Test cricket returned to Eden Park this week. So did I. But it was not the pleasure it should have been.

Nothing wrong with the cricket, you understand. The New Zealand top three played superbly on day one. But on the other side of the boundary rope, things weren't so pretty.

Because I had to sort out a Ticketek cock-up, I ended up going twice through the security bag search. I'd studied online the "Eden Park Conditions of Entry" and had removed the fireworks and knives from my bag before saddling up.

I left my skateboard at home. The ban on vacuum flasks was more puzzling but when I rang the park, I was told that they "exercise discretion" in test matches. What a novel idea, I thought.


The problem was that discretion was exercised randomly. At the first checkpoint, I began unzipping my bag and told a burly Samoan guard that I had "a thermos of tea and a bottle of milk". His big hand restrained mine as he said "It's all right, mate. I trust you."

He had made the assessment that a portly sexagenarian palagi in a Panama hat was not a threat to order and waved me through.

On the second shot though, a beady-eyed woman said I'd have to drink the milk before going through. Sweating from the hassle at the ticket office, I had a brief episode of what is technically known as losing my rag.

The noise attracted one of the supervisors who asked me sternly whether I had a thermos of tea to go with the milk. You would have been impressed by the restraint my answer displayed and it seemed to impress her: I entered, feeling like an illegal immigrant in the Promised Land.

The security was scarcely smarter inside. On the east stand, they confiscated a soft beach ball that was being harmlessly tapped around. Did the guards' diligence account for the Barmy Army's muted showing? Had they imposed a chanting quota?

Everywhere you go, there are people in fluoro vests telling you what you can't do. Nobody smiles. Patrons are treated like an occupational hazard, not a reason for being there. For an establishment that got northwards of $250 million in public money to spruce itself up for the Rugby World Cup, the Eden Park people show precious little respect to the folks whose pockets the dough came from.

They do, however, want to advertise to their captive audience. Some 20 per cent of the scoreboard is devoted to continuously advertising the park as a functions venue or the place to buy a hot dog combo.

I would not want you to think I'm saying it was better in my day because you might think me an old fart. But I am old-fashioned enough to remember when going to the test was a relaxed and enjoyable day out, rather than a visit to a place that was equal parts prison camp and adventure park.