Sunday, May 11, 2014

Michael Walker’s NZ cricket sonnets

The New Zealand poet Michael Walker was a popular contributor to this blog in 2013. It seems fitting this year after a brief blog hiatus to post his two recent cricket sonnets that I encouraged him to write.
Walker’s poems use longer lines than most and are more in line with North American poets like Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and C K Williams than formal writers in the English sonnet tradition.
The longer lines allow Walker to pack detail in to his cricket writing, an added bonus for cricket lovers.
The two sonnets concern England v. New Zealand Test matches (1983/84 season and the 1986 England tour). Both were famous victories. One match is at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, and the other at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
Readers will enjoy casting their minds back to these Tests, and remembering the likes of Lance Cairns, Geoff Howarth, Sir Richard Hadlee, Stephen Boock, Ewen Chatfield, Evan Gray, John Wright and Jeremy Coney – fine New Zealand players of the 1980s.
The Lancaster Park victory is similar to the recent New Zealand win over the West Indies at the Basin Reserve, with Trent Boult doing most of the damage in a good bowling unit comprising Boult, Southee, Sodhi, Anderson and Wagner.
At Lancaster Park in February 1984 it was Hadlee, Cairns, Boock and Chatfield. Those were the days.


Three days in Christchurch

In those less elitist days you could watch a Test on TV One and that is how
I saw some of the 2nd Test against England from 3 February, 1984.
Geoff Howarth chose to bat first on a mosaic Lancaster Park pitch and
New Zealand lost wickets in the morning to the quick Norman Cowans, but
J.J. Crowe and J.V. Coney sailed into the 40s to fight back. However, it was
Richard Hadlee who took heavy toll of the short-pitched bowling – including
Tony Pigott on loan from Wellington – caught behind for 99 off 81 balls.
New Zealand had made 307 in 328 minutes but was that enough at all?

England were 7-1 overnight and play only started at 4.30pm on Saturday,
after drizzle; but by the close they were 53-7, Hadlee taking 3 wickets,
Chatfield and Cairns took 3 wickets too; England were all out for 82.
Following on, they made 93 that afternoon, losing by an innings and 132 runs,
with more than two days to spare, blaming the pitch, but also undone by
Boock’s drifting spin, sure catching, and Hadlee’s pace, making the ball fly.

Trent Bridge Test

Trent Bridge, Nottingham, was my favourite of the grounds I visited in 1975;
Its imposing pavilion, stands and embankment were quite a spectacle,
making me think of the great Notts bowlers, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce.
I watched the 2nd Test, in early August 1986, and saw Jeremy Coney gamble,
inserting England, on a slow, whitish pitch, with cloud cover hovering about,
which suited Hadlee’s swing perfectly on his way to 6-80, four bowled or lbw,
two caught by Smith in England’s 256; Willie Watson, a fast-medium bowler
with oh-so-straight run-up and delivery took 2-51, moving the ball in the air.

In New Zealand’s reply, John Wright scored a fast 58; Gray a long, crucial 50,
Hadlee 68, while in the deck that day, John Bracewell, an off-spinner, swept,
hooked, pulled and drove on to 110, taking his side to 413 – a vital lead.
England totalled 230 in their 2nd innings, Hadlee taking 4-60, Bracewell 3-29,
and D. Stirling, the forgotten fast-medium bowler, 2-48; needing just 74,
M.D. Crowe 48 and J.V. Coney 20 won the Test by 8 wickets on the final day.

Poems © Michael Walker 2014

Books used: Men in White, by Don Neely; The First Fifty, by Lynn McConnell; Victorious `80s, by Peter Devlin; and A Fans’ Guide to World Cricket, by D. Ford and A. Hathaway (a survey of world test grounds).

Previous posts featuring Michael Walker:

Michael Walkers NZ-England poem

Michael Walker’s new Richard Hadlee poem


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