Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Cup of tea and a lie down as big wet takes hold

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Every match of the Black Caps tour of Sri Lanka has been rain-affected. Photo / Getty Images
Every match of the Black Caps tour of Sri Lanka has been rain-affected. Photo / Getty Images

It promised so much. The Royal Stag Mega Cricket Cup third ODI from Pallekele between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Chances were rain would have a major bearing on the result but I was excited anyway.

Who couldn't get hyped up by a cricket series whose main sponsor was Zuari Cement?

Former New Zealand fast medium bowler Danny Morrison, dressed like a sweaty sales rep from Plumbing World, did his level best to create some interest during his intro to the coverage but even he seemed slightly pessimistic, describing Sri Lanka as "this beautiful, wet island nation".

It was the first ODI I've seen where there are more players and officials in the stadium for the first ball than paying spectators, which is a pity because Pallekele looks like a nice ground to watch cricket. The newly built grandstand behind the bowlers arm appears modern and complements the lush embankments with rock walls. As the game dawdled I imagined strapping on a harness and caribiner and abseiling up the granite during the luncheon interval.

I was surprised that there was no Dilmah being grown around the ground. It looks like an ideal place to grow tea.

The other thing I noticed about Pallekele was the size of the covers. The Pallekeleans clearly understand their own seasonal weather patterns better than the ICC because they're world leaders in full ground-cover technology.

So far every match has been rain-affected - which I'm told is some sort of record. It seems playing cricket in Sri Lanka in November is akin to skiing in New Zealand during February.

Radio Sport's veteran commentator Brian Waddle must have known something the rest of the cricket administration didn't when he decided to give the tour a miss. Maybe he couldn't find an airline willing to sponsor his trip? Maybe they don't fly to Sri Lanka at this time of year for weather reasons? Who knows?

Still, there was some fantastic weather-watching for meteorological enthusiasts like myself.

And there were some interesting entomological situations also. By the 15th over of New Zealand's innings, a posse of black moths staged a ground-wide sit-in, either attracted to the stacks of floodlights or the relaxed family atmosphere on the grass embankments.

Whatever their migratory reasons, the moths were treated to some elegant strokeplay from BJ Watling, who scored his third consecutive ODI half century and in doing so broke John F Reid's 1984 record for a New Zealander batting against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Watling was the only New Zealand batsman whose strokeplay induced Craig McMillan to repeat the word "arhh".

Impressively, McMillan managed three "arhhs" and two "ohh brilliants" in Watling's 94.

New Zealand would have been relatively happy with their Duckworth-Lewised total of 180-something but the game was promptly taken away from them by Tillakaratne Dilshan, who seized on some poorly directed bowling to score a sumptuous hundred - his first against New Zealand.

Dilshan is a joy to watch, particularly when he's given width. The Sri Lankan batsman showed his opponents how to time the ball and place it in the gaps, at times threading the ball through 20 fielders placed square on the off side.

So where to from here for the New Zealand team? My hope is for somewhere drier and less competitive... with fewer moths.

- NZ Herald

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