Last night I watched two Sydney derbies. These are the sorts of sporting fixtures that we rarely see in Aotearoa, where derbies and the manic fanfare they create simply don't exist, which causes a pain in my heart as I type this. For our derby action we have to look elsewhere and as is the case most of the time, we look towards the big West Island full of Dingos.
In all seriousness, it sucks, however the bit-part role that kiwis play in Australian sport means that we're not left in the dark. Some would argue that the presence of Henry Nicolls for Sydney Thunder who beat Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash and Shane Smeltz, who scored the winner for Sydney FC against Western Syndey Wanderers allows us kiwis to get a taste, experience some derby action without the depressing (it's only sport though) ramifications that losing brings.
I never intended to sit and enjoy a double dose of Syndey derby loving until I remembered that young Nicholls had been called up to the Thunder (when the commentators said so). This was enough to peak my interest as Nicholls isn't the big-name kiwi cricketer who usually ventures across the ditch, nah. Nicholls is an up and comer who is the benefactor of what is a growing relationship between the Thunder and Canterbury cricket, as the Thunder brought a pre-Big Bash game to Christchurch.
With all the talk of a Big Bash franchise based in Aotearoa and more kiwi involvement, Nicholls's call up reminded me that maybe slow and steady is the best way. Slow and steady because it's simply not our choice how Aotearoa gets more Big Bash action, that my friends depends entirely on our Australian friends. They decide how they want their Big Bash competition to grow; how quickly and where that growth takes place, so debate on our side of the ditch is rather pointless.
Those Australians chose Nicholls. A small choice like this is another tick, just like the coaching appointments of Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming were their choice and of course the Thunder's decision to connect with Canterbury Cricket was their choice.
The Thunder's decision-makers deemed Nicholls to be good enough and that made my night.
Nicholls came in at No.4, a comfortable position for the young lefty. Aiden Blizzard came and went as Shane Watson provided another example of his class with 66 off 41 balls, Blizzard's wicket brought in Mike Hussey and Watson's wicket saw Nicholls stroll out.
Hussey and Nicholls, together at the crease.
Mr Cricket and ... well ... Mr Nicholls.
In Mr Cricket's last game there was Henry Nicholls, sharing the same air as Mike Hussey. Nicholls knocked it around for three balls, showcasing his ability to rotate the strike and keep things moving as he figured it all out. With 12 overs in the book, Nicholls had an over or two to ease into his work, as much as T20 cricket allows you to and it was encouraging to see how easily Nicholls did this, for three balls.
The fourth ball saw Nicholls fall victim to Nathan Lyon, of all people. Nicholls tried to heave a shortish ball to the point boundary, swinging hard at a cut-shot only to top edge it to Dougie fuckin' Bollinger at short third-man.
Lyon displayed his experience; Nicholls eyed a gap at point to release the pressure and Lyon pushed one through a bit quicker, got a little extra bounce and Nicholls' eagerness to smoke it crisply to the boundary saw him go too hard, only finding the edge.
Given that Nicholls' wicket saw the introduction of Dre Russ, it was hard to be too sad for Nicholls, Dre Russ hit 46 off 20 and the show went on.
The Thunder went on to win the game, setting 203 to win with the Sixers only managing 156 thanks to three catches from Nicholls! Nic Maddinson kept the Thunder's hopes alive tiwht 70 off 40, he was caught by Nicholls though and our lad then caught Jordan Silk and Johan Botha as the Thunder rolled through the Sixers' middle order.
Then Shane Smeltz scored the winner for Sydney FC...
Smeltz came on in the 63rd minute to score a winner and despite failing with the bat, Nicholls's hands saw him heavily involved and the mere fact that he was there could be viewed as of equal importance to Smeltz's winner, depending on who you ask.
Watching these games, I found it hard to fight off the envy. That's how I want my sport and in Aotearoa, I have come close to giving up on this dream though as we either shoot ourselves in our collective feet *cough Eden Park cough* or it's just not in our nature/possible. Envious, but nearing on content, especially when I can get my high-intensity local derby fix withkiwi funk sprinkled on top #Seasoning.