Chris Rattue: Kitty litter? Not in my backyard game

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Marks out of ten for the first cricket test in Dunedin?

It would score close to a ten for bizarre, although only half that for quality.

It has been both fascinating and dull, a battle between two not very good test sides at a venue so picturesque that it is very difficult to picture a test match being played there. Presumably the next step in New Zealand's test match venue allocation is somebody's back lawn.

In between the dull moments, you could say that test cricket is very alive but not very well.

What a fascinating few days it has been, from the introduction of the video referral system to strange goings-on with the management and the sight of our players wearing outfits so garish that they drew criticism from Simon Doull.

And so, on to the kitty litter.

Having tried the traditional drying methods, the match officials at University Oval attempted to soak up excess water by spreading kitty litter on the ground.

It was not the expensive, heavily marketed and branded kitty litter either. From what I could make out, it was a bag of the cheap sort in plain wrapping that will have had the game's powerbrokers wondering if Dunedin deserves to remain on the list of world cricket test venues.

While we were warned about the video replay system, it has to be said that the kitty litter was a shock, including to the West Indian fielders who promptly protested. If Clive Lloyd and Co were still involved, rest assured it would have led to a squelchy and very messy walk-off.

The tourists will be wondering what awaits them elsewhere on this sojourn, whether - for instance - drinks at McLean Park in Napier might involved them being handed bowls of milk.

Assuming that the rest of the cricketing world decides to ignore this breakthrough moment in the drying of sports grounds, the significant long-term action from this test is centred on the video replay challenges.

Gone are the days when a batsman had to stand helplessly as a bowler and a posse of fieldsmen screamed "howzat" while an umpire who'd been in the sun for five hours and was thinking about dinner decided his fate.

Now the batsman can, so to speak, scream "howzat" back by appealing to a third umpire.

The ICC has tempted fate in Dunedin, by appointing a rookie umpire in the middle and stationing one of the world's leading white coats behind the television. This tends to suggest that the balance of umpiring power is shifting into the stands.

Is the video referral system working? Well, a lot better than the kitty litter, it has to be said, although it has hardly been purr-fect.

The lbw decision against the West Indian Denesh Ramdin last night looked very unfair, and video umpire Koertzen did a thoroughly unconvincing job of adjudicating it as he supported Saheba's original decision.

Moving forward ... it would be remiss to mention any New Zealand test match these days without at least one referral to Iain O'Brien's blog at iainobrien.blogspot.com.

It's an absolute must for any cricket lover, as the Aussie commentators invariably say when they are hawking yet another piece of remarkably unmemorable memorabilia.

Thanks to O'Brien, we are getting a glimpse into a test dressing room and for that reason alone, I'd keep him in the team for the next 20 years.

Thursday's instalment was a classic

"[Tim] McIntosh has shown every ability to bat for long periods of time, often for not many runs ... when Howza [Jamie How] was out and back in the viewing room he commented on Mac's state of mind, the side that we couldn't see." O'Brien revealed.

"This could be one long duck on debut," O'Brien then reported How as saying.

That's confidence for you, and a glimpse into two New Zealand openers' state of mind.

The blog contains some excellent photos, with one particularly good shot of O'Brien pushing his luggage at an airport and another of him either ducking under a bouncer or playing one of his famous cover drives. Hopefully, there will be something about the kitty litter in the latest instalment.

- NZ Herald

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