The Prime Minister sledged a cricket star, Hobbits took turns at umpiring – and one of the biggest crowds the Basin Reserve has seen helped to raise more than half a million dollars for Christchurch.
More than 10,000 people packed Wellington's legendary cricket ground yesterday for a charity Twenty20 cricket match bringing together some past greats of New Zealand cricket as well as film stars and sporting celebrities.
The excited crowd – many wearing red and black – whooped and cheered as the Canterbury Invitation XI, led by former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, took on the Wellington Legends, captained by Martin Crowe.
Fleming, who was born in Christchurch, organised the event.
"I think we've got a bigger crowd than the Black Caps ever got," cricket great Richard Hadlee was overheard saying before he opened the bowling for Canterbury.
The innings break saw a standoff between Australian fast bowler Shane Warne and John Key, with $100,000 at stake.
After a false start, in which Warne bowled a sneaky underarm, Mr Key managed to connect for a four – netting the cash for Christchurch, courtesy of Fujitsu.
In what some might consider a brave (or foolhardy) move, Mr Key was heard to slip a cheeky sledge in Warne's direction just before the last bowl – "Liz [Hurley] says hi."
It could have been a trick of the eye, but the next ball certainly appeared faster than the preceeding five.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he thought the people in Christchurch would be inspired and feel they are being supported by fellow Kiwis. "We are standing side by side, and that's a very important message for us to hear." As the world's eyes turned to the "horrible" Japan earthquake, it was important for Cantabrians to know they were not being forgotten.
British star Martin Freeman, who will play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, was there in support along with Kiwi Mark Hadlow, Sir Ian McKellen, and some of the film's crew.
Asked if he was enjoying his time in Wellington, Freeman replied: "I was liking it very well until now, and now I'm terrified. I've got to be square leg umpire, whatever that means."
Actor Russell Crowe, who was "coaching" the Canterbury team, said he was playing on behalf of his dad, who was born in Christchurch.
It was his dad's birthday yesterday, but health problems had stopped him from attending. "This is my birthday present to my dad ... to come and [support] Canterbury."
More than $500,000 was raised at the match, with $130,000 in gate takings alone.
- The Dominion Post