All that was missing was the beige uniform. It was back to the glory days of the Basin Reserve when punters would queue at dawn and the only space in the sun-drenched ground was halfway up a pohutukawa.
Sir Paddles and Chats trotted in with the white ball and Paddy Batch was endangering the crowd's safety with sixes. There were the recently-retired Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan who still wouldn't disgrace a black helmet.
Fill The Basin was the catchcry for organiser Stephen Fleming's earthquake charity match and they flocked, 10,000-plus, spilling over the pickets inside the boundary rope.
There was Warney. And Tana. Indeed, JIF Umaga, as he was penned in the scorebook, was the crowd favourite amid a gaggle of cricketing legends.
Umaga got the biggest prematch cheer when the teams lined up, including estimable umpires Richie McCaw and a jandalled Conrad Smith. Then you could have heard a bail drop amid an eerie minute's silence for the people of Christchurch.
Soon it was all on. Tana was summoned to bowl for Wellington with McMillan in full flight. The chants weren't this loud since Hadlee in his prime. Consecutive sixes sailed over square leg. Then came the Umaga slower ball. So slow he could have sprinted past it. But McMillan obliged, swiping at it and lobbing a catch straight up.
The crowd went nuts. Next over, Umaga snared a shin-high screamer at cover off a full-blooded Dion Nash drive. Nash, 0.
There were some wider girths, thinner hairlines, and some creaky joints. But Fleming and Martin Crowe's respective Legends XI's put on a decent show.
Ewen Chatfield, 60-year-old cabbie by day and Naenae 1A seamer at weekends, trotted in off eight paces and, fittingly, had the best Wellington figures of 2-23.
Greatbatch (47 off 27 balls) charged and was stumped by Chris Nevin. Then Fleming advanced and had his off stump pinned back. No respect.
Astle once delighted Christchurch fans by flaying 222 against England at the now-stricken Lancaster Park.
This time Gavin Larsen, a lofted drive from his office as Cricket Wellington chief executive, got some curry. Four consecutive sixes onto the embankment. The Mailman was never treated with this much contempt on the Basin. Larsen: 3-0-51-0.
Astle hit six sixes in his 61 off 29 balls, and Canterbury had a daunting 225-7.
Hadlee treated the crowd to a solitary over. At 61, exactly a year older than Chatfield, the cricketing knight battles creaky hips these days and saves his exertions for the golf course. Off four paces, the bowling action coaches dream about was still there.
Shane Warne, the star attraction, did his bit by bowling Prime Minster John Key a full toss which was hooked for four and a $100,000 Fujitsu donation. He bowled underarm to the PM and glanced off the Liz Hurley jibes.
Umaga got a huge roar when he batted, too, and responded by whacking Warne for consecutive sixes.
Wellington fell 11 runs short in their chase. No-one took much notice of the score, except those collecting the money.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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