Sunday, 4 January 2015

My days at The Basin Reserve

I arrived at the Basin Reserve in Wellington for the 2nd Test Sri Lanka versus New Zealand about 2 hours early on the first day.  Yes, I was keen.  And so I should have been! Afterall this was my second ever Test match I had attended in my 56 years, the first way back in March 1969 when the West Indies were beaten unexpectedly by our team.  Yes that was at the Basin as well and I have many memories from that match, the greatest probably being Griffith's run up from the boundary.  Yes it was tinged with some regret too, the great Garfield Sobers didn't fire a shot.

So how did I get to the Basin 46 years later?  Well my budget inhibits me from attending major sporting events, but as an avid tweeter I was given an offer I couldn't refuse (albeit reluctantly), tickets to the 1st and 2nd days of the test.  I realised my wagon had fuel to see me there and back, packed my lunches and eats, and drinks, cameras and suitable wet weather gear (yes even Wellington has a reputation) and on the road I went early Saturday morning.  I arrived in Wellington at 9am and found a carpark (I had to ring the council to make sure I wouldn't get towed away) and once happy wandered the short 200 metres to the ground.  On arrival I saw about 10 people already queueing so I was happy to line up.

  The gates eventually opened so I wandered in and around the ground looking for a suitable vantage point for both viewing the game and to take good action photography.  I settled on the embankment at the southeast corner near the sightscreen, high on the bank under a Pohutukawa tree that offered shade for most of the day.  Good move, as by the time the first ball was bowled the embankment was full and my vantage point secure.  The folks around me were from Hastings, Masterton and Levin and we struck up a ready banter and for most of the day swapped stats chat.  All were surprised that Brendon McCullum scored his first duck since 12 August 2012!!

But back to the toss.  For years I had seen the toss only on TV and never had any idea so many folks were around the wicket when it occurred.  The photo to the right only shows some of the action.  Quite pleased about that image as I have Brendon in the process of tossing the coin, great action shot.  Regrettably he lost the toss so we were to see NZ bat first on a tricky deck.  But we seemed to do OK for the first three wickets but then the wheels fell off, either poor batting, the change of the ball, the Sri Lankans found another gear or the conditions changed?  Whatever it was, we were out before too long and then had them 5 down at stumps.

But I wasn't just there for the cricket.  Yes I was enjoying seeing it live for the first time in ages, but what struck me was the involvement of the crowd, something you don't get an appreciation for from TV or Radio.  It's safe to say the guy (photo to the left) is well known, but what might not be well known is how much banter he gets for his efforts.  As he was waving his flags to this four at 3rd Man, there was a quip from the crowd near me "You won't be able to do that on a Gold Card" to which all in earshot laughed  vociferously.  But there were other crowd oddities.

This guy in the image to the right with the banner spent most of the day in various "disguises" and carrying various objects, running around the whole of the Basin Reserve.  At times running, another time doing dunking walk, and the final time I observed him he was walking backwards.  Supreme stamina and endurance and a good laugh.  One thing I never did find out, why was he doing this, and who was he with?  I'm suspecting a cricket club and he lost a bet.  He was very fit, well muscled, and athletic, and later, Buggered!!

And the ground was not just filled with male cricket followers, a fact that floored me a bit as once again you don't get any indication from TV.  There were many women, girls and children and like their male counterparts, of all ages.  This girl to the left was shot soon after Brendon McCullum's wicket and the features suggest she knew full well what had happened and the implications.  I was in awe of the diversity of the crowd as a whole and the level of knowledge that permeated it.

And of course there was cricket of the highest calibre.  Following are a few action shots.

Effort Ball

                                                                     Williamson on the drive.

What's a Sri Lankan test match without Ball complaints.

                                                     The Neesh gets one near the helmet.

But what for me the test was about the people and the sights.  There was the Sky TV cameras, the drone, the Segway running on and off the ground during breaks, listening to Bryan Waddle and Malcolm Jordan and guest commentators on my little transistor (yes you read that right, so not 21st century), and The Big Screen, such a useful piece of kit at an international.

A Pair of Cameras in a Pohutukawa Tree.

Quite hardcase this drone.  It was being operated from the top of the south end toilet block, and spent some time in the air around and over the ground.  At one point I saw it over by the Carrilion Memorial.  On several occasions when it hovered over the Basin Pitch it was bombed from on high by jealous seagulls.  And that was one aspect that surprised me this test, Henry Blofelds pets were hardly seen on the playing surface.  Maybe the drone did more than first thought.

Hard job Groundstaff.  Actually, if I had one gripe it goes out to all those ignorant snobs that decided to climb the barrier ropes behind the sightscreens at both ends, many hold ups until the offenders cleared the area.  I see today the groundstaff had placed a rope barrier either side at the south end.

Sri Lanka had little support on the first day, this lone guy in the Terraces under the RA Vance stand complete with his nations flag.  On Day 2 there was a largish contingent with trumpets and drums further around the Terraces making plenty of noise and offering great support.  I missed Kumar's innings as I had to head home early but I am sure these guys would have been giving him plenty of support and noise.

Anyway, Day two I arrived and all the shade spots were taken so I placed myself by the south end toilet block at fineleg and under the glare of a very hot sun, persevered until the heat and sun and wind got too much and I had to relent and go home feeling very tired but very happy.  I didn't realise how taxing being in the sun could be (I haven't been in it for long periods since I played Pressies cricket for Foxton in 2003) so it was a whole new experience for me.  I now know I need to be better prepared for a long day in the sun and wind and on grounds that make old bottoms sore as buggery the next day.

My thanks go to New Zealand and Sri Lanka for a great opportunity, to the Basin Reserve Staff for a great facility, to the cricket lovers on Twitter that I had the opportunity to meet for a short while, but good to put faces to names, and finally to twitter cricket follower @BradyMagic aka Damian Sharkey for giving me the opportunity to realise a dream and cross an item off my bucket list.

And what's a visit to Wellington without scenery.

The Basin's Embankment  Crowd on Day 1.

And a Harbour shot on the way home.

And the drive up the Kapiti Coast, always a great photo opportunity.

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