Lord’s. Australia v New Zealand

Australia 243-9 New Zealand 157 all out (29th June 2019)

For the third Saturday in a row I found myself trekking into London, for my second match of this Cricket World Cup, for another match featuring Australia, but this time at Lord’s.

Two weeks ago I’d seen Australia v Sri Lanka at The Oval, while my visit last Saturday had been for, among a few other things, a gig involving Japanese all-female rock band “Band-Maid” (highly recommended). Despite it taking place in a “venue”, it didn’t exactly fit in with a site about sports grounds, so my toying with the idea of giving it a “it’s summer, and not much is happening” write up, came to nothing.

And, of course, two write ups in three weekends is actually more frequent than much of the time during the football season anyway.

It wasn’t my first visit to Lord’s. I’d first gone there for the first day of a test v New Zealand in 1986. It was a real spur of the moment decision to go then, and a bit of a rush. This time I had a bit more time, but there’s not a huge amount around Lord’s, not unless you like walking past what are easy to imagine to be celebrity mansions. Many took the chance to pop up the road to Abbey Studios, to add Beatles-fan graffiti to an already covered wall, and to annoy the traffic by doing their best fab four impression, crossing the zebra crossing, while motorists get irate as they stop in the middle for selfies.

An unplanned detour, this time to find somewhere in this distinctly upmarket residential area that sold food – I had no intention of paying £12 for a fast-food snack again – meant I again missed the first few balls, not that it mattered hugely.

One thing that definitely did matter on this day was being in the shade. With temperatures recorded around 34 C, spending eight hours in blazing sunshine did not appeal. Luckily my ticket was for the back row of the Mound stand’s lower tier, which was not only fully shaded, but also had a cooling breeze wafting in throughout the day. As the day progressed, the walkway behind this back row gradually filled with people looking to escape a slow grilling, as the glare of the sun advanced round.

You definitely see things you wouldn’t see at football for the cricket. A man walking past with champagne in an ice bucket being one. Loads of men with their sunglasses tucked into the the “v” of their linen shirts, and curiously, quite a lot of people wearing what looked like sailor hats. None of them looked like they owned a yacht, so I’m not sure of the significance.

The crowd was very good natured, despite the antipodean rivalry. The nearest to a cross word was one Australia fan’s unhappy reaction to an English comment. He suggested some kind of minor misdemeanor, to which the English fan replied “It’s that sort of thing that got your lot sent to Australia in the first place”.

The game, it has to be said, wasn’t the best. One day cricket has become more exciting due to the higher run rate, with players regularly pushing the score along with fours and sixes. This was more like a grind of old, from the days of cricket whites, when anything above 250 was considered a big score.

Australia didn’t even manage that. Tied down by dominant Kiwi bowling, they looked in serious danger of total collapse at 92-5, before a game-saving 6th wicket partnership of 107 changed the game. Another stoic struggle saw 44 added by the 7th wicket pairing going into the final over, before Trent Boult took a hat-trick of wickets to end the innings (+ a final dot ball) and seemingly leave New Zealand in command.

The expectation was for either a New Zealand stroll, or maybe a great finish, but in the end neither of those happened. New Zealand seemed to play ultra cautiously, in the face of excellent Australian fielding and bowling, it has to be said. Approaching 100 in the 25th over, the plan seemed to be to ignore the slow run rate, and just build a foundation to allow them to swing the bat later.

Then it all went horribly wrong. The third wicket fell at 97, and New Zealand never looked confident after that. It took another six overs to hit 21 runs, and then the fourth wicket fell, followed by the fifth, just three balls later. The required run rate was creeping up and up, and New Zealand just didn’t have the quality of batsmen to hit that rate, especially given then number of wickets left.

The next two wickets fell for just 13 runs, taking another six overs, and many saw this as a chance to nip away early, beating the rush, and avoiding the inevitable. New Zealand limped on for another five overs, like a mortally wounded animal looking for a place to die, before a catch down towards the boundary put the game out of its misery. An 86-run defeat is poor at the best of times, but to a total as low as Australia’s it’s almost embarrassing.

New Zealand face England next, in what could amount to a semi-final eliminator. Australia will probably be thinking already about returning to Lord’s in two weeks’ time, making notes of the procedure here when, or just maybe “if”, they win the cup.



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