This first home game was set to be a little more special than usual. Guptill was back with the bat and with Auckland batting first, I braced myself for an exciting morning ahead. There is nothing finer than watching Martin Guptill timing it beautifully with a straight bat. He also had his old batting partner Jeet Raval back in the fold after his return to the team from a stint down country at Central Districts.
Well, clearly these guys didn't read the script I had written for them. The first day's play turned out to be a most unusual turn of events.
Firstly, and most noted by the media, Guptill didn't score a lot of runs. Fair enough, lets move on. His opening partner also didn't score many runs.
The next guy in didn't stick around long enough to work up a sweat. Tim McIntosh was sent back to the shed after a single run scored.
Next in came Cachopa swinging his bat and ready to make up for the lack of runs on the board. He had a good go, and sliced and diced the Canterbury bowlers round the outer oval to collect 31 runs for his efforts. Things were starting to look up.
If only that were true. I won't go into the gory details of what happened next. Lets just say that seven of the Auckland batsman scored fewer runs than the Extras Column. Yes, that is an accurate statement. No exaggeration needed.
So fast forward to the two tail enders coming in. Behold the arrival of Dean Bartlett and Matt Quinn at the crease. Two quick bowlers. They can't bat can they? Nah. Not a chance. You could see the Canterbury quicks licking their lips in anticipation. They'd be able to send the poles cartwheeling back towards the old grandstand in just a few balls time and everyone could trot off for an early lunch.
Not so fast.
Hamish Bennett and his mates hadn't counted on the sheer stubborn determination of the two lads from Cornwall and Ellerslie who found themselves at the crease and in a starring role. The previous number eleven batsman for Auckland wasn't exactly a role model at this stuff. In fact, he was there watching because he now coaches the Canterbury bowling unit. He was watching and enjoying it too. Although he did admit to me that it was very frustrating for his bowlers as time went on. He's a good bloke Chris Martin.
Matt Quinn played a number of beautiful shots during his innings. He scored nine 4s. And they were well earned boundaries, not fielding errors or lucky shots. His bat was the sword that was slaying the dragon called Hamish Bennett. And Bennett became more dragon like as the innings continued. He was throwing down bouncer after bouncer at the tail enders. All to no avail. They would just calmly duck and get themselves out of harms way, take guard and go again. The longer it went on, the more angry Hamish Bennett got. Without the stump mikes to assist, it was hard to make out what advice he was giving the batsman. But there were words said for sure.
With Quinn taking the lead role and Bartlett feeding the strike, the pair trundled on to the lunch break.
All of us round the boundary exhaled with a collective sigh of relief as the tail had, by now, got Auckland past the 100 mark. The rest of the team gave the tail a standing ovation as they came off to refuel for half an hour, and to put their feet up and reflect on what had been a very odd morning indeed.
|Time for Quinn & Bartlett to refuel|
Fast forward to the end of the lunch break and the umpires and fielders are all out on the field ready to get going when Quinn and Bartlett stride out together to continue their show. But , hold on- that's Quinn racing back off the field and heading to the dressing room. What's that about? Did he forget his bat? Nope. He's holding it in his hand. Surely he couldn't have forgotten to take a toilet stop during the break. Could he? His captain asked him what he'd forgotten and he squeaked out 'I forgot my box!' and ran as fast as he could, fully padded up as he was, to get it. His team mates had a great big chuckle at that one because they're so old and wise, they'd never do anything that silly. With Bennett bowling the way he was, there's no way you'd have wanted to continue without that most important piece of body armour.
So once more into the valley of death for our two intrepid foot soldiers. Every boundary drew an almighty cheer from around the ground, but obviously not from anyone wearing a baggy red and black cap.
These two batted for close to two hours, thereby salvaging some respectability for the team. Bartlett ended up not out with 11 runs off 85 balls, including two fours.
Quinn ended the session after being bowled by Astle with 50 runs off 94 balls, nine of those skipped over the rope.
And today's lesson? It was all about courage, and determination, and above all total belief in your abilities at the tail end of the batting line up when all before you had struggled.
Nice work lads. I'd give you an A+