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Leather on Willow

James Clark



Across town the Black Caps will hopefully be taking it to the Proteas to give us our first test series victory over South Africa. Get down to the Basin and support our mighty men in white.
Last week was an impressive display of cricket that some would argue was the best game played by the Black Caps recently, and has left New Zealanders wondering if we are in fact returning to the glory days of cricket.
Captain Ian Fleming took the victory with a beautifully struck six and secured the test series score at 1-0 to New Zealand. “It was such a big prize at the end of to hit the winning runs, and I couldn’t turn it down,” Fleming said. The Proteas, who are supposedly the second best test team behind Australia, went down with a nine-wicket loss to some extraordinary performances and skill on behalf of the Black Caps.
Chris Martin, player of the match, finished with impressive bowling stats, taking 11 for 180, which surpassed Chris Cairns 10 for 100 back in the 1999-00 season against the West Indies. But Cairns had much more to celebrate, joining the exclusive 200-3000 club, achieving 200 wickets and 3000 runs in test matches. Cairns now has his name immortalised with other cricket greats including Richard Hadlee and Ian Botham, whom Cairns describes as his favourite due to the X-factor that Botham played with.
South Africa remains the only country that New Zealand has yet to win a test series against, so a win – or – even a draw would be an historical moment for the Black Caps and cricket in New Zealand. Questions will be asked as to where New Zealand cricket is destined to head from here. Could Stephen Fleming lead a reinvigorated Black Cap squad to dominate England on their tour there? Maybe even a test series victory over Australia would not be too much to ask for sometime in the near future. Let’s just make sure we win at the Basin first and not buckle under pressure like we all too often seem to do.
Unfortunately, I saw none of last week’s test match at Eden Park except for the odd glimpse as I past a TV. I was preoccupied with my school’s 150th celebrations and rematches from our own glory days on the field from those long-past school days.
For some of us, it was only last year that we were wearing our school colours with pride as we competed for the awards in our respective sports. For others, it’s been a bit longer, especially those who have lost count of how long we’ve been at Uni.
No matter how long it has been though, a trip back to school is always a nostalgic experience and to play on the fields and courts that for five years we practiced and played on evokes many memories of the tries that were scored, the sixes hit, the penalty corners we religiously defended, the smell of grass in our face and the scars from the netball and basketball courts.
School was a time a time when we didn’t have to be the very best to compete. There were always players and leagues at our level and it meant that every Saturday, or whenever it was, the game would be an intense battle. Then of course, there were the school rivalries, when everything heated up an extra notch and bodies were put on the line. It didn’t matter if your courageous endeavours weren’t for the firsts teams. If it was an impressive display of talent or skill, then all your classes and mates would be talking about it on the Monday.
It was the firsts teams that were so inspiring to watch, after all; that was were the future representatives of NZ would be playing and it was something we could always strive to achieve; to play for our school first team. There was also the constant reminder of achievement in the school song ‘of the match that was won with the sinking sun and of the goal from the place kicked true,’ to give us that extra encouragement in our next sporting event.
The sports field was were we became close friends with our team mates and enemies were sometimes made too. It was a time of growing up, when testosterone had to be let out and emotions were always intense. To return to school last weekend and see 40 and 50 year olds running round with that youthful glint in their eye that they thought they had lost embodied some of what school was about, when time and health were on your side and there was a whole world ahead of you.