Cricket Country

After more than a month of hard labour - early, early mornings, snatched sessions in front of the highlights, fast forwarding through the introductory guff from Ward or Gower and that dog, that bloody infuriating dog - memories of the 2015 World Cup are hard to categorize.

For sure though, for all that the time difference and the need to earn a living and be vaguely awake while doing so has meant that the amount of live cricket I've seen has been limited, memories there are, and most of them revolve around New Zealand.

Not just the New Zealand of McCullum, batting and captaining like there's no tomorrow, or Guptill, with his signature orthodoxy and power, or Boult, hooping it with pace and control, but the New Zealand of Dunedin, of Hamilton, of Napier, of Nelson. Intimate, verdant grounds, where you didn't need to be there, or even be within 12,000 miles, to feel the extent of the country's new-found love for the game.

Orange shirts everywhere, people realizing, sometimes for the first time, that the country's sporting fabric, even its wider identity, need not just be about fifteen men with a white fern on their chests. England humiliated, Australia and South Africa defeated with late sixes. Crowds, with Tuesday at Eden Park the apogee, going utterly, wonderfully, mad.

The New Zealand of 2015 looks like the cricket country many of us would like England to be, both on and off the field.

Australia is different. Grounds are characterless and monolithic, success is expected, players and commentators grate. As a neutral approaching the final, little time needs to be wasted in deciding who to support.

Can New Zealand, this time away from the comforts of home, make one last push?

This time tomorrow all the questions will have been answered.

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