By Scott MacLeod
TAUPO - One of the great stalwarts of the Taupo sports scene will today watch his first international one-dayer in the flesh - and in the park that bears his name.
Owen Delany, aged 77, has no idea who gave him the honorary VIP ticket for today's New Zealand versus India cricket clash in Taupo, but he does know the game will be a cracker.
Taupo is hosting its first full one-dayer because cricket chiefs reckon they can cram 15,000 fans into Owen Delany Park - some 5500 more than at WestpacTrust Park in Hamilton.
Mr Delany, who worked for years behind the scenes in rugby, cricket and athletics, is almost as happy about the game as are Taupo business folk. Their tills are ringing furiously with the influx of cricket fanatics.
"Town's chocka," said Chamber of Commerce chairman Jim McHardy. "We're back to the good old booming Taupo days."
He and other Taupo folk spoke every superlative in the book when asked about their local cricket park.
Mayor Joan Williamson, for example, lavished praise on her own council for building the park some 18 years ago and upgrading it with a jolly good stand and lights.
"This is our reward," she said.
Some visiting cricket fans, such as 20-year-old Will Evans, have been spending money for up to a week in Taupo as they prepare for the big game. "We're talking $200 or more, mostly in liquor establishments," said the Wellington student.
Mr Evans, who recently inspected the venue, advised spectators to arm themselves with rugs and pillows "as the grass is a bit prickly on one's posterior."
However, Northern Districts Cricket chief executive John Turkington said the park was one of the best in the country for one-dayers because its hard, fast pitch should yield plenty of runs.
He said the park had performed well in the occasional Shell Cup match and games involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
By Scott MacLeod