Hair-raising start to historical match
In the beginning, it was a bit of a laugh. The Black Caps were clad in beige, the Australians in canary yellow; there were some filthy moustaches on display, Hamish Marshall had an afro; Glenn McGrath did his best Trevor Chappell impression, and Billy Bowden produced a red card.
A crowd of 30,000 poured into Eden Park on a warm February evening, 13 years ago this Saturday, for a historic occasion - the first men’s Twenty20 international. It was one of three that year. The following year there were nine. The year after, there was the first World Twenty20. The year after that, the Indian Premier League started. The rest is history.
But first things first. Daryl Tuffey to Adam Gilchrist, and a wide down the leg side. More runs soon followed, but so did wickets, and in the sixth over, Australia were 54-4, with Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich at the crease.
‘‘It was a weird old match,’’ says Andre Adams, who was one of two Black Caps with previous T20 experience, having played a bit for Essex in England.
‘‘It was serious, but it wasn’t, but in the end, any game between New Zealand and Australia is going to be pretty serious.’’
One of the fears in introducing T20 into the international calendar was that it would produce slogfest after slogfest, but in his innings, Ponting proved that batsman could still profit by playing normal cricket shots. He finished unbeaten on 98 off 55 balls, taking 30 of the penultimate over, bowled by Tuffey, and hitting eight fours and five sixes - including a flick over the leg side off Jeff Wilson which bounced off the roof of the ASB stand.
The match was Wilson’s first official international in his second stint in cricket, which followed a decade as an All Black. He would only play two more, in the one-day series that followed, and ankle injuries brought the end of his career the following year.
‘‘He was such an amazing fella and such an awesome athlete, and he was so good with everyone,’’ says Adams.
‘‘It made us pretty envious, we wanted to be All Blacks. I remember speaking with him for most of a night about what it was like being in that environment, and it was really cool to have him be a part of it.’’
Thirteen years on, Australia’s 214-5 is still one of the 20 largest first innings totals in T20 internationals, which gives you a sense of the scale of the Black Caps’ task. Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming opened, and as the sixth over began, they were just about keeping pace with the required rate at 49-0.
If one image lingers from that night above all others, it was what Marshall did to his hair, turning his curls into a big, frizzy afro, held up with a headband that left him resembling a 1980s fitness instructor.
The players had pushed to wear beige for the match, in a throwback to the country’s glory days in the 80s, and on the back of that, the Beige Brigade fan group issued a challenge that they should all grow moustaches, with prizes of beer on offer to the clubs of those deemed to have done the best.
‘‘The thinking was it would probably take me two months to grow any facial hair, so I thought I haven’t got much time here,’’ says Marshall, explaining how the afro came about.
‘‘I didn’t realise how big it was going to get until I was sitting in the hotel and I looked in the mirror after giving it a good brush for a few hours in front of the TV, and there was no turning back at that stage, so I had to walk out with that hairdo.’’
Australian quick Michael Kasprowicz also embraced the 80s theme, wearing a thick white headband that made him look like Dennis Lillee, and proceeded to change the game in the space of two balls, dismissing Fleming and new man Matthew Sinclair. He also got McCullum - who made 36 off 24 - in his next over, and Chris Cairns, in his final one, to help reduce the Black Caps to 95-5.
Marshall and Adams went cheaply too - the latter sacrificing himself in a run out to save Scott Styris, who was the only one firing. He made 66 off 39, and Wilson chipped in with 18 off 14, but the damage had been done.
With the Black Caps needing 45 off the final ball, Glenn McGrath got permission from his captain, Ponting, to pretend to bowl an underarm delivery, in an echo of Trevor Chappell’s infamous act in 1981. It was taken in the spirit that it was intended - a final joke to cap a fun-filled evening - and Billy Bowden got in on the act, brandishing a red card as if it were a football match.
McGrath then bowled a proper ball and got Tuffey out caught, which meant the Black Caps were dismissed for 170, a 44-run loss.
Today, the two teams meet in a T20 at Eden Park for the first time since that night 13 years ago. It will be the 649th international, and it comes in the middle of a summer where the game’s shortest format has taken centre stage. T20 has not yet won over every cricket fan, but it has certainly come a long way.
That night was McCullum’s first taste of a format where he has become a global star. The two captains, Fleming and Ponting, now coach in the IPL. Several others have also gone on to taste success, whether in one of the world’s franchise leagues or in their own countries.
T20 had been bubbling away domestically since it started in England in 2003, but it was given greater legitimacy by being played internationally.
‘‘At the time it was brand new to everyone,’’ says Marshall, who captained Wellington to the New Zealand T20 title last year, almost a decade after playing his last international.
‘‘The players bought into the festival side, and the crowd certainly enjoyed what it offered. It started off that way and it’s grown into something pretty big. Some people probably saw it growing into something as big as this, but a lot of us probably didn’t.’’
Hamish Marshall sported an afro hairstyle for the inaugurual Twenty20 men’s international 13 years ago.
Ricky Ponting had a bit of fun with rival captain Stephen Fleming’s moustache at the toss, in the 2005 ‘‘fun but serious’’ Twenty20 match at Eden Park.