Smith: Anderson, Ryder light up southern sky

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014

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OPINION: Who needs a new year fireworks display when you've got Corey Anderson and Jesse Ryder providing the pyrotechnics in the Black Caps' batting lineup?

would gladly pay good money to listen to the New Zealand Army dance band after they put on a free New Year's Eve concert in Hagley Park.

It takes a lot for a stingy sportswriter to reach into his cobwebbed pocket and pay for a ticket at the gate.
But this confirmed cricket phobic would happily shell out to see Ryder and Anderson in full cry and, despite decades of indifference, is already starting to look forward to next year's World Cup.

If these two can carry on their Queenstown capers, OSH might have to cancel all leave in February and March 2015, to station staff at all major Kiwi cricketing venues where boundary seats could become a sporting red zone.

It's been fashionable to bag the Black Caps, who have suffered so long from our expectations that they be a summer version of the All Blacks.

But there are certain parallels between the potential 2015 squad and their 1992 predecessors, who reached the semifinals the last time the cricket World Cup was held in this particular parish.

Martin Crowe's 1992 team had one world-class batsman - the captain himself. So does the current crew, Crowe's protege, Ross Taylor.

Crowe had some seasoned campaigners around him, notably Mark Greatbatch, Ken Rutherford, Andrew Jones, Ian Smith, John Wright, Danny Morrison and Dipak Patel and some emerging youthful talent in Chris Cairns and Chris Harris.

That series gripped the nation's attention before it ended in tears with a semifinal exit to Pakistan, the eventual champions.

This Black Caps squad has plenty of players who can give the ball a right royal nudge, Anderson - after his 36-ball 100 in Queenstown this week - Ryder, Taylor and skipper Brendon McCallum among them.

Ryder also provides the type of charismatic character the Black Caps have lacked since Lance Cairns' master-blasting feats in the 1990s.

A World Cup-winning team needs a strike bowler or two - the 1992 Pakistan squad had three in Wasim Akram, Aaquib Javed and skipper Imran Khan - so the odds will still favour Australia and South Africa next year.

But if Tim Southee can ignite the Black Caps attack and if Anderson and Ryder can chip in and the other seamers strut their stuff, might we dare to dream the impossible or have I had too much sun already this summer?

Some sporting occasions seem almost pre-ordained. Jacques Kallis' test cricket farewell went to script this week when the South African all-rounder smashed his 45th test century in his final innings against India in Durban.

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Forty-five tons. That's only four fewer than New Zealand's top five centurymakers - Martin Crowe (17), John Wright (12), Ross Taylor and Nathan Astle (11 each) and Stephen Fleming (9) - tallied among them.

Only Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting have scored more than Kallis' 13,289 test runs at a 55.37 average.

Toss in 292 test wickets at 32.65 over an 18-year career and no wonder cricket sages speak of the 38-year-old Cape Town colossus in the same breath as West Indies great Garfield Sobers as cricket's finest all-rounder.

Forget the hoary old cliche of croquet being all about cucumber sandwiches and cups of tea.

Croquet will never be a major spectator sport, but it has a special cadence and can be as absorbing as watching a good game of snooker.

You have to be mentally tough to play in the MacRobertson Shield, the world teams' tournament that kicked off in Christchurch this week.

Four teams - New Zealand, England, Australia and the United States - are playing three five-day test matches in as many weeks. They get one day off in between, but much of that is spent travelling, from Christchurch to Napier then on to Tauranga.

Croquet's no 80 or 90-minute sprint either. New Zealand pair Jenny Clarke and Greg Bryant were out on the lawns for almost 12 hours (rain break included) in their three-game comeback victory on Monday.

They'd hardly got home, had a meal and grabbed a kip before they were back on duty for a 9am start the next day, which turned out to be another three-game marathon effort.

After three weeks of that, some higher profiles sportsmen would be begging the boss for a sabbatical.

World-class performers are a sight to behold in any sport. The hardy band of Christchurch croquet fans this week watched three of the best men to ever wield a mallet - Chris Clarke (New Zealand), Robert Fulford (England) and Australian wunderkind Robert Fletcher.

- The Press

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