Test thriller jangles nerves

By Yvonne Tahana

With a single ball to go and just one wicket needed for a win, sunburnt Black Caps fans leaned forward in their seats.

As bowler Trent Boult ran in for the final ball at Eden Park yesterday, the stadium reverberated with the sound of pounded railings and whistles - but it was almost too much for expat Englishman Keith Park 50, from Howick, who covered his face with his straw hat.

"Come on, bring it home," he yelled, while his mate Dean Sharrar, 51, stuttered: "My heartttt ... this is unbelievable."

They weren't alone. In offices throughout the country, workers gathered around televisions to watch the nail-biting finish to a test that has captured the attention of both cricket fans and non-cricket fans.

England narrowly avoided a last over defeat however, in the final match of the test series which was drawn 0-0. England had slumped to 304 for nine with three overs to go after two late catches to Ross Taylor.

For some, like Aucklander Mike Summerville, the autopsy on the draw had already begun.

Brendon McCullum, he moaned, should not have batted on.

It was a good-natured crowd who sat in the hot sun, drinking, singing, and slathering on the sunscreen or getting roasted as the day wore on.

Cornet player Billy Rimmer was the life of the party, and Eden Park security almost didn't let him in.

The Devonport muso wasn't having any of it when two guards told him he'd have to leave the instrument at the gate. That's despite the Barmy Army's trumpeter Billy Cooper having already played throughout the five-dayer.

"I told them 'I want this to go right to the top'," Mr Rimmer said

"The marketing manager, she looked at me and goes 'I might let you in. Are you any good?'

"I told her, 'I've only been playing for 40 years'."

A few notes sealed the deal.

Mr Rimmer, who plays in a one-man brass band, came by himself but soon attracted a crowd. A group of bare-chested kiwis who led the chants pulled him into their group. And from then on, he partied.

With fewer than 30 overs left to go former Fiji international Barry Agar was still calling a Black Caps win.

In 1984 he played a representative match against Papua New Guinea and a warm-up one-dayer against England which Fiji lost by just two runs.

As the overs counted down and the crowd stood and yelled for any half-chance, he summed up the shared anxiety of a test like this: "Five days, sometimes it's rain, sometimes it's called off... you just never know. But that's the excitement of it. It's a magic, magic game."

- NZ Herald

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