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Kiwis dream of toppling Australia

  • CWC 2015 – Final

Emergency supplies of beige-coloured clothing were being rushed across the Tasman Saturday as the build-up to the cricket World Cup final reached fever pitch in New Zealand.

Brendon McCullum, with his infectious grin, had said before leading his side to a stunning semi-final win against South Africa that they were “having the time of our lives.”

His enthusiasm has rubbed off on the nation where rugby union and the All Blacks have traditionally reigned with the Black Caps now receiving unprecedented support as they prepare to face Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Sunday’s final.

New Zealand and Australia may be firm allies politically and form a feared fighting force at wartime, but when it comes to sport they are fierce rivals.

The World Cup showdown dominates the news with every possible angle thrashed from the Dominion-Post’s how to win — “Settle, then chase key for Black Caps” — to Radio New Zealand’s pointed reminder of “New Zealand’s darkest day in Test cricket” when rolled for 26 by England in 1955.

Not only is the New Zealand bandwagon packed but the desire to be seen in replica beige clothing has jumped from the quirky to the norm.

Once the domain of a small group of ardent New Zealand supporters known as the Beige Brigade, named after the beige uniform briefly worn by New Zealand ODI teams in the 1980s, now it seems most Black Caps fans want to show their beige support.

“We haven’t seen a demand like it for 16 years, when the Black Caps wore beige against Australia at Eden Park,” Beige Brigade co-founder Paul Ford told reporters

“We were packing shirts like crazy in our lounge room in Wellington to meet the last-minute orders. We’ve been inundated in the past few weeks with shirt orders.”

“It’s been a pretty amazing ride and even the most optimistic New Zealand cricket fans — and I’d definitely include us in that — would have only dreamed of this moment.”

New Zealand Herald columnist Toby Manhire took aim at the sledging emanating from Australia even before the final starts with claims that New Zealand will not be able to cope with the imposing MCG.

“It’s tempting to call it hubris, but that would only encourage David Warner to demand ‘Speak English’,” Manhire wrote in a subtle put down of the Australian opener and his recent slanging match with Indian players.

“By some kind of alchemy, the NZ cricket team has managed to embrace the enthusiasm and euphoria of national support without catching the twitchy and sweaty fatalism that goes along with it.”

New Zealand cricketers were once referred to by their full names, such as captain Brendon McCullum and bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Now, everyone knows who Baz, Boulty and Timmy are.

“Timmy” Southee said the final was like a game of backyard cricket with little brother New Zealand wanting to get one over big brother Australia.

“Obviously Australia have had the wood on us in cricket … but as a kid growing up it was always Australia you wanted to play against. You always want to get one-up over the big brothers.”

Australian skipper Clarke dropped a bombshell on the eve of the match when he announced his retirement from the one-day game after the final.

The 33-year-old has been suffering with a back problem for some time and a hamstring injury ruled him out of Australia’s World Cup build up with George Bailey and Steve Smith, the two men most likely to succeed him, both leading the side.

And Clarke revealed during a press conference previewing the match against the Black Caps that he wanted to give his successor a full four years to prepare for 2019, just like he had when replacing Ricky Ponting in 2011.

“I think it is the right time for me and the Australian cricket team,” he said.

“I was very fortunate four years ago to get the opportunity to captain this one-day team. That was really good preparation for me leading up to this World Cup and I think the next Australian captain deserves the same opportunity.

 

“I don’t think it is realistic that I’ll be fit and healthy and available to play the next World Cup so I believe it is the right time.

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