New Zealand is a remarkable country. Geography has been especially kind to it – glaciated fjords, volcanic activity, stunning coastlines, all the flora and fauna one could wish for.
Alas, it also offers flat pitches and some rain in their early autumn. Not much, but enough to wipe out the first day of the opening Test, and the last 5 sessions of the second one. Some decent cricket, but 2 draws by the time we headed north to the big city of Auckland.
Was our group downhearted by the lack of opportunity for shorts, t-shirt and sandals, I worried? Not a bit of it. The excursions to Milford Sound and Queenstown, and later to Lake Taupo and Roturua were hugely popular, and both Dunedin (small city) and Wellington (medium sized) were pleasing places to stay and walk around.
And, at Eden Park, a strong sun shone; and a fabulous Test went down to the very last ball – the Prior and Monty drama will live long in our collective memory.
Each cricket destination has its own appeal: the intensity of an Ashes contest in Australia, the challenge of spinning pitches and great heat in India and Sri Lanka, the rum and beach culture of the West Indies – but, in its own way, the Land of the Long White Cloud is as good as any of them.
Five years is a long time to wait for the next one. But, in my view, this tour proved beyond doubt that a two-division Test Championship is a non-starter. England should continue to play there in my view, and allow Howzat to give you the chance to see this stunning land.