at the oval

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.

nice chatting



Jyoti Banerjee said…
My first cricket match at the Kotla ground in Delhi was with your family over 30 years ago. So there was a lovely resonance when you could join Joel and me for the cricket match at the Oval. As a keen India supporter (is there any other kind?), it was easy for me to add my support to the Kiwi cause, even if it was a little more restrained than you and Joel...

What a joy and privilege to have you and Barbie visit us. And a neat symmetry in that I could have a net with the young Windsors in Auckland, just as you just did with Joel at the Sunbury ground. Surely heaven will feature cricket and friendship in full measure!
alyssa said…
Oh Dad, that hat is nothing short of a treat. Ah-may-zing!
Nige said…
Fantastic. Wish I had been there with you. Such a unique game of cricket.
Please pray for us, life is tough again at the moment. Please let me know if there is an e-mail address we can write to.
Paul said…
excuse the delay ... still overseas and seeing computers infrequently!
Jyoti - I'd be keeping an eye on that Joel of yours - exquisite cover drives and pull shots and he is only eight.
My dear darling daughter Alyssa - how good of you to comment - please feel free to borrow my hat any time you wish.
And Nige - very happy to catch up on our return to NZ - contact Rachel at Carey. We are home 11 July
Andrew said…
You lucky sod - green with envy but also sharing in the afterglow of some brilliant Kiwi performances. Hope your trip goes well - although I don't think anything could top that..

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