A welcome arrival in the land of the long white cloud
Posted in England in New Zealand 2008
After arriving safe and sound in Christchurch last week – via Los Angeles and Auckland – the England one-day squad has settled in well to the beautiful surrounds of New Zealand.
The long and tiresome journey from the UK was punctuated by some celebrity spotting with the players meeting Liam Gallagher and Gem Archer of Oasis on the flight over.
No one was more pleased to trade rock’n’roll stories with one half of Manchester’s finest than Notts off-spinner Graeme Swann, a self-confessed Oasis tragic who is front man for his own band Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations. ‘Swanny’ has even brought his guitar out on tour which will no doubt provide hours of entertainment whilst travelling the country… for Swanny anyway!
Upon arriving in Christchurch the England squad was met with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s, a welcome contrast to the icy-cold conditions back home.
The first test for the squad was to overcome the jetlag that accompanies over 30 hours of travelling from start to finish. On the whole, the players have adapted to the difference in time zones well – New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of the UK – but staying awake during the day has been harder for some more than others.
From the start of the tour England’s strength and conditioning coach Marques Church has advised the players to resist the overwhelming temptation to sleep during daylight hours.
Thankfully there has been little time for catching up on sleep during the day as the England management have been working the playing squad extremely hard in the gym and in the nets since arriving. We’ve been lucky enough to have the first-rate facilities of the New Zealand Cricket High Performance Centre at our disposal.
This is basically the equivalent of the ECB’s National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough with a gym, high quality nets and two immaculate cricket grounds available. Needless to say the players have relished the opportunity to utilise such outstanding facilities and practice each day this week has been of the highest standard.
The NZ High Performance Centre is on the outskirts of Christchurch at Lincoln University, about 30-40 minutes from the team hotel. The daily coach ride to Lincoln has been an opportunity for the team to get to know our coach driver, a Christchurch local named Ted who has more humorous anecdotes than most after dinner speakers put together.
He has kept the lads amused with tales of his early cricketing days, including the necessary “pie and a pint on the way to every match”, and several jokes that couldn’t possibly be repeated in this blog.
Ted has generally been indicative of the extremely friendly and welcoming nature of everyone the England squad has come in contact with during our brief time in the ‘land of the long white cloud’.
A highlight upon our arrival was the presentation of a traditional Maori greeting at our team hotel. The entire team was fortunate enough to be honoured with the ‘Powhiri’, as its known, which consists of several Maori traditions including the Haka and the Hongi, a greeting that sees two people shake hands and rub noses together.
The players clearly enjoyed gaining a rare insight into Maori culture and were fascinated to learn the background to the Powhiri which stems from traditional Maori warrior customs. The Powhiri formed the perfect welcome to what will hopefully be a successful one-day and Test tour of New Zealand.
With several productive days of practice under their belts, the players are itching to get stuck into the business of playing under match conditions and they got the opportunity to do just that on Saturday against a Canterbury side that features in the national competition.
England made a bright start to the tour with a comfortable 36-run victory after the local side chose to bat 13 players. Ian Bell made an imposing 79, Alastair Cook 51 and Luke Wright bludgeoned 42 off half as many balls as England reached 295-6 after 50 overs.
Jimmy Anderson was the pick of the bowlers claiming 5-57 off ten overs as the tourists cruised to their first victory of the tour.
A second 50-over match follows on Sunday before the frenetic pace of two Twenty20 matches offer a prelude to the first of five One-Day Internationals in a weeks time in Wellington.
England will be hoping Saturday’s win is the first of several over the next two months in New Zealand.