Cricket captures nations attention

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Cricket has had Sideline Sid's attention, left, right and centre, since the Boxing Day Test kicked-off at the Bay Oval.

'Build it and they will come' was the mantra as the crowds flocked to the Western Bay of Plenty cricket ground.

A big gamble, after Blake Park lost the popular NZC Major Association one-day games, came to fruition when the Black Caps and Pakistan walked out on to the ground for the respective national anthems on Boxing Day.

A near sellout crowd on Boxing Day, followed by very respectable audiences over the next four days, would have delighted NZ Cricket in their initial allocation of the much prized test match to the Bay Oval.

An added bonus for Bay of Plenty Cricket fans was the big part played in the Black Cap victory by home grown heroes Captain Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, and adopted son Neil Wagner.

The Black Cap skipper delighted his legion of fans with a century in just his second test appearance at the Western Bay of Plenty showpiece.

His 129 runs before being dismissed, was a masterclass in application of weathering the early storm before hitting out to take his side to a dominant position in the match.

Trent Boult shouldered a big bowling load and was rewarded with four wickets.

Neil Wagner's showed through when he bowled in the Pakistan innings with two broken toes, to grab four wickets.

While rain delays are part and parcel of the game of cricket,  players were forced from the field on day three by hail, which gave the unusual appearance of light snowfall on the Bay Oval.

Few test matches go down to the wire late on the fifth day, with the Black Caps victories on day five over Pakistan and England last year a testament to the durability of the pitch prepared by Bay Oval Turf Manager Jared Carter.

Just one day after the test became a memory, the Bay Oval was transformed into a platform for the all-action NZC Super Smash competition.

For the many that attended both the test and T20 hit-outs, the contrasts of the two forms of the game were as different as chalk and cheese.

Test Cricket epitomises the qualities of patience and perseverance and seizing the glimmer of opportunity when it arises.

T20 leaves no time for the batsmen to settle in after arriving at the wicket, with game on from the opening ball.

For an amateur cricket statistician, such as Sideline Sid, two different match statistics shine in the two forms in the game.

Test match averages often dictate the inclusion or absence of individual players by the selectors.

Strike-rate is king in the T20 game, with assaults on the boundary ropes paramount to victory, which often turn into a personal battle between batsmen and bowler.

While cricket took centre stage at the Bay Oval during the test match, there was plenty of chatter on the sidelines, on the switching of television coverage from long time cricket broadcaster Sky to Spark Sport.

The general consensus wasn't favourable about the change, with some cricket fans feeling they had been shut out of watching New Zealand test cricket on the box.

While Sideline Sid stumped up with the extra dollars to join Spark Sport during the cricket season, it would be interesting to compare the last two seasons cricket TV/streaming viewing figures at season end.

My last word on the matter is that it appears that pursuit of the mighty dollar for corporate profit has become more important than the wishes of the man in the street cricket fan, who just wants to view the Black Caps tests.



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