You couldn’t have asked for a better day to watch cricket.
The blue sky over Saxton Oval on Wednesday was broken only by the occasional fluffy cloud as 4000 people filed into the ground, celebrating the return of international cricket to the region after a five-year absence.
The temperature nudged into the 20s, with a gentle sea breeze, as the Black Caps took to the field and the Bangladesh openers took guard.
The picture-perfect scene was set, and if the cricket itself ultimately lacked drama with New Zealand never really in danger of losing, you could always turn to the next-best thing about one-dayers – people watching.
Headwear – from straw hats to baseball caps – was the must-have accessory. There were people in whites and others in matching Christmas outfits. There were the ghosts of Black Caps cricket shirts past – the 1980s beige, naturally; the multi-coloured hoops from 1992, the teal and black number from 1999.
A mini-beige-brigade from Blenheim heat pump and air conditioning company Mint Air made an early morning trip over the hill, making a day at the cricket into a staff Christmas party for their nine employees. Organiser Jamie Bowles, who also sported a Chelsea football Christmas hat, sipped a beer as he sat on the grass. “We picked a good one,” Bowles said. “I want grass like that at home,” one of his colleagues said of the manicured field.
Clusters of autograph-hungry children formed near the boundary fielders, proudly clutching small, scribbled-on bats even if they didn’t know whose signatures they were getting.
Retirees Darcy Hogue and Dick Bensemann showed the wisdom of age with their vantage point at the top of the embankment, strategically positioned to get shade from a tree when the sun moved around.
Hogue recalled when the oval was an apple orchard. He and Bensemann said they appreciated the work that had gone into making it such a pleasant international cricket ground.
It was impossible not to notice Bangladesh superfan Shoyab Ali in the crowd. His sponsored gig involves following the team around the world, dressing up in a tiger onesie, with striped face-paint and a soft toy tiger on his head. He found a spot with 30 members of the Nelson Bangladesh community, and let out a well-practised roar when his countrymen scored a boundary.
To his credit when New Zealand was cruising to victory, he still kept up the enthusiasm – there are worse offices to be stuck in, even if the results aren’t going your way.
That was true for visiting Bangladeshi journalist Ashriqual Islam, from Channel 24. It was his first time in New Zealand, and he was getting his head around the contrasts such as the 100,000 or so population in Nelson-Tasman, compared to more than 20 million in the greater Dhaka area alone.
However, he said the temperatures were similar to the Bangladeshi winter he had just left. He called the match early, with the inexperienced visiting team also hampered by a pitch that was not suited to Bangladesh’s spin bowling strength.
It was a leisurely, rather than atmospheric affair – perhaps the strict limits on alcohol and the one-sided result played into that – but Nelson’s return from the international cricket wilderness still left a satisfied glow.
Members of the Nelson-based Bangladeshi community fared better when they played in a multicultural cricket festival on Tuesday night at Greenmeadows in Stoke, winning two and losing one of their matches.
Organised by Nelson Cricket, Multicultural Nelson Tasman and Nelson City Council, the tournament saw 12 teams play six-a-side, 12 over matches. The Samoan, Indian, Sri Lankan, South African and Bangladeshi communities were represented, as well as mixed multicultural teams and a women's side. Black Caps and Bangladesh players also took part, and signed bats, caps and posters.
“Sporting events always provide a great opportunity for people to get together and have fun, with a bit of friendly rivalry and a lot of passion,” said Multicultural Nelson Tasman manager Anna Fyfe. “With the support from friends and family on the sidelines at Greenmeadows, you could be convinced you were at a very serious international match.”