An Autumn test match, in often Autumnal weather – a risk, but one that more or less came off. That said, the clocks went back on the Sunday morning, before day 3, and the last three days started half an hour earlier. But not an hour earlier, which would have been effectively the same time. The change was only announced a day or two beforehand, suggesting it just hadn’t been thought of. Ultimately, that cost a pile of cricket, not so much on the last day, when England under bowled James Anderson but rushed through overs with Root and Malan contributing and got through more than the 98 mandated because of a clear day. But the night before, play had ended early because cloud cover made it too dark, and over 20 overs were lost.
I missed the first two days, heading down to Wanaka for the parkrun, but the match was nicely poised on day three. It was still so on day 5, with England needing all 10 wickets to win. They would have wanted 2 or 3 the evening before, denied by stubborn openers and a curtailed session. That mattered less after 2 balls, when Broad removed Laval with a loosener, chipping to mid wicket, and Williamson with a decent ball. That made up for the lack of wickets on the Monday, but ultimately New Zealand held out. Although England finally took a wicket in the 100+th over of the day, by then there were only minutes left, Wagner wisely reviewed it to kill a couple of them, Southee meandered out only to be told there was no need. New Zealand picked up a great draw and a deserved series win, albeit one that was secured in the first couple of hours of day 1 at Auckland, after which England gradually improved and were the better team (if marginally) for most of the second test. They didn’t take 20 wickets in either test, though, again looking toothless, though at least the changed attack for test 2 saw wickets for the support acts, Wood and Leach, the latter’s celebrations particularly joyous.
As for the supporter experience; it was great, though cold after 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The wind whips across Hagley park, and finds you wherever you sit. I was in a jumper from 2 each day, even the sunny ones, and by the close was glad to switch into running gear and warm up by running the four miles home. The ground is beautiful, apparently one of 6 (or so?) ’boutique’ grounds around New Zealand. There’s only one permanent structure, covering maybe 10% of the boundary, with some stands erected to provide seating opposite the main building, a few large umbrellas for shade and otherwise everyone sitting on the raised banking. As TMS put it, 5-6,000 makes it look full, where at Eden Park even twice that looks empty. I wandered round at different times, partly for a different view and, later, to keep warm. During the lunch break, supporters were invited onto the field, whereon those with kids would play on the outfield and those without would stand at one end, near the pitch, gazing and looking for clues. Brilliant.