Pulling Stumps on a Great Season

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

As the nights get longer, rain finally begins falling in Hawke’s Bay and soccer, rugby and netball become the weekend sports du jour, it finally gives me a chance to catch up on all the tasks around Casa Del NapierinFrame that have been ignored over summer and look back on what has been quite a wonderful six months of cricket.

As I’ve written before, I love cricket.

It’s the most endearing, frustrating, thrilling, tiring, exciting sport I have ever played. This season has been exceptional, though.

Along with playing club cricket EVERY weekend (for the second year in a row, there was not one single rained-out game), I was fortunate enough to take part in a whole lot of other cricket-related goodness.

For the first time in my ten year cricketing career I took up the mantle of captain of my team, the “Napier Old Boys Marist Hobblers”, for the season. To make things even more interesting, we had an almost entirely new squad from last season. But we gelled quickly, dismissing one team for a mere 44 runs and causing a few upsets during a run of good form.

I personally had a purple patch on the pitch, taking four catches in as many games and closing in on my elusive “double-figures for the season” target on several occasions – even hitting the winning runs in one game, but leaving me stranded on 9 not out.

In December I got to dress up in a duck costume, play epic air guitar and usher scoreless players off the pitch at the McLean Park edition of the “Georgie Pie Super Smash T20” competition.

In January, I was “bowled over” (the newspaper’s line, not mine) to be selected as the Central Districts winner of Specsavers’ “Favourite Local Cricket Umpire” competition for my years as a player-umpire in HB cricket – for which I won $500, two pairs of glasses and a Black Caps playing jersey!

In February, I and seven of my 4th Grade Hobblers teammates found ourselves in a unique position – playing Premiere-grade cricket!

Our regular Prems team was down in Palmerston North competing in the Central Districts Club Knockout Champs, so couldn’t play on the usual game day. Neither Hawke’s Bay Cricket or their opposition, Taradale Cricket Club would let them defer the game to a later date and HB Cricket told us if the team defaulted they would try to disqualify us from the CD competition, so a replacement had to be found.

Cometh “The Hobbler Prems”.

The welfare of my team is always forefront in my mind and going up three grades to play Premiere-level with some VERY fast bowlers and heavy hitters, my main concern was the safety of my teammates, so extra helmets and protective equipment was brought in.

With three Prem players, who elected to stay back and help us in the game and travel to Palmerston North afterwards, opening the batting and putting on 150, the rest of us were able to add an extra 97 runs (and more importantly no injuries), leaving our regular-Prem opposition a reasonable total of 248 to win.

But they didn’t!

In one long, gloriously cricketing afternoon, the Hobblers’ mouse roared. Our bowling and fielding effort was outstanding and we won by 22 runs! Quite possibly the most memorable NOBMCC game in recent history.

After the match I sent a text to our Prems coach that said “We’ve done our part, now you do yours!” They happily obliged – winning the CD Knockout Champs and going on to represent Central Districts in the National Club Knockout Champs over Easter.

Ironically, the prems game was the last one we won for the rest of the season and the Hobblers were out of contention for the finals, but it was a wonderful season.

Then, of course, we had the Cricket World Cup and New Zealand’s epic performance in the competition.

We may not have won the final, but were certainly the moral victors of the tournament.

McLean Park hosted three games (Pakistan v United Arab Emirates, New Zealand v Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates v West Indies) and I was one of the hundreds who volunteered. My job was as “Media Assistant” and I ended up looking after the reporters and photographers throughout the three games.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some of my cricketing idols – NZ’s Ian Smith, South Africa’s Shaun Pollock, England’s Sir Ian Botham and someone as tall as me – West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose.

During Napier’s games, I also helped Kent Baddeley in making a delectable degustation for some of my club-mates at Ten24.

To use the culinary term – it was the cherry on top of a glorious season!

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