Monday, 4 February 2013

The Middle Stump Guide to New Zealand

Aotearoa, to give it the Maori name. This translates to 'the land of the long white cloud' although with today's warm up game being called off in Whangerei, maybe it should be 'the land of the long grey one'. New Zealand is a fantastic country, split into two islands and we are really looking forward to this series. The wine, scenery, the warmth of the people and the culture are all something to behold here, but here we give you the lowdown on Kiwis and have a look at their cricketers.

New Zealand

The first thing to note is when discussing cricketers of the 1960's, if a Kiwi refers to Milburn, he is not talking about Colin, the fine English player, pisshead and hero of us here at The Middle Stump, but instead will be talking about the capital of Victoria in Australia. Kiwis in general are good people, and have a great sense of humour. None more so than the tv presenter who lost his job a few years back laughing at the name of the Chief Minister of Delhi, who went by the moniker of Sheila Dikshit!

No doubt the same sense of humour was thought up by the wag who made the emblem of the NZRAF, a Kiwi in a circle. We all know that Kiwis are a flightless bird but let that not bother the people of these islands, when it is your military air force. One thing you will notice about this place is sheep! Lots of them - in fact to the tune of 47 million compared to 3 million human inhabitants. Think of it as a Magaluf to those of us inclined to shag them!

Mount Cook...that's the only way this lot will get him out!

Cloudy Bay is one of the finest wines in the world, and get yourself to a vineyard or three if you are visiting for the series. Steinlager tends to be the choice of piss in this rugby mad nation. As a Kiwi will tell you, "Show me a New Zealander that can't drink, and I will show you an Australian"!!

The country has been through some horrendous times recently with the Miners Disaster and the earthquake in Christchurch. Auckland is the biggest city by far, situated at the top of the North Island, whilst the Cook Strait named after the forward defensive of the England captain splits it from the South. This truly is a stunning venue and no wonder many films such as Lord of the Rings were set here.

As for the cricket then this will be made up of three T20's, three ODI's and three Test matches. NZ cricket has been through some strange moments recently. After a great win in Sri Lanka, Ross Taylor was then removed/resigned, dependent on your point of view or whether you believe the board or rumours circulating throughout the cricketing world, and replaced with Brendon McCullum. Taylor, without a doubt the finest Kiwi batsman in a generation should be returning but did miss the tour to South Africa where they were dismissed for just 45. Whilst the one eyed Englishmen amongst us will want us to stuff the Kiwis, we'd like to beat their best side and Ross Taylor being in there will certainly make it more of a contest.

Ross Taylor...we're glad he is back

Their batting is a weak link, and long gone are the days of people like John Wright, Bruce Edgar or Geoff Howarth to hold England up, let alone the classy Martin Crowe. A lot relies on the skipper McCullum, although players such as Dean Brownlie or Gloucestershire's Kane Williamson can get runs. Martin Guptill, having overcome the disability of only having two toes on one of his feet, is also someone most Englishmen will want to see the back of.

They have three keepers to choose from. Luke Ronchi, having played for Australia, and one of our Ugly XI in our forthcoming book Cricket Banter, where he was described as 'a strong argument for eugenics' may well play, having re qualified for the Black Caps. Kruger van Wyk has been imported from South Africa, whilst the fantastically named BJ Watling could make an appearance too. If the romantics amongst us, such as David and Victoria Beckham, called their son Brooklyn after the place where he was conceived, then it is a surprise that Mrs Watling ever got pregnant in the first place!

Ronchi...a good looking boy!

James Franklin should lead the attack along with Tim Southee, described as having the control only "Justin Lee Collins could dream about" by Dan and Liam when they did a commentary stint on Test Match Sofa in September. The Black Caps attack is certainly different from the dibbly dobblers of the eighties and nineties when Chris Harris, Jeremy Coney, Lance Cairns and Co would have a trundle from one end, whilst the world class Richard Hadlee would bowl from the other. It was described by one cricketer as facing a third eleven club attack from one end, and the best bowling in the world at the other. Naturally the best batsmen would have the ability to count to six and rotate the strike in order not to face too much of the Nottinghamshire all rounder!

The spin department should be led by Jeetan Patel with Harry Potter look a like Daniel Vettori doubtful for the series with Achilles problems.

Sir Richard of the finest bowlers to ever play the game
The New Zealand cricket fans are called the 'Beige Brigade' in honour of the horrendous kits worn by their one day side in the early 1980's which was a beige/fawn/tan thing that looked like it would itch something horrendously if the temperature decided to rise above ten degrees. High fashion apparel, it most certainly was not. The BB are a good laugh, and don't take life too seriously.

One thing New Zealand have always been good for, is an out and out number eleven. You know, the sort to make Phil Tufnell or Devon Malcolm look decent. Danny Morrison, Chris Martin, Brendon Bracewell...I could go on.

I expect England to win this and fairly comfortably, but one thing about this proud nation is that they rarely give up. England to win 2-0, by virtue of having the better batting, better bowling and also being the owners of more toes than the opposition, but will be pushed.

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