1. Despite continuing to give the impression that I think Test cricket is the only format worth a damn, I have a real soft spot for the One Day International. It was my first format; it is how I learned the game.
2. And despite continuing to say that I have no allegiance to any particular cricketing nation, I have had always had a secret sports crush on New Zealand’s cricket team.
And because of these two skeletons in my closet, New Zealand’s ODI series win over England, in England, was just simply a joy to watch happen. And now with the Champions Trophy set to start on Thursday, they are going to go into that tournament on a real high, and I think with a definite chance of reaching the knockout stage.
I think this because they didn’t just beat the fourth best ODI team in the world, they positively routed the fourth best ODI team in the world. A team that has not lost an ODI series at home since 2009.
New Zealand’s run rate was a run an over better than England’s and they only lost three wickets in 50 overs, while England was bowled out in just 44 overs.
It was a shellacking.
Some might say that the win at Southampton and to a lesser extent the win at Lord’s, were all down to the blistering performances of Martin Guptill. Those same people will say it is dangerous to rely on one man in a team sport – and I will agree with those people. However, the Champions Trophy is not a season – it’s two and a half weeks and at most five matches. If Guptill can stay hot, and if the Kiwi attack can continue to hold teams to 250 or less, then that’s enough to win in a short tournament such as the Champions Trophy.
The West Indies winning the T20 World Championship was a really big deal, and New Zealand winning the Champions Trophy, while it would not be as sexy, would be equally a big deal. World cricket desperately needs a strong bottom half of the table.
But even if they lose all three matches in the group stage, their series win over England is still a massive accomplishment – and really great for cricket.
New Zealand’s first Champions Trophy match is Sunday against Sri Lanka in Wales. A winnable match, but not an easy one. First ball is at 04:30am Minneapolis time, which I think is around ten-thirty in the evening in Wellington. Not exactly prime viewing hours, but here’s hoping some of my pals on Twitter from New Zealand are up and watching at least part of it.
I bring up the time zone issue because I love how BIG the sport of cricket is. A team from an island in the Southwest Pacific Ocean and a team from an island in the Indian Ocean, playing each on an island in the North Atlantic.
Sri Lanka: 7,700 miles from home. New Zealand: 11,000 miles from home. First ball is 10:30am local time, 04:30am in Minneapolis, 10:30pm in Wellington, three in the afternoon in Colombo…
It’s a global game.
And while it is not the biggest trophy in cricket by any means, I will still watch. Because I like being a part of such a global undertaking…and because I secretly love the ODI; and because I secretly love New Zealand.