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Napier provides fitting finale

Phil Long | 04:50 UK time, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

After problems with the harsh New Zealand sun in Hamilton, it was problems of a more logistical, and unfortunately, increasingly common nature which left a lot of English fans stumped in Napier.

The city positively groaned under the influx of fans in town for reasons as diverse as a Jack Johnson gig, hordes of Kiwi families enjoying the last sun of the summer and, believe or not, the local apple picking season!

When you throw a few thousand England cricket fans into the mix, it's easy to see why there's not been a bed, from backpackers hostels to five-star hotels, to be had for the last week.

The local press described it as a 'perfect storm' in terms of visitor log-jam and it meant some supporters were stopping way, way out of town and driving around 25 kilometres each way every day to watch the Test match.

The 'No Vacancy' signs were out in force all over town, with the backpackers hostel where I pitched my trusty tent reckoning they could have booked the place out five-times over.

Long gone are the days when you could rock into town a couple of days before a Test and get yourself a bed for the week. Now it needs serious long-term planning and some fans booked their dorm beds in some of Napier's cheapest hostels way back in July last year.

But whilst finding a bed was tough for some, everything else - just about - went exactly according to plan.

For the third Test in a row the Barmy Army was able to position itself en-masse on yet another superb grassy bank to cheer England on. Admittedly the fantastic weather that has accompanied this tour has helped, but there's nothing better than watching a day's Test cricket sitting or laying on the bank and it's also perfect for sleeping off the excesses of the night before.

England fans celebrate victory in Napier


With New Zealand nine wickets down at lunch on the final day, the match and the series looked done and dusted but when you're watching England you never take anything for granted. Even so, with a 19-year-old debutant batting at number 10 and possibly the world's worst batsman at 11, it's fair to say the majority of England fans spent lunchtime making their plans for the rest of the day.

Of course, it wasn't that simple and although Tim Southee and Chris Martin's partnership never quite reached the nerve-jangling levels of Astle-Morrison (Auckland 1997) or Astle-Cairns (Christchurch 2002), Southee's whirlwind half century did give England fans just the odd 'What if?' moment.

In fact, it's been a whirlwind kind of tour thanks to the short interludes between the Tests and the fact that all three games lasted the full five days.

Busy grounds, tight games and atmospheric surroundings have fully justified the decision to choose 'boutique venues' for this series, and, after winning our first away series since South Africa three years ago, I doubt you'll find many England fans who disagree.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 10:40 AM on 26 Mar 2008,
  • vicky fidler wrote:

Well done England cricket team, at last a win. However, can we please see the return of Matthew Hoggard instead of Jimmy Anderson. Yes he bowled extremely well in the 2nd test but to be fair in those conditions, I could have got a few wickets. I'm sure Hoggy would have got a fifer as well. The problem with Jimmy is his inconsistency and I don't buy this,"Hoggy is too similar to Siddy" business for them both to play. What you want from your bowlers is reliability and Hoggy has got that in spades. I'm sorry Jimmy but until you show that too you're not in my team.

Vicky

  • 2.
  • At 11:27 AM on 26 Mar 2008,
  • vicki fidlers mate steve wrote:

aye up vic!!

a great victory for England!!

  • 3.
  • At 11:17 PM on 26 Mar 2008,
  • Grimester wrote:

Great article! We just got back from Napier and fully agree it was a wonderful place for a test. Lovely ground, relaxed atmosphere and best of all an England win!
Go Ryan!!!

  • 4.
  • At 11:33 PM on 26 Mar 2008,
  • Grimester wrote:

Great article! We just got back from Napier. Lovely place, friendly people and an England victory. Go Ryan!!

  • 5.
  • At 10:09 AM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Gilberto5 wrote:

I was watching with jealousy this time round, i did the whole of the 2002 NZ tour and Napier was my favourite ground by a long way. The grass bank for the 1 dayer then was jam packed and the noise & atmosphere superb. Thought the Barmy Army were excellent again in this test and entertained the crowd and the people watching on the box. IS the grumpy mole pub still open?

  • 6.
  • At 03:42 PM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • partick smiddies wrote:

dont forget the kiwis are ranked 7th in world cricket, i think the cricket was poor, batting line up is wrong, strauss is an opener and bell is a number 3, were accomodating vaughan who needs to drop down.

we play like that against the bokkas and were in trouble, on a good note well done broad at last given a chance, and RIP harmison your a disgrace.

  • 7.
  • At 03:45 PM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • partick smiddies wrote:

dont forget the kiwis are ranked 7th in world cricket, i think the cricket was poor, batting line up is wrong, strauss is an opener and bell is a number 3, were accomodating vaughan who needs to drop down.

we play like that against the bokkas and were in trouble, on a good note well done broad at last given a chance, and RIP harmison your a disgrace.

  • 8.
  • At 11:47 PM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • Johnny Phillips wrote:

Longy, sounds like a military operation compared to '97 and the open doors at Beethovens in Wellington and the like. But I remember the Astle/Morrison (World record ducks at time) partnership in Auckland only too well. Sounds like you had a great tour, it's got to be the most under-rated series on the circuit. Very envious watching back home.

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