Sunday, February 17, 2013

England T20

The England cricket team are currently touring New Zealand. The first competition is three Twenty20 games, played in Auckland, Hamilton and finally in Wellington. Having lost the first match, the Black Caps were able to turn the tables on England in Hamilton, levelling the series and making the Wellington game the decider.

As an employee of the series sponsor, we had free tickets, so, after a short visit to D4 for some pre-match refreshment, a bunch of us headed down to the Westpac stadium to watch the match.

Despite losing in Hamilton after winning the toss and deciding to put The Black Caps in, England followed exactly the same tactic in Wellington. Was this to be a "that's the last thing they'll expect" -type thing, like generals ordering troops over the top in World War 1 for the umpteenth time?

Out came the Black Caps, and proceeded to put on a fairly lacklustre show of batting. No-one really got hold of the innings and the boundaries were few and far between. By the end, they'd put on 139/8. Not a big target in T20, and the England openers were able to dispose of it in 13 overs without troubling their No. 3 batsman.

Guptill sends one to the boundary
First blood to England, then. But now the ODI series starts with three games in Hamilton, Napier and Auckland. The first of these is under way as I write, with England all out for 258.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hertz Wellington Sevens

Last weekend the annual Hertz Wellington Sevens competition came to town. This is the fourth leg of the IRB Rugby Sevens competition, which is played in Gold Coast Queensland, Dubai and Port Elizabeth (RSA) before heading to New Zealand. It then goes on to Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, before finishing up in Glasgow and London.

The unique aspect of the Seven competition in Wellington is that the audience get dressed up in fancy dress, and the event turns into a giant party throughout the city. Whilst the rugby is played at the Westpac stadium, many bars in town host their own parties and many people get dressed up despite the fact that they have no tickets to the actual event. The partying goes on long into the night.

I went down to the Chicago Bar on the waterfront and snapped a few of the costumes:

The competition was interesting as the traditional strong teams are now being challenged by some of the lesser countries, as rugby sevens is going to become an Olympic sport in Rio in2016. Countries such as USA are ramping up their ability, and there are some surprise contenders in this year’s competition, including Spain and Portugal. But the real surprise at the tournament was the Kenyan team, who were narrowly defeated by England in the final. New Zealand finished 3rd, which was a disappointing result for them, having been knocked out by Kenya in the semi-final.

In the past, Sevens was seen in New Zealand as a route through to the senior All Blacks team. However the sport is evolving and the old assumptions that countries with a strong RU side will automatically be in the top echelon is no longer the case, as more specialist Sevens players are now making their way. Let’s see what happens at the next leg in Las Vegas.