It's as close as predicted
Posted in England in New Zealand 2008
Many anticipated this ODI series between England and the Blackcaps to be a closely fought contest, and those predictions appear to be founded with the series coming down to the final match this weekend.
Yesterday's thriller in Napier was excruciating to watch from the England camp's perspective, to come so close yet fall just short was agonising. Still, the tie was closer to a win for England and more like a loss for the hosts given the circumstances.
Everyone from both teams recognised that the scenes surrounding that final delivery of the match are what makes limited overs cricket so great.
In his post-match media conference Paul Collingwood was still in shock as to how close he came to winning the match for England, after his run-out attempt missed the stumps by a coat of varnish. And even this morning on the flight to Christchurch he was still contemplating what had been an unbelievable match.
In many ways the pace and high drama of the match at McLean Park bellied the surroundings in which it was staged. Napier is a somewhat sleepy, relaxed costal down to the north east of New Zealand's north island. It offered a quiet break from the cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch where we've spent most of our time on this ODI tour.
Napier is a throwback to a simple way of life from the past, as underlined by the fact that it was art deco week when we arrived - a celebration of the town's predominant architectural influence. Fleets of cars from the 1940s and 50s could be seen gliding through the town which is almost completely made up of art deco buildings, a result of rebuilding the place following an earthquake many years ago.
The England players also managed to soak up some local offerings a few days earlier in Auckland, a day after the visitors' first win over the Blackcaps in this series. The England players and management were lucky enough to be invited to the Auckland Blues' Super 14 season opener against close rivals the Chiefs.
After attending a family day event for major sponsors Vodafone throughout the afternoon, the England squad returned to Eden Park just 24 hours after defeating New Zealand to watch Auckland's first match of the season. Rugby plays a regular part in England's match-day and practice routines with the team always employing a game of touch rugby at the start of each warm up session.
The Super 14 match at Eden Park was a little faster and slightly more brutal than the England cricket team's warm-up and offered the players a chance to get away from their own sport and appreciated another at the highest level. For those players a little rusty on the rules they needn’t look any further than our resident strength and conditioning coach Marques Church.
Marques, a Kiwi from the south of Auckland, actually played for the Chiefs before making the move to the UK some years later. He was also a New Zealand rugby Under 19 representative and as such was an excellent source of information during the match which the Blues went on to win convincingly after a scrappy first half.
So the ODI series has almost come to an end and an exciting finale is expected in Christchurch with England facing the prospect of clinching a draw from what has been a tough series. If England can come away with a win against the third-ranked ODI side in the world, it'll be a fine finish to this series ahead of the forthcoming Test series starting in just a couple of weeks time.