The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 begins on Valentines Day with Australia and New Zealand sharing hosting duties and England play their second game against the latter in Wellington on February 20th which has brought back memories of the one and only time I saw the England cricket team play live.
Flashback to 2002 and I was travelling around New Zealand for a few months and whilst I was in Auckland there happened to be a One Day International game between the New Zealand Black Caps and England on February 23rd and I was in attendance.
Before I left my hostel (Nomads Fat Camel Backpackers in Auckland) that morning I sprayed my hair red and when I got to Eden Park, which was about an hours walk away, I met three guys from Bournemouth called Dave, Pete and Matt who put some face paint on me in the form of a St George cross.
England won the toss and chose to bat first but as soon as they came out on to the pitch it began to rain lightly. Worse was to follow as Marcus Trescothick was bowled out on the third ball and a couple more wickets also fell in quick succession. Just as I thought England were doing really bad, things started to improve (almost unnoticed to me!) with Nick Knight scoring 38 and Michael Vaughan reaching 59 although a few silly wickets were lost too.
Graham Thorpe also scored 59 and was not out as England scored 193 in a reduced 40-over match due to the frequent rainfalls – one which was very heavy and meant the players were off the pitch for about an hour. In the meantime, I had to protect my hair dye and face paint from running by wearing a plastic bag on my head as well as partly sheltering under my inflatable hand.
Due to the Duckworth-Lewis method; a scoring system designed for weather affected matches, New Zealand had to score about 226 in 40 overs to win. However, they were bowled out for 189 in 38 overs with Chris Cairns getting a respectable 58 runs. This levelled the series at 2-2 (though the Kiwis would go on to win 3-2 a few days later!). Whilst celebrating the wickets we English fans were pelted by a load of missiles including plastic bottles, beer cups, tomatoes, water melon pieces and bits of meat!
After the match, I went with the Bournemouth boys to an English pub in the city for some post-match celebration drinks. Due to my tiredness, these celebrations were very tame and I arrived back at the hostel at around 1.30am receiving a few strange looks along the way as my face was still painted. I took a much needed shower before collapsing into bed.