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Farewell to one-dayers
9:20am Monday 3rd March 2008 in Sport
My worst nightmares involve having to score a cricket match from a box with a grotesquely restricted view of play. None has approached the scenario confronting me at Lancaster Park last Saturday.
Our box, although roomy and air-conditioned, was sited even higher than the media spaceship at Lord's. It was also cunningly located at mid-wicket.
Separated from us only by a large window were the heads and shoulders of the top row of occupants of some debenture seats. My only view was through the narrow gap between the heads of two elderly gentlemen. Recording play would have been testing had they remained still but this seldom happened. The gent to my left looked remarkably like a more expansive, less healthy version of my good friend and current President of the Lord's Taverners, Bill Tidy. Beside him were two enormous ice boxes of wine bottles. In a display worthy of John Arlott at his thirstiest and helped only minimally by those around him, this inflated Tidy proceeded to imbibe the entire contents of both boxes. This frequently involved him rising either to rummage for a new bottle or leave for the gents and cause the entire row to stand and make way for him. By the time the flood-lighting took over, he had reddened considerably and appeared to fill even more of the window.
Luckily there was a TV monitor on the other side of the box and I was able to see some of the action from that. Never have seven hours of cricket passed so slowly or ended more farcically.
With New Zealand needing 30 to win with 13 overs and four wickets in hand, it rained. A maximum of 40 minutes remained before the 10pm cut-off. The rain eased, covers were removed, and it was announced that play would resume at 9.45pm. There was no announcement about the number of overs remaining or the Kiwis' revised target. Was their panic behind the scenes as the four - yes, four - on duty umpires wrestled with their Duckworth/Lewis computer programmes?
While a tractor dragged a rope around the outfield to remove the surface moisture, a man with a large white bucket made his way to the wicket, warmly applauded by a mystified but dwindling crowd. As my colleagues attempted to guess the contents of the bucket, I used my laptop to solve the D/L mystery. Apparently we were the first to reveal that, with time remaining for only four overs, nine had effectively been deducted and New Zealand had already won the match.
I retired from scoring instant internationals after the 2005 season and nothing will entice me to even watch another one.
In fact, the most memorable moments of the day occurred during the interval between innings when we were visited by England's triumphant Women's captain Charlotte Edwards and her key bowler Isa Guha.
Earlier last week they had retained their version of the Ashes (a mounted cricket ball) when they won a one-off Test at Bowral by four wickets. Both had made major contributions to this victory, Edwards scoring 94 and 14 not out, and Guha taking 5 for 40 and 4 for 60.