Australian side brace for Eden Park banter
Australians have always expected the worst at Eden Park since they first met New Zealand in a one-day international there on February 13, 1982.
That match came just over a year after The Underarm incident when Trevor Chappell rolled the last ball of a match in Melbourne down the pitch to Brian McKechnie to prevent any chance of a six to tie.
No one had any idea of Eden Park’s capacity in 1982, but the organisers kept printing tickets. The stands were so full, people climbed over the fence and sat inside the boundary ropes. One bloke delivered a bowling ball on to the arena as a protest against the visitors’ MCG antics.
The Eden Park crowd’s impact in transtasman matches has never ceased. Patrons stormed the field when Martin Crowe made his century at the 1992 World Cup opener; fans moshed in euphoria when Kane Williamson won the 2015 World Cup pool match by hammering Pat Cummins over long on; Australia coach Darren Lehmann got hit by a fish in 1998 but at least avoided coming face-to-face with a toilet seat.
Yesterday afternoon, 28,000 tickets had been sold for tonight’s Twenty20 tri-series match. That will be the park’s biggest cricket crowd since the 2015 World Cup semifinal. The crowd has become New Zealand’s unofficial 12th man.
Australian batsman Aaron Finch was asked for anecdotes about his two Eden Park appearances.
“Probably nothing I could mention,” he smiled. “They’re just passionate, aren’t they? Once New Zealand get on top in a game, they [the crowd] become such a huge factor.
“We saw in that World Cup game here. The crowd was unbelievable. They get stuck into you, which creates pretty good banter at times.
“There is a lot of unimaginative stuff as well, but it is a great place to play. The crowd feel right on top of you as well. We haven’t won here for a while [Australia have lost their last three ODIs].”
“Being a small ground it makes you feel like everyone is behind you,” New Zealand opener Martin Guptill said. “It’s always good fun listening to the noise. It gives us a boost.”
Finch said as a smaller ground, it could create problems elsewhere.
“You find that you start thinking everything in boundaries and sixes, as opposed to just sticking to your game plan.”