UPDATE (the morning after the night before):
So near, and yet so far away. Australia comprehensively played New Zealand, and are deserved World Cup champions.
But take nothing away from the New Zealand side. The players can hold their heads high. They defied our world ranking of #4 to make the final ahead of India and South Africa. They played wonderful cricket throughout the tournament, and they united the nation behind them. And ...they played the game in the true spirit of cricket, without resorting to the pettiness that afflicts some teams.
I'm proud to have been a New Zealand cricket supporter for most of my almost-60 years. One defeat won't change anything; I am behind this team for the long haul. The World Cup has been a triumph for cricket, even if it did not end triumphantly for the New Zealand team.
Stand tall Black Caps; this is just another step on the journey to achieving your true potential as a team.
And as for me, hibernation awaits. But as has been shown in the last 24 hours the blog is still "live" and can be reactivated should the occasion arise. I simply can't make any commitments beyond that, but it's heartening to be missed!
It is indeed a very special day in New Zealand sport today, so for that reason only, Keeping Stock makes a one-day comeback, which may be extended to tomorrow.
What a day of sport awaits. The Hurricanes will finish the weekend top of Super Rugby, The Warriors will be looking for a win over Brisbane, the Phoenix will hope to beat Sydney FC even if no one turns up, and then there’s a late night ahead for tonight.
Firstly, what a ridiculous decision by FFA to even schedule an A-League match against the CWC final. Only diehard football fans will be watching the ‘Nix game on the telly, on either side of the Tasman. And FFA’s refusal to allow the Phoenix to bring the start time forward shows its contempt for the club.
But I can hardly wait for the World Cup final. I have followed cricket with a passion since the very early 1960’s, so I have experienced almost every emotion possible courtesy of the New Zealand side. But there’s something different about this outfit.
You often hear the expression in business that “There’s no “I” in team”. But that’s exactly the ethos of this team. The egos have been left at home, and the players are tight with one another. Mike Hesson; I salute you.
I was privileged to see some of the players up close before the quarter-final in Wellington last week. They were the most relaxed elite sportsmen I’ve seen for some time, and whoever has helped get them to that state deserves a huge round of applause. And because they are relaxed, they are playing world-class cricket. Martin Guptill has the highest individual score of the tournament, and needs ten runs today to overtake Kumar Sangakkara as the highest run-scorer at CWC15. Trent Boult has the most wickets and Tim Southee has the best individual bowling performance. And no other batsman has scored their runs at a better strike-rate than Brendon McCullum.
McCullum’s leadership has been inspirational. I was upset when Ross Taylor was axed two years ago, but I am delighted to say now that Hesson made the right call, and that he has continued to make good calls along the way, like the selection of Grant Elliott. And as one who has supported this team for most of my almost-60 years, I am happy to name this current side as the best New Zealand side I have ever seen.
Good luck to Brendon McCullum and his team this afternoon. You are playing the game with panache and flair, but you are also respecting the traditions that make cricket such a wonderful sport. This cricket fan is immensely proud, and although my support is not conditional on a win today, hell, it would be great if you could upset those Australians in their own backyard! Give it your best shot; kia kaha Blackcaps.
And as a last hurrah, do you think they might be playing today especially for this bloke?
Check out Martin Crowe's emotional opinion-piece at Cricinfo. If you're a TRUE cricket fan, and you can read this without a lump in the throat or sand in the eyes, you're a more staunch man or woman than me!