March 8th 2019. The alarm went off at some ridiculous hour. There wasn’t time to hit the snooze button though; get up, shower, quick bite to eat and into the car. The mission? My first trip to the Basin Reserve. Yes, I’d lived in New Zealand for nine years and I was still daring to call myself a huge cricket fan, despite not having made the trip down from Hawke’s Bay. McLean Park had been the extent of my international experience in New Zealand. My first match there was a 146 run victory by the Blackcaps against Bangladesh over the 50 over format back in 2010. Home favourite Jacob Oram was man of the match with 83 runs and a wicket as Bangladesh were bowled out with over 6 overs remaining. Now, with a four hour drive to Wellington ahead of me, Bangladesh were again the opposition, but this time it was the longest form of the game that lay ahead.
The drive wasn’t one to remember for good reasons – I don’t think it stopped raining once. Perhaps the start will be delayed I thought? The rain continued. In fact the rain didn’t stop – for two whole days. I needed to be back in Hawke’s Bay on day three, so I’d made the trip to the capital and hadn’t seen a single ball bowled. I didn’t even go to the ground. I almost walked down from my motel a few times over the two days, but I stopped myself as I knew deep down that any play was wishful thinking. Play started on the Sunday and New Zealand went on to win by an innings and 12 runs on the scheduled day five.
Fast forward 21 months and I repeated the trip. The weather forecast for today was good, very good. Again the start was early but the journey was better and as I parked about 10 mins away from the ground, the Saturday morning crowd started to increase and make their way down Cambridge Terrace. Families, groups of friends, those making the trip alone; as we know, cricket attracts them all. As I settled in my surroundings I could see exactly why this venue is so revered. There’s just a great feeling to the place. As someone who’s been fortunate to go to Lords many times pre 2010, I like to think I understand that there are cricket grounds and then there are special cricket grounds and this place falls into that select group.
As the morning went on, the embankments filled up nicely as people found their spot for the day. Members took their regular seats in the stand and the odd person like me slowly found their bearings, resulting in an attendance of 5,528. As the temperature increased in the afternoon session, so did the queues for refreshments, sun screen and other facilities, before inevitably, the crowd started to thin in the evening.
The biggest cheers of the day came for Henry Nicholls, who amassed 174 before falling to Roston Chase, Neil Wagner, who scored his highest first class score of 66 not out, reaching his 50 in 36 balls and Kyle Jamieson, who took the wickets of John Campbell and Chase in consecutive deliveries before two lbw shouts in the next two balls. He would finish the day with figures of 5 for 34 off 13 overs as the West Indies reached 124 for 8, still trailing New Zealand by 336 runs.
For the second time in just over a week, the West Indies are struggling; Just like 21 months ago, it looks like the Blackcaps could be wrapping up a test victory at the Basin within three days.
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