International man of mastery rocks the Gabba
Whenever there's any mention of Richard Hadlee in Australia those old enough to remember 1985-86 can't help but think about the carnage he created that season. He's coming back to the country this week to watch the Chappell-Hadlee Series - his brother Dayle and father Walter are the other New Zealand links to the family trophy - so it's timely to look back at his stunning series of 33 wickets in three Tests.
Australia, who reached their nadir after losing the rebels to South Africa, had a good excuse for giving up their first series to New Zealand. Hadlee had five hauls of five victims or more, averaged 12.15, and bowled maidens in almost a quarter of his 169.3 overs. In the final Test in Perth, which sealed the 2-1 victory, he captured 11 wickets, but that was nothing compared to the mind-blowing performance in Brisbane three weeks earlier.
At the time only two men, Jim Laker and George Lohmann, had better figures than Hadlee's 9 for 52, which he backed up in the second innings with 6 for 71.
Let's get the records out of the way, which Hadlee covers in Rhythm and Swing. "It was the fourth-best analysis in a Test innings; outside Jim Laker's 10 for 53, the figures were the best at Test level this century. I became only the 10th player to take nine wickets in a Test innings and the return was the best in 232 Tests played in Australia."
The match started with "low, sulky clouds holding down a fierce Brisbane heat ... it was too hot, too early", Noel Mengel wrote in Australian Cricket. They were "once-in-a-lifetime conditions". "Hadlee wasn't about to waste a ball of it, and in the end only wasted about three or four in 52.3 overs of mastery".
Jeremy Coney won the toss and Hadlee was ready to make history off a run-up of ten paces - "not much longer than Bruce Yardley's". Five balls in he bowled a short one to Andrew Hilditch - who shows much more sense as Australia's chairman of selectors now than he did during his hooking addiction - and Ewen Chatfield had the first catch at fine leg. David Boon edged to second slip, Allan Border hit to cover first ball after lunch and was soon followed by Greg Ritchie, but Kepler Wessels "hung on grimly" and Wayne Phillips survived until bad light ended play before tea with Australia 4 for 164.
The second day was a flurry of activity as Hadlee picked up 5 for 17 in the first hour. Wessels was lbw trying not to play a shot, Craig McDermott was caught, Phillips bowled off an inside edge, and Greg Matthews "almost had his chances in the marriage stakes ruined, courtesy a painful blow from Mr H". Matthews was later bowled playing the wrong line.
Hadlee had the first eight wickets and was thinking about ten when Geoff Lawson lofted a Vaughan Brown offspinner. Guess who was standing at midwicket? Hadlee never thought of dropping it - "You take every chance that you can" - and ran purposefully for the catch. Four balls into his 24th over, he added Bob Holland, who squirted to short leg.
|The Kiwi champion got near-as-damn-it all the wickets, and produced a near faultless display of seam and swing bowling|
Wayne Smith said it was the "greatest Test bowling display ever witnessed at the ground" and the Almanack called it "a display which justified the use of that overworked adjective 'great'". Mengel described it as "Massie-like". "The Kiwi champion got near-as-damn-it all the wickets, and produced a near faultless display of seam and swing bowling."
It was even more incredible when the Australians couldn't move the ball, although bowling short didn't help. Centuries to John Reid and Martin Crowe tormented the home side before Hadlee swept in with three sixes and four fours in his 45-ball 54. After falling for 179, Australia needed 375 to make New Zealand bat again.
What they didn't want was to fall to 5 for 67, although allowing Hadlee only two of those was a minor victory. Of course Hilditch went hooking again - "He hangs his head in shame as Hadlee enjoys the moment," Ian Chappell said in the commentary - and Phillips chopped on.
Border, who would offer to resign at the end of the series, and Matthews posted centuries before Hadlee returned with his mop. The four wickets gave Hadlee 15 for 123 while Border remained unbeaten on 152 after "seven and a half hours of stoic resistance".
Australia lost by an innings and 41 runs, leading Mark Ray to write: "It was a terrible start to a summer of Tests against the modest opposition." Mengel said the demise "seems to have caused more heartache to us than any of the other flops in our recent Test history".
While the home views were gloomier than the weather on the opening two days, the visitors were jubilant after recording their first win in Australia. "It was with a sense of wonderment, and delight, that New Zealanders greeted the success," the Almanack reported.
The second Test in Sydney was taken by Australia before New Zealand secured the contest in Perth with a six-wicket triumph. But the series was all about Hadlee. "He may not bowl at the same speed as the West Indian pace battery," it said in 200 Seasons of Australian Cricket, "but he is a master at his craft."
200 Seasons of Australian Cricket (Ironbark 1997)
A Superb Century: 100 years of the Gabba 1895-1985 by Wayne Smith (Focus Publishing 1995)
Australian Cricket (December 1985 issue)
Border and Beyond by Mark Ray (ABC Books 1995)
Channel Nine (1985)
Rhythm and Swing by Richard Hadlee (MOA Publications, 1989)
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1987 (John Wisden)
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Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo