funny, Dunedin probably has the highest rate of churches-per-capita in the
Western world -- you can't go a single block along the main strip without
seeing the phallic architectural styling of some house of worship or other
-- and yet, by now, most of those stand empty, or leased out, or have been
turned into bars, cafés, and nightclubs for the student population. After
seeing the continuing erosion of their local influence, you'd think the damn
church freaks would take a hint, huh? But no, they're still out in force, and for
some reason that means I can't buy booze on a regular Friday night.
Well, if they insist on imposing their protohistoric desert morality on me, I figured I'd counteract it by spending my "Good" Friday engaging in as many godless, perverse, modern activities as I could imagine... so I proceeded to drink bad dinner-party liqueur from my friend Anna's parents' liquor cabinet, get pleasantly baked, illegally download a Sufjan Stevens album off the internet, play poker, gamble into the night, and then cap it all off by watching the dirtiest, most hardcore pornography that Red Tube has to offer. (I'm talking nasty squirting threesomes, and the like... stuff so extreme and out-there that it ceases to be erotic or stimulating, and become little more than an odd compilation of organic pistons pumping away mechanically.) Well, hey, two can play at this soul-shaping business, Mr. Christian Patriarchy, and my rites and traditions just happen to be a whole lot more fun than yours. (Plus, I don't go out and impose them on anyone else. So... who's the bad guy again?)
All of which is meant to stand as an explanation of why, by time I got up on "Holy" Saturday, I had missed most of the first day of England's last Test match against New Zealand. I woke up early enough, to be sure, but then I forgot the game was even on for a few hours. Shortly after I tuned in, the Kiwis had taken the second new ball, Kevin Pietersen proceeded to feather one outside off to McCullum, and all that was left was for the English tail to scam a few cheap runs late in the day, and for my recently-arrived German flatmate to get antsy and start asking me questions like 'Who's winning?' All in all, I barely got half a session's worth today, and not even a good half.
It becomes quite easy to overlook the smaller teams in the cricket arena -- the New Zealand's, Sri Lanka's, West Indies' of the world. Hell, I do it all the time, and I live in NZ. I guess it's because the focus of the media gaze is (naturally) centred on the bigger neighbours, while the little teams lie at the periphery of that gaze, somewhat noticeable through the wider lens, but rarely meriting their own close-up.
I'll admit the current New Zealand v. England series definitely feels quite tedious and beside the point at the moment, except for one simple fact... it's actually been spectacularly competitive and entertaining on the field. And that shouldn't even come as a surprise, really. New Zealand has a strange knack for providing some of the most objectively gripping home series in the world.
Since 2001, all major international teams have toured New Zealand at least once. Excluding games against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, 26 Test matches have been played in that time, across 10 different series. Of the twenty-six Tests, New Zealand have won ten, lost eight, and drawn another eight. Nine out of the ten series have gone on to their final game with the ultimate series result still in question. You can't get much closer than that. Just look at the series scores... 1-1, 1-1, 2-0, 0-1, 1-1, 0-2, 1-0, 2-0, 1-1.
If all the bromides are really true, and what cricket fans around the world are in search of is "a tight contest" and "a good battle between bat and ball", they should be tearing down the doors of the ICC's headquarters and demanding that more series be hosted in New Zealand. Or at least that they make the existing ones longer than two friggin' games! (Seriously, they give Sri Lanka two-game series against New Zealand. Sri Lanka!! There is absolutely no team better suited to play New Zealand than Sri Lanka... it's a proven fact. They should be hosting massive, gladiatorial, Best-of-7, home-and-away series between those two every couple of years at least. Huge battles to the finish, going back and forth, seesawing between two fully complimentary teams, eternally competing for the unofficial title of "Cricket's Favourite Sidekick Nation.")