Auckland: The upcoming Test series between New Zealand and South Africa, set to begin on February 4 in Mount Maunganui, will now be played for the Tangiwai Shield. From now onwards, the Tests between New Zealand and South Africa will play for the shield that commemorates the tragic events of 70 years ago.
In 1953, 151 people on board the overnight express from Wellington to Auckland on Christmas Eve – including Nerissa Love, the fiancée of New Zealand fast bowler Bob Blair, lost their lives in the country’s worst rail disaster.
The tragedy coincided with the second Test between New Zealand and South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, where Blair was opening the bowling for his country. On day two of the Test match, Blair, then 21, woke up to know that he lost the love of his life and was left to grieve at the team hotel, with the flags of both countries lowered to half-mast at the stadium.
But Blair’s unexpected appearance out of the players’ tunnel after New Zealand lost its ninth wicket stunned the knowledgeable Ellis Park crowd into silence, and left players from both sides in tears. He then shared the last-wicket stand of 33 with Bert Sutcliffe as New Zealand made 187. Though South Africa ended up winning the Test comfortably, that match remains one of the defining chapters of New Zealand sport.
NZC chief executive Scott Weenink said the Shield was a fitting acknowledgement of what he considered one of the great stories of Kiwi sporting courage. “The background to this Test match is one of the most sad and moving and heart-breaking stories imaginable.”
“It’s also an uplifting story of incredible courage and resilience, and in terms of the South African team and public, great compassion and empathy. I’m delighted to see this very important part of cricket history properly recognised and acknowledged.” IANS