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Auckland Aces 201 all out (batting second), Northern Knights 302/8
Eden Park, Auckland, January 3 2016

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The first weekend in January is, tragically, one of the very rare times of the year when there is no football on in New Zealand. It’s a strange, empty feeling where the sense of loss is great and the infinite void it creates in the fabric one’s soul is difficult to fill. But fill it I did. After the official no-football mourning period was at an end, I picked myself up and went to watch a sport that was invented to be played in summer! Criggit!!

As luck would have it, my Northern Knights, the sports team I fell in love with at 11 years old before I loved any other, was in town playing the mortal JAFA enemy at the home of cricket – the Eden Park Outer Oval.

This was not only a refreshing change from all the constant football I watch the other 51 weeks of the year, but it was also a chance to see how another sport does things and gain some perspective on how football is run from a fan point of view. And the verdict? Football is actually doing bloody well by comparison!

This was the Ford Trophy – the national league of the 50 over version of our national summer game. It is therefore comparable to the ASB Premiership in that they are both arguably pinnacle nationwide competitions (although NZC also runs two others for first class and T20 cricket), but aside from that it should really be streets ahead given cricket is undoubtedly a more popular sport with the viewing public. It’s not streets ahead though. Not from a fan perspective at least.

We get all hung up on ASB Premiership crowds being small, but as the first ball was being bowled yesterday I counted 16 warm bodies in attendance. It peaked at around 160 but even at that, most if not all ASB Premiership franchises would get more than that! Ok, it’s the holiday season but it’s still woeful in a city of 1.5 million and a far cry from the 81,000 that a domestic T20 game attracted in Melbourne Australia the other day!

It wasn’t the cost of admission that was keeping the hoards at bay. Entry was by gold coin donation – which I must say I did find annoying. The donation part was fine – cool in fact – but who carries coins in 2016? I had to hunt through the undersides of my car seats to dig one out and when I did, I felt really stingy only dropping $1 in the bucket. If they’d had an eftpos machine sitting there I probably would have paid $10.

On a similar note, it was also frustrating in the extreme that the food kiosk had no eftpos. You are stuck in a hot cricket ground for 7-8 hours and if you are not carrying cash you can’t eat or drink? I expect this at small football clubs but not at Eden Park for chrissakes! It’s our national stadium!! I ended up going across the road to the gas station to buy food and drink – more money that Auckland Cricket could have taken off me that went to somebody else instead.

And while I’m griping, I will also do the old-age pensioner thing and grizzle about the loud music. You don’t need to fill every break in the game with music at five million decibels!! I ask myself, what is it that I love about cricket? The answer is lots of things, but one of the big attractions is how RELAXING it is…

But despite all this whining, I had a lovely day out. The Knights won and won well, which certainly helped. Witnessing a team come back from 15/3 to top 300 was a memorable experience that will stay with me for a while and Cory Anderson’s 98 was a lovely, lovely innings.

To add to my enjoyment of the Knights’ victory, Auckland had a player named Grobbelaar and as petty and unbecoming as it undoubtedly is, I quite like seeing people named Grobbelaar suffer disappointments in life…

And watching all the kids playing the game on the outfield at the change of innings is another thing that always makes cricket so wonderful. I really felt like joining in but instead contented myself with snapping a few pictures.

If I had more time in my life I would probably be a cricket blogger. But as it is, I’m now ready and eager to get back into following a more professionally run sport next weekend! 🙂

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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