Christchurch mosque attack an incongruous shock to Test cricket’s most tranquil city

Christchurch mosque attack an incongruous shock to Test cricket's most tranquil city

Lahore, yes, but Christchurch in New Zealand? Ten years to the month after Sri Lanka’s cricketers were targeted by terrorists in Pakistan, the Bangladesh team were moments away from being potentially attacked in a mosque on the eve of their third Test match in Christchurch.

So what is shocking is not only the size of the massacre – more than 50 people murdered and injured – but the setting. Terrorists have normally operated in the thick of cities. In Lahore, they did not attack the Sri Lankan team bus, and the mini-van conveying the match officials, near the teams’ hotel in the elite residential area of Gulbarg: they trapped their prey downtown, in the urban sprawl of shops and side-streets around the Gaddafi stadium.

In this case it was the backwater of South Island, in the quietest and most peaceful city on the Test match circuit – even more peaceful than Dunedin down the coast, because the heart of Christchurch was ripped out by two earthquakes and will never be replaced.

Hagley Oval is the most pastoral of all Test venues. The River Avon winds through the park, sufficiently shallow and slow for punts. Botanical gardens, tennis courts, cricket pitches, greenhouses, flowerbeds, an arboretum, an open-air cafe: what could be more tranquil on the morning of a Test match than a walk from the team hotel in Cathedral Square to the ground lined by marquees?

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