As the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 rolls on and into its third week, New Zealand – as always when it comes to a sports tournament – is consumed with the game, and not just in the main centre stadia.
That’s what it was all about today (25.2.2015) in rural Hawke’s Bay as hundreds of cricket fans made their way down a long winding farm track on bicycles and tractors, in buses, 4WD and vintage cars to an extraordinary cricket experience.
At the end of that track, the Clifton County Cricket Club is a picturesque green oval of favoured turf complete with pavilion, a picturesque oasis surrounded by sunburned hills and pastures – a community cricket ground unlike any other, on a private family farm.
Te Awanga Downs farm sits just off the road to Cape Kidnappers – a rugged promontory jutting into the Pacific Ocean and one of New Zealand’s most iconic seascapes. The road from the city of Napier passes seaside holiday homes, notable vineyards and a popular cycle trail. Beyond are the gates into the world-renowned luxury lodge and golf resort of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, and the gannet colony at the end of the Cape.
Billed as The Legends of Cricket Art Deco match, the friendly 20/20 game saw cricket stepping back into a gentler bye-gone era, as the locals ‘Clifton County Cricket Club XI’ took on the ‘World Invitational XI’ – both teams attired in kit from the thirties and swinging handcrafted locally made bats.
This convivial and quintessential Kiwi experience – generously served up with fine regional food, wine and brews – brought together all-time playing greats of the game, guest personalities and the talented young captains of four secondary school teams.
The World Invitational XI was captained by Jeff Thomson – dubbed the fastest bowler of all time, ‘Thommo’ played for Australia 1972-1985. His team included former English captain Adam Hollioake (played for England 1996-1999), and Kiwis Chris Harris, Evan Gray, and Ervin McSweeney.
The host side, captained by Hawke’s Bay local hero Mark Greatbatch, included Dion Nash, Mathew Sinclair and New Zealand White Fern Nicola Browne, supported by Clifton club members.
Cricketing legend Martin Crowe was on hand, too, to reunite with friends and old foe Jeff Thomson who had been there for Crowe’s debut against Australia.
Of course, at the end of the day, it was not really about which team was the winner. For the record, it was the Clifton XI but the real winner on the day was Hawke’s Bay with a glorious summer day, and an outstanding new event showcasing the best of a region that’s renowned for its wines and produce, boutique food producers and relaxed lifestyle.
The cricket match was scheduled to take place at the end of Napier’s Art Deco Weekend – a quirky and vibrant annual celebration of the city’s outstanding architectural heritage from the 1930s – and the long term plan is to make it a regular fixture. This time round, it was the opportunity for Art Deco revellers to enjoy extended celebrations and get into the swing of Cricket World Cup 2015.
It has been 22 years since New Zealand last hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1992. Napier will host three matches during Cricket World Cup 2015:
Pakistan v United Arab Emirates on 4 March
New Zealand v Afghanistan on 8 March
West Indies v United Arab Emirates on 15 March