“If I only had time,” sang great New Zealander John Rowles. Well, most of us do now – time to learn about ourselves and our loved ones and how those lucky enough to have families will cope with living in close proximity over the next month or so.
Not to be flippant, but we are in a fortunate position down here in the South Pacific to get through the coronavirus threat if we play by the rules, and sport can teach us that – and resilience – if nothing else.
Related – there is also time, now there is no longer any live sport to watch, to revisit those tests and games which resonated so much with us Kiwis. Like the best drama, they didn’t always have happy endings (when viewed through a lens closely connected to a black shirt or jersey, anyway).
There were comedies, though, and thrillers and one or two horrors, the latter to be viewed with discretion at this time. There were also many games not mentioned here that were so all-consuming they allowed us to step outside of ourselves for a little while – often 80 minutes or so. That’s what sport can do, and why many of us will miss it so much. It can be inspiring.
When this is all over, maybe we’ll all appreciate some things a bit more – life in general, as well as sport – the athletes, no matter what colours they are wearing, performing to such a high standard despite the often intense pressure, the crowds who turn up, often unappreciated by those who run stadiums, and even those of us who regularly pay to watch it on television.
Anyway, let’s start in an upbeat manner with a couple of fairly recent sporting comedies during which many of the protagonists couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. This, clearly, is not an exhaustive list (it consists of only two sports) and I realise everyone will have their own favourites, often at the expense of New Zealanders.
All Blacks 57 v South Africa 0, Albany, 2017
A test to revisit for Beauden Barrett’s no-look pass to Nehe Milner-Skudder alone, although Brodie Retallick’s long-range try and his absolute delight in scoring it is worth a watch, too. Virtually everything the All Blacks tried came off. The Boks almost won the next test in Cape Town, though, and the record-breaking defeat in Auckland paved the way for their resurrection at the World Cup in Japan last year, and who laughed loudest then?
Black Caps 125/2 (12.2) v England 123 all out (33.2), Wellington, 2015 Cricket World Cup pool match
England won the toss which was virtually the only thing they got right at a heaving and sun-baked Cake Tin, because Tim Southee took seven wickets to help dismiss them in just over 30 overs, and New Zealand captain Brendan McCullum simply went berserk with the bat, hitting 77 in 25 balls, an innings mesmerising in its intensity. The winning runs came from a bouncer which went to the boundary for four byes. Again, though, it was a low-point for England which built them into a World Cup force last year and we know how that ended.
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Black Caps 299/6 (42.5) v South Africa 281/5 (43), Eden Park, 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal
A crazy, crazy rain-affected game at Eden Park which had more twists and turns than Rainbow’s End. In a game full of heroes, Grant Elliott stood tallest when he dispatched the penultimate ball of New Zealand’s innings, bowled by the fearsome Dale Steyn, into the southern stand – into seat 12, row T, section 318 – to be specific. (It’s now coloured green as a tribute). The crowd of 45,000 and many more thousands around New Zealand went bananas.
All Blacks 8 v France 7, Eden Park, 2011 Rugby World Cup final
This turned into an almost unbearable viewing experience and a score which represented the last time New Zealand had won the World Cup – ’87. In front of an almost silent crowd in the second half, the All Blacks hung on for a victory which was probably more important for the country than we could know.
All Blacks 7 v England 19, Yokohama, 2019 Rugby World Cup semifinal
A brutal display by the English which had the All Blacks jumping at their own shadows. The final whistle would have come as a near relief, although the monsters in white received some of their own medicine from the Boks in the final.
Black Caps v England, Lord’s, 2019 Cricket World Cup final
Probably the less said about this one the better. 🙁