What better way to mark my 100th post than to tell you about my trip to The Oval. Being raised in India I have had a lifelong love for cricket. I used to listen to the dulcet tones of John Arlott on the BBC as a lad. I have even burdened readers of this blog with my top First Eleven: Cricket highlights at the time of the last World Cup.
But over the years I have never watched a game of cricket in England. When the opportunity for a sabbatical approached so also did a visit by the NZ cricket team to England. I got out the itinerary and penned '25th June 2008 at the Oval' into the diary as the fixed point around which the entire sabbatical universe would revolve.
It proved to be a day to remember with a game for the ages.
My childhood friend (and cricket combatant) from Delhi days - Jyoti Banerjee - is now a member of the Surrey Cricket Club and so able to get tickets to the Oval. Anyhow we arrived to be met at the main gate by Sir Richard Hadlee (NZ's greatest player) which I thought was a lovely gesture on his part. The fact that he never acknowledged our presence was just a small oversight on his part.
We settled into our seats and before long I was leaping to my feet screeching to celebrate the dismissal of England's top batsman (Kevin Pietersen) for a duck. It was then I realised I was no longer in the Antipodes and I was the only one among thousands around me on my feet. I soon learned to remain seated and clap politely for every single that is scored.
The sun was intense and so I went in search of a cap and found what I thought was the Surrey County white-brimmed hat - but have since been told it is the English one. What on earth am I meant to do with that now?! Maybe a few scratches from a magic marker...?
I behaved myself impeccably until England captain Paul Collingwood forgot about playing in the spirit of the game, allowing a Kiwi player to be run-out after being tackled by the English bowler in an act deserving of Twickenham. The game seemed lost. I boldly booed Collingwood to show my annoyance. By this time a Kiwi in front of me was reaching a state of alcohol-induced aliveness and we began to high-five frequently - not to mention the high-fives with Jyoti's 8yr old son Joel who was as ardent a Kiwi supporter as one could possibly be.
Anyhow justice was served with Kyle Mills holding his nerve and NZ winning on the very last ball of the match. I floated to the train station, received gracious handshakes from the English supporters who came with us, and then eagerly awaited the newspapers the following day telling Paul Collingwood what a naughty boy he had been - and they were far more severe than I anticipated.