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February 22, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Reverse Sweep

The Reverse Sweep

With the final Super 14 season underway, and the Black Caps’ summer heating up, Wellington promises to play host to some worthy sporting spectacles this summer. Following on from the Phoenix’s most successful season, as well as packed AC/DC concerts and NZI Sevens this year, the Cake Tin will have its work cut out to continue such a rich vein of entertainment.

The Black Caps’ home summer will finally kick into gear when Australia arrives on Wednesday for a two Twenty20, five ODI, and two test series. The tour kicks off right here this Friday the 26th at 6.30pm, with a Twenty20 at Westpac Stadium; following the White Ferns’ opener against their Aussie counterparts (2.30pm). After indifferent performances against an average Pakistani outfit, and somewhat of a walkover against Bangladesh, the Aussies will offer a real test of our position in world cricket; as well as providing the exhilaration only a fast-paced series against our greatest rival can.

The Black Cap selectors have blooded a few new faces this summer, at the expense of some more experienced campaigners. The top order has been the Kiwis’ Achilles heel for some time, and this had been reflected in the selections of openers BJ Watling and Peter Ingram. Young gun Watling was selected for the Pakistan series, and has since shown signs of the backbone and potential required to make it at the top, while domestic veteran Ingram’s prolific form over the past few seasons finally reaped higher reward with inclusion against the Bangladeshis. While both men have performed admirably thus far, the Australian test will decide their real worth.

The selectors appear to have finally decided to prioritise form and results in their decisions, as has been shown in the dropping of the underperforming Peter Fulton, Daniel Flynn and Scott Styris this summer. Thus no players—especially batsmen—can afford to rest on their laurels, especially with injured Wellington stars Jesse Ryder and Grant Elliott on the road to recovery, as well as the return to form of players such as ex-Black Caps Lou Vincent and Jamie How. The most nervous team member must be opener Tim McIntosh, who has yet to string any strong performances together,
despite numerous opportunities.

The Australian tour will also be a real test for newly promoted left-arm paceman Andrew McKay, who was a bolter for the Bangladesh series, and has so far bowled with excellent discipline and pace. The newly pledged Wellingtonian has been clocked at up to 147km/hr, and with the rest of the New Zealand pace bowling line-up operating at only medium-fast, it is hoped that McKay could fill the void of spearhead Shane Bond, who has recently retired from test cricket—New Zealand’s most problematic form of the game. 

It seems peculiar that the rugby season should be kicking off in the middle of February, but the packed schedule of the professional game today means there is no time for an extended break. Hence, the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition is underway. With the New Zealand football season all but over, promoters will be hoping that viewers will be switching over to the “national game”.

The Hurricanes are historically a hard team to support, due to their erratic nature. In recent years, however, the Canes have strived hard to shake off this unwanted trait. Improved performances have seen Colin Cooper’s men make four semi-finals and a final since 2003. These successes have been largely thanks to a world-class backline. Despite losing rising prodigies Zach Guildford and Robert Fruean to nemesis Canterbury (to whom we have lost all but one of our playoff encounters), the Canes still have a top-notch selection of backs, including All Blacks aplenty, as well as ample potential. This suggests that 2010 has every chance of being another success. Being coach Cooper’s final season in charge, look for him and his players to pull out all the stops, in search of a worthy send-off.

The Canes have always been one of the most entertaining sides in Super rugby, with their tagline “expect the unexpected”, and you can expect this season to be no different. Despite having improved their consistency drastically, as shown in their composed opening round win (34–20) away over the Blues; with excitement machines such as Ma’a Nonu, David Smith and Corey Jane in their midst, anything can happen. Having kicked off their home campaign against the Western Force on Saturday, the Hurricanes will be looking to maul the Lions this Saturday the 27th at 7.30pm, Westpac Stadium.

Wellington is the sporting hub of New Zealand. Make the most of it.

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