Nigel Yalden: Summer not spoiled by Twenty20

NIGEL YALDEN
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014
Brendon McCullum
ANTHONY PHELPS/ Reuters
HOW THE MIGHTY FALL: Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum was the hero of the cricket summer - then the World T20 happened.

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OPINION: Don't let last Monday morning's capitulation in Chittagong change your mind of what you know to be true.

This has been the best summer of cricket in New Zealand since 1992.

That was the year of our national team's inspirational run through to the semifinals of the Cricket World Cup that this country also co-hosted.

It was the season our hearts and hopes soared on back of the blazing blade of our burly makeshift opener Mark Greatbatch, the elegant flow of Martin Crowe's effortless batsmanship and an attack of Willie Watson, Danny Morrison, Chris Harris, Gavin Larsen and surprise opening bowler, off spinner Dipak Patel, all contributing as part of a collective effort at the bowling crease.

And while some still see a melancholic tinge when they look back at New Zealand's exit from the tournament, a tough-to-swallow four-wicket loss to Pakistan, the majority still remember the positivity and enjoyment as cricket fever swept over our fair land, infecting all who come into contact with it.

For me the 2013-2014 summer of cricket, which concludes with today's Ford Trophy final in Mt Maunganui, surpasses that.

Yes, success in cricket's grandest stage, the test match arena, is the predominant reason for this view, but also the return to prominence of the one-day game to our national cricket psyche and the pleasant absence (save two games against the West Indies) of the cricketing blight known as Twenty20.

We were treated to wonderful and varied displays of batting.

Corey Anderson gave us an explosive, 36-ball, ODI world record century in Queenstown and Ross Taylor struck five centuries, three (including a majestic double century) in the three test series against the Windies and another two in back-to-back ODI's against cricket's evil empire India.

However, this summer will always be remembered first and foremost for Brendon McCullum's determined, composed display in becoming New Zealand cricket's first test match triple centurion in the second test of the Indian series in Wellington; lest we forget that effort came on the back of a double hundred in the first  test in Auckland.

McCullum also scored a ton in the West Indies series too.

Like 1992, it was the collective bowling effort that stood out with Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Corey Anderson and Neil Wagner all spending time in the bowling limelight, while young leg spinner Ish Sodhi chimed in, mixing his obvious inexperience with signs of his future match-winning potential.

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But it wasn't just the Black Caps.

The White Ferns picked up where the Black Caps left off, dominating their West Indian equivalents in impressive style, while she's been been a pretty darn good season domestically too.

Canterbury deservedly won the Plunket Shield, Northern Districts likewise the HRV Cup; Otago won the women's one day competition and Auckland the T20 title.

By the way, if you were one of the lucky people to see Sara McGlashan's 131 off 63 balls at Seddon Park on 10 January, I am deeply, deeply envious of you.

What we've seen around the cricket grounds of New Zealand this season appears to have reignited the love of the cricket in its purest and most traditional forms.

So I beg you, don't let one off-day in the cricketing equivalent of a lolly scramble dull the glow of what has rightfully been referred to as our golden summer of cricket.

Nigel Yalden is a Waikato based sports commentator for Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport.

- Waikato Times

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