1. The ghost who delivers death: Christmas in Rarotonga is ghost-written by the superbly versatile Paul Thomas, who in his other life writes excellent New Zealand crime. Last year’s Death on Demand was his best so far, darker, leaner, and more subtly funny than the previous Ihaka novels. In that book his rugged protagonist Tito Ihaka has spent five years in exile from Auckland CIB, and it’s as if the writing style has matured with him, trimming excess weight and refining its focus. I recommend it.
Wright echoes this view, gently extending it to the rest of us—the great army of armchair-occupying, Radio Sport - listening experts who’ve never played anything remotely as difficult as test cricket: ‘It’s easy to be a knocker and play it from the sideline but being in the game, you can see how hard a guy has worked and what he’s put himself through … unless you get out and do it yourself, you don’t understand.’
Having tried only once to elevate my cricketing status beyond that of a third-grade opener with a very limited range of shots—the forward prod, the leave, and a rather venturesome off-drive—without any success at all, I find this argument persuasive.
3. We like stubborn: Famously, Wright batted nearly six hours for 55 on debut, resisting Willis, Botham and Co, to help New Zealand defeat England for the first time ever. At the Basin in March my brother and I watched Kane Williamson make the exact same score. Like Wright's innings, this slow act of resistance was vital to his team and to the series. When he came to the crease New Zealand were following on and still 186 runs behind. Stuart Broad was whipping in with a handy breeze and six first-innings wickets behind him. At the other end it was Jimmy Anderson. There was no Graeme Swann (injured), but Monty Panesar was getting encouragement from the rough outside leg. If Williamson went cheaply he'd expose Ross Taylor, who'd fallen to a golden duck in the first innings, and a somewhat out-of-touch Dean Brownlie.
Like a good test No. 3, Williamson dug in. For 233 minutes he cut out the flash shots, maintaining a stubborn defence and concentration that seemed remarkable from the stands. It was an innings for the test match purist: slow, tense, and gripping. And, with the help of some obliging Wellington rain, it saved the game for New Zealand. In turn, securing this draw set the stage for the thrilling third test in Auckland, where New Zealand came so achingly close to winning the series 1-0. It was an important moment in a memorable series, and I felt privileged to witness it. Bravo.