Nelson gets big tick as world cup venue
Colourful fans close to the action made for a fun-filled Black Caps one-day cricket international at Saxton Oval, even if the weather spoiled the party.
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head, Umbrella and Why Does It Always Rain On Me? were the songs blaring over the loudspeakers as the players walked off with 15 overs to play in the match on Saturday.
Fans - apart from the hardcore or well-prepared - began to file out of the ground soon afterwards as the rain settled in.
There is no substitute for local knowledge, and the umpires finally concurred at 6pm, when the game was called off and the Black Caps were awarded a 58-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
The precipitation brought about a premature end to the match - but, given the inclement weather across the country and during the buildup, to get a game and a result made it a milestone day for cricket in Nelson.
Earlier, under clear skies, the game began with a bumper crowd of 4500 keenly awaiting the day's action.
There was still enough space for picnic blankets on the embankment, and mini-cricket games. Even the odd Teletubbies or Roman legionary costume popped up as fans embraced the festivities.
Entertainment and Kiwi Cricket practice facilities had been set up on the athletics track behind Saxton Oval Pavilion for the players of the future.
Out in the middle, the Black Caps went about compiling an impressive total of 285 for 6, and the fans showed their appreciation with eager applause, chants and the mandatory Mexican waves.
During the break between innings, the weather worsened, and it was time to put away the sunshades and don a pullover, but the deteriorating conditions didn't dampen the buzz as the Black Caps took wickets regularly and manoeuvred themselves into a winning position.
Nelson Cricket chairman David Leonard said that, all things considered, it was a successful day for cricket in the region.
"Overall, it was a fantastic day. The ground looked amazing, and we had a fantastic turnout.
"Everybody liked the intimacy of the venue for fans and the fact that it is a true cricket venue.
"I spoke to ICC [International Cricket Council] people, people from New Zealand Cricket and people organising the Cricket World Cup. They were hugely impressed."
Nelson will host three ICC Cricket World Cup games in 2015, and the New Zealand boss for the event, Therese Walsh, said Nelson had set the tone for a positive hosting with the fans' healthy appreciation of the action.
"One of the amazing things about Saxton is that the crowd is so close to the action," said Walsh. "I think that makes it such an exciting venue for [the] Cricket World Cup."
Walsh said Nelson had shown that it was a host city of international standard, but it was important to push for improvement ahead of Nelson's first cup game, on February 16 next year, between the returning West Indies and Ireland.
"There will be more people, there will be more international focus on it, and there will be more international media and more VIPs in attendance.
"So to get the venue down operationally for a normal international is good - then you can step it up for [the] Cricket World Cup."