With one more sleep to go, sports fans are buzzing about what will become the deciding result in the country’s coveted, all-star cricket match.
This year’s T20 Black Clash, kicking off at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Friday evening will be witnessed live by almost 9000 spectators and potentially another million at home.
Team Cricket, made up of cricketing legends and sporting icons alike will be aiming to snatch back the crown from Team Rugby, with a roster stacked with All Blacks alumni.
Once more, Team Rugby will be captained by Kieran Read, the nation’s fourth most-capped All Black of all time who will build on his standout performance in last year’s charity triumph.
Donning a blue Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, Read appeared relaxed as he sat down with the Herald to preview tomorrow’s anticipated fixture.
When asked how preparations for the test are going, he smiled and remarked his daughters, one of whom plays competitively for her local club, had been helping him get him into shape back home.
“It worked well for me last year, I just turned up and tried to play,” he said.
Read’s national and now charity teammate, Israel Dagg has been sending his captain videos of his batting form ahead of the test.
According to the captain, Dagg has a bowling speed of up to 140km/h.
“I think he’s looking for a promotion up the order, he looked alright,” Read laughed, before noting Team Rugby looks solid this year - a mixture including young talent with a background in schoolboy cricket.
While eyes will naturally fall on All Black icons like Richie McCaw, who featured in the 2022 match, Jordie Barrett and Will Jordan will bring further star power to the side.
“Jordie Barrett is outstanding, we’ve got to keep him calm and relaxed,” said Read.
“Last year he got hit for a few runs and got a bit of the yip.”
Jason Spice, Ruben Love, Ofisa Tonu’u and Kaylum Boshier will also be in the fray, as well as Jock McKenzie and wildcard Neil Broom. All Black, Andrew Ellis was later added to the roster.
But it was Read who stood out in last year’s clash with the cricket experts - scoring 84 from 55.
“I just channelled my inner youth,” said Read, who played competitive cricket as a schoolboy until he ruptured his ACL, pivoting his sporting career towards rugby.
“It was a scratchy start, but I had Will Jordan out there who was scoring well. I put on 10 and he put on 40 and slowly I got into it.”
He’s quick to acknowledge the strength of the opposition - a Team Cricket side including international stars Daniel Vettori, Adam Parore, Chris Martin and Anton Devcich.
Their wildcard for this year is Australian rugby union representative, Nick Cummins - known affectionately as “Honey Badger” and appreciated by fans for his post-match interview humour.
“You’d think most Australians can hold a bat and know what they’re doing, but the Badger will be a good laugh,” said Read.
“He’ll be a good bit of fun.”
Though playing in a different code, Read described playing cricket in front of so many spectators as “liberating” - as many of his teammates approach the fixture with a nothing-to-lose mindset.
He hopes the key to victory might lie in the hands of Ellis and Broom, both skilled with a bat when given the chance. Some of the younger players will ride the boundary with the chance to run around.
“The hunger to win is pretty strong, it’s a social event but when you’re on the field it’s competitive,” the ex-All Black captain said.
“We’re hoping for plenty of runs, scoring money for charity - an awesome occasion for everyone.”
In January 2021, the sold-out Christchurch Black Clash was the highest-rating sports event on NZ Television in 12 months prior, with over one million viewers on Channel One.
These were even higher viewing figures than the Prada Cup.
The 2022 event, held at Bay Oval in Tauranga, sold out two weeks prior to the match and had also gained over one million viewers at home.
Kick-off for Friday’s fixture is at 6.30pm, with both teams tied at two wins each.