Monday 19 December 2011

Tickets Please

When designing a roller-coaster, there are a few things that need to be thought of: the build up, the delay, the twists and the ending. If a designer does his job properly then a roller-coaster will have a scary build up, a delay to build tension, the twists and turns and then an exhilarating ending. Often the old style wooden roller-coasters were scarier than the modern steel-tubing based ones because, while the twists and turns had to be spaced out more, the psychological effect of the wooden supports, combined with the sway of the device made the rider less confident that everything was going to be alright.

The second test at Hobart was a like a good wooden roller-coaster for a New Zealand fan.

The build up.

In this phase the cars are pulled up a lift, going past lots of twists and turns. The aim is to make the patrons start to feel nervous.

The first news:

“It is going to be a green pitch.”
“There’s a lot of grass on this pitch”
“If it wasn’t for the crease lines I wouldn’t know where the pitch started and the outfield began”

Surely not. Not our undisciplined batsmen on a green-top against the Australian bowlers who had terrorised us at the ‘gabba.


“Daniel Vettori is out injured for the second test, Trent Boult will be coming in to replace him.”

Followed by:

“Australia have won the toss and have chosen to bowl”
“Ross Taylor looked like he was about to burst into tears when Michael Clarke said that he was bowling.”

No Vettori, and we’re having to bat on a green-top. Could it get any worse? Well yes. 60/6 before lunch is certainly worse.

The delay

The delay phase of the roller coaster is where either there is a small pause before a big drop, or a slow part where you get the “this is not too bad” feeling, but still know that there might be worse to come. This serves the purpose of allowing the rider to settle down, but actually the tension increases the thrill of the next section.

First came the mini recovery with Brownlie batting with Bracewell and Southee. Then the end of the day: Hughes c Guptill b Martin; and two maidens from Boult. Perhaps things were going to be alright after all.

I turned on the radio that evening. “gutless” “hopeless” “useless” “disgrace” were all being used. The public were not happy. They wanted blood. “Well you can start by sacking McCullum and Ryder. They’re useless. Too much money from the IPL” etc. I needed to go for a walk to cool off. Couldn’t they see that the match was even?

Then came the second day. The first hour 4 wickets fell. We were back in it. With the whole of NZ’s cricket twitter community going ballistic, one of the social media gurus in the country tweeted:

The ride had begun in earnest.

The twists and turns

Sudden twists and turns combined with going up and down quickly cause a feeling of not knowing which way is up. This makes the body feel out of control. The sense of panic causes adrenaline to be released, causing a form of euphoria in the rider. Often there are brief pauses between different sections, which only exaggerate the feelings.

The match was rolling now. There were wickets falling. Australia were 75/7. Could we roll them for under 100. Surely we could. But Southee and Martin were getting hit around. By tail-enders. They got up to 131/7. The two bunnies had scored 50 runs between lunch and drinks. But both got out just before the break. Just after drinks the resistance was up. New Zealand had an unlikely first innings lead. Out came Guptil and McCullum and gave us 10 overs of gritty batting, scoring only 29 runs, but going into tea without loss. Surely this is our game now.

At tea I was expecting that they were going to score a big partnership and bat Australia out of the game. Due to some poor planning I was not able to watch the final session, but I went to my car feeling that the situation was rosy.

I was only a few hundred meters up the road when McCullum got out. I almost drove off the road 4 minutes later when Guptill joined him. 24 minutes later I was parking my car when Ryder got out. I suddenly had visions of us collapsing, and being beaten beaten early on day 3. How would I cope? It was an unbearable thought.

I quickly tuned my phone’s radio into Radio Sport for the walk into the park for the Christmas event. But the phone radio required the internet, and there were over 100000 people in the park, and they were using up all the bandwidth. I had to rely on my old friend cricinfo. It was so painful waiting for the updates to load. Each time with relief rather than elation that a wicket had not fallen. Each time I expected to see 4 down, but Williamson and Taylor kept the wolves at bay for the rest of that session.

So we got to the end of day 2. A brief pause in the action, but it was a pause filled with tension. How would day 3 go? Would Williamson be able to get going again?

No. 3rd ball and he hit it to slips. That’s it, we’re going to lose.

The next hour we didn’t lose any wickets, but we didn’t score any runs either. Taylor was looking shaky, but it’s better to be looking shaky at the crease, than looking rueful in the pavilion. The boys had seen off the danger period. We couldn’t lose it from here.

5 quick wickets in the next 50 minutes and the world was caving in. 203/9 and out strides Chris Martin. His batting has got a lot better over the last 3 years. Which is like saying that my pet mouse has grown a lot in the last year. No matter how much it grows it’s never going to be big enough to fight off a dog. But Boult the swing bowler turned into Boult the swinging batsman. 21 quick runs before Chris Martin got another not out to add to his collection. (through this series he passed Steve Waugh to now sit 5th on the most not outs list)

The relief of Boult’s innings was a temporary one. Before long the missed review for the catch, combined with a couple of generous LBW decisions mean that the mood was heading downhill quickly. NZ were saved from being beaten in 3 days by the rain, but surely it was just delaying the inevitable. The wheels were falling off. We were definitely going to lose.

The next morning did little at first to alleviate that gloom. Even Hughes c Guptill b Martin didn’t lift my mood much. Our fielding was sloppy. Reece Young (who I’d stuck up for in many conversations) was keeping like he had flippers instead of hands.

The ending

The perfect ride has and end that gives the final burst, leaving the rider exhilarated at the end. A good roller-coaster designer will often put in place a false ending followed by the actual one.

158/2 only 83 runs needed, 8 wickets in hand, and the Australian TAB are offering odds of $1.02 on an Australian victory. I could hardly watch. We were like a bunch of lemmings marching towards the edge of a cliff, only less furry. And then Doug Bracewell came on to bowl.

And the Doug started taking wickets.

Soon it was 159/5. There was a glimmer of hope. One more and we’re into the bowlers. Surely it can’t happen. All lunch break, there was that nagging doubt… it’s possible, but are they just setting me up to let me down, like the Blackcaps have done so many times in the past.

At 192/5 almost all hope was gone. Australia needed just 49 runs. 5 wickets in hand. No chance. Then Southee bowled a magic delivery that got Haddin driving off the edge to slips. Only to be put down. Well if we hadn’t lost before, we definitely had now.

But then Southee gave the repeat dose. Haddin gone. Game back on.

Siddle lasted 3 balls. Pattinson managed 4 deliveries. Starc only saw 2. Now it’s New Zealand’s game to lose.

In came Nathan Lyon. Surely any he wouldn’t last. 5 overs and he’s looking solid. The nagging doubts start coming in – they aren’t going to do it are they. Surely we can’t lose from here can we? Are we going to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory?

The doubts were starting to rise. All the excitement was starting to turn to worry. Then the celebration. Nathan Lyon given out LBW. Of course they were going to review it, what did they have to lose? No edge – must be out. I was getting “woohoo” text messages from people at this point, when…

Pitching outside leg. Somehow.

It certainly didn’t look like it was pitching outside leg, but that’s what the computer said.

And then things started to get scary again. Warner and Lyon started looking quite composed. The lead got down to 12, then 10, then 8. Warner took a single early in the over, and it started to look like we were going to suffer the most heart-wrenching loss in test cricket history. Were we again going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Then the stumps went flying. I shouted with the pure emotion.

Nothing matches test match cricket for the emotional rollercoaster.