron Hunt.

New Zealand 100/9 (Byron Mabbett 30, BJ Martin 23*)
New South Wales 101/9 - 19.2 overs (BJ Martin 4 - 0 - 18 - 3, Dave Macalpine 2 - 0 - 7 - 2)

And so it came to the final, played on the afternoon of the second day. The heat was starting to take its toll on the fielders and both teams wanted to bat first as a result. However, the Queenslanders won the toss and got off to an excellent start as their openers who'd failed in the round robin fixture made hay against a tired Kiwi fielding unit. The Queenslanders were on course for a huge total after 10 overs as they were on 70 - 0 with the fielders and bowlers flagging. However, the openers fell in successive overs and the Queensland middle order failed to capitalise on the start the openers had made. However, the final score of 120 was challenging. However, a fantastic start from Sam Kelly and Byron Mabbett put the Kiwis ahead of the run rate, and Scott and Steve Hunt were able to work the ones and twos to keep up with it. BJ Martin and Dave Macalpine finished the game off easily and the New Zealanders had their first tournament win!

Queensland 120/8 (Aaron Hunt 4 - 0 - 24 - 3, Dave Macalpine 3 - 0 - 16 - 2)
New Zealand 121/5 - 18.0 overs (Steve Hunt 30, Byron Mabbett 25, Scott Hunt 24)

It's fair to say it was a pretty messy evening after that for the winning New Zealanders. Without naming any names, one team member was kicked out of the Bankstown Sports Club and sent up to his room 4 times, whilst a different team member mistook his room door for the urinals and ended up copping a significant cleaning fee from the hotel. For the record, neither of these people was Andy. Scott Hunt went home with the player of the tournament title.

After the tournament finished, Andy, Byron and Brendan stuck around Sydney for a couple of days. Firstly, they met up with a couple of friends of Andy (Dean and Jake) and went along to watch the Sydney Roosters play the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in rugby league. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored the first try for the Roosters, netting Andy a big win on first try scorer at odds of $14. The Roosters went home happy with a one-sided 38 - 0 win. The Bulldogs fans were heading for the exits after about 60 minutes. Encouraged by Dean, the group continued on after the game to the Roosters Leagues Club (basically the Roosters' club rooms) to have a few cheap beers and to watch the celebrations for the team. There were quizzes, interviews and a fun time had by all. Except maybe Jake who disappeared at one point during the night, and the rest of the group were later to discover he'd gone chasing after some bastard who'd stolen his phone from the bar! Cheers to Dean and Jake for their hospitality. The post match atmosphere at the Leagues Club was a pretty unique experience, given the size of the win.

The following day, Andy, Byron and Brendan hit the road for the Australian capital City of Canberra. Getting out of Sydney took a ridiculous amount of time, but mainly because there was no map with the hire car and the motorway couldn't be found, instead taking a semi-main road through the South-Western suburbs. The drive down to Canberra wasn't particularly interesting, but there was plenty of time to make a couple of stops on the way. The main stop was at the town of Bowral, mainly known as the town where Sir Donald Bradman grew up. The cricket ground there was a particularly scenic place and whilst there, there seemed to be a reunion of the Australian women's cricket team of 1963 going on.

The road to Canberra continued on. At one point a roadside sign declared that Lake George was being driven by. This was particularly interesting as there was no water to be seen in the so called Lake. It turns out that it's a bit of a strange lake with it filling and drying on very short timescales. Anyway, look it up on Wikipedia.

So, in Canberra the lads dropped their bags off at the hotel before continuing on to watch the Greater Western Sydney Giants take on the St Kilda Saints in Australian Rules Football. It was another one sided affair as the Saints scored 21 goals, 14 behinds (140 points) to the Giants 10.8 (68). The most disappointing aspect of the game was a queue of 45 minutes to get into the Manuka Oval to see the game due to inadequate bag checking staff being on the gates. It seemed a pretty shoddy set-up for a ground trying to stage a top tier sports match.

Straight after the game it was off to the other side of Canberra to watch the local Canberra Raiders take on the New Zealand Warriors in Rugby League. The Raiders won the match 20 - 16, but the Warriors had been well ahead in the game only to throw it away in the 2nd half with a very tired looking performance.

And that was that. The next day it was back to Sydney for the plane back to New Zealand.

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Firstly, here's some photos of the cricket and the ground that we were playing at - the Bankstown Oval.

Top Left: Byron Mabbett hits the ball into the leg side and it looks like he's calling that there's no run there. An unusual event for Byron if so, given that most of the tournament he dealt mainly in boundaries.

Top Right: Sam Kelly trundling in to bowl against the Queenslanders in the round-robin match.

Right: The first round of post-final drinks being enjoyed by the New Zealand team whilst the sun sets on the Bankstown Oval.

Bottom Left: Chilling out in Sydney City Centre, just beside the Opera House with the iconic Harbour Bridge in the background. From the left, Byron Mabbett, Brendan Bourke, BJ Martin and Stephen Lwee.

Bottom Right: A somewhat fuzzy picture from the Rugby League match between the Roosters and the Bulldogs.
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So, heading outside of Sydney what else was there to be seen?

Left: The gate onto the cricket oval at Bowral in rural New South Wales, a lovely tree-surrounded ground. Not only was there a 50 year anniversary of the 1963 Australian Women's cricket team going on, there also seemed to be some U16 boys cricket match about to start - not that the stumps had made it out on to the ground by this stage.

Bottom Left: Andy posing with a statue of Australian cricket great Sir Donald Bradman, a local hero.

Bottom Right: The scoreboard at the Manuka Oval, clearly prepared for a game between some England and Australian representatives by the looks of it, but I'm not entirely sure what level of representative cricket the board had been prepared for.
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Right: A bit of pushing and shoving going on during the Greater Western Sydney Giants vs. St Kilda Saints Aussie Rules game at the Manuka Oval. Number 44 for the Saints has possession of the ball at the right hand side.

Bottom Left: The scoreboard at the Manuka Oval. Usually the ground is used for cricket, so the scoreboard was a bit oversized for the demands of Aussie Rules. At this stage of the game, the Giants were yet to score whilst St Kilda had scored 4 goals (worth 6 points each) and 4 behinds (worth one point each) giving them a total score of 28.

Bottom Right: Some players milling around during the Raiders (in fluorescent green shirts) versus Warriors (in white shirts) game. The end result was a disappointing loss for the Warriors.
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