February 19, 2013

Dipak stumbles, Nathan sizzles

Six memorable days from the last six England tours to New Zealand

England Test tours to New Zealand provide a tool to insert other life experiences into a reliable timeline. A visit by cricket's creators brings a heightened sense of anticipation. The current tour is England's 18th Test visit to New Zealand. A look at half a dozen personal-favourite moments from those tours.

1. Monday, January 24, 1984, fifth day, first Test, Wellington
The car was packed for the annual family holiday north of Auckland, at Red Beach; the inhabitants were famished. We'd been driving the best part of two hours and stopped at the Orewa Shopping Centre for a spot of lunch. Mum volunteered to get pies, lamingtons and custard squares. My brother assisted. There was a big queue. For me, as a six-year-old in his first season of cricket, the Test had somehow already assumed far greater importance than lining up for any form of pastry. I ventured into the front seat, where Dad was riveted to the radio as Jeremy Coney edged towards his maiden Test century. He completed the task by pulling Ian Botham through midwicket. The crowd roar combined with the radio static was mesmerising. If I'm not mistaken, my stoic father, a former first-class cricketer, may have even clenched his fist momentarily. Coney's eventual 174 not out helped New Zealand save the Test. He batted more than eight hours and faced 374 balls. The hosts started the final day at 335 for 7 with a lead of just 91. New Zealand went on to win the series; the only time in 17 attempts they have beaten England at home.

2. Monday, February 29, 1988, fifth day, second Test, Auckland
Mark Greatbatch showed customary grit to make a century on Test debut. He is one of just eight New Zealand players to do so in 83 years of Test history. Unfortunately school was in that day but thoughtfully (in batting more than six hours) Greatbatch waited until after the final bell before bringing up his ton. It seemed a mythical achievement for young lads starting to grasp the values of the game. More importantly Greatbatch, with assistance from Messrs Snedden, Smith and Bracewell, saved the Test.

3. Tuesday, January 21, 1992, fourth day, first Test, Christchurch
Losing 2-0 hardly made this a memorable series for New Zealand. The summer took a turn for the better when World Cup fever took hold shortly afterwards. However, the most unfortunate moment came from the bat (and feet) of Dipak Patel. He was the best of New Zealand's batsmen when faced with combating England's 580 for 9 declared. Patel had produced a breezy 97 before pulling a short ball wide of mid-on for two. He was run out by about a metre attempting a third. Despite 26 first-class centuries, this remained his highest Test score. Curiously, John Wright was stumped on 99 in the second innings.

4. Friday, February 7, 1997, second day, second Test, Wellington
After moving into my first flat a couple of days prior, this presented a chance to settle on the sofa with fellow cricket tragics to watch New Zealand's youngest Test debutant, Daniel Vettori, produce his left-arm orthodox guile. Crucially (and perhaps a touch sadly) it was the first time in our lifetimes that someone younger than ourselves had played for New Zealand. Our Test "dreams" were effectively over, but oh how we willed Vettori on.

In the front seat Dad was riveted to the radio as Jeremy Coney edged towards his maiden Test century. He completed the task by pulling Ian Botham through midwicket. The crowd roar combined with the radio static was mesmerising

Bespectacled, with shoulder-length hair and a benign run-up disguising a penetrative arsenal of deliveries, his composure was freakish in that Basin Reserve cauldron. He had the members of our lounge entranced, presumably much like the batsmen in the 360 Test dismissals he has made since. From an unassuming teenager, picked after two first-class games to debut against England at 18 years and ten days, he has become a colossus of experience. However, he did have to wait until the next day to dismiss Nasser Hussain, who had also been Vettori's maiden first-class wicket the previous month.

5. Saturday, March 16, 2002, fourth day, first Test, Christchurch
Rashly, a mate had organised his wedding on the Saturday of the first Test. Cricket lovers in the party exchanged furtive glances and shifted uncomfortably in seats during the ceremony and pretended to be engaged in the small talk and hors d'oeuvres at the subsequent function. With necessity being the mother of invention, some genius discovered a black-and-white telly at the back of the venue. One by one a band of cricket fans surreptitiously exited. A roster system meant if one poor chap held the television's rabbit ears, the remaining dozen who had squished into the broom closet of a room could conjure up a blurred image of Nathan Astle teeing off for the fastest Test double-century. Fortunately the high-definition version has been preserved and is often played on rainy days by Sky Television. However, it was hard to match that initial static impression, as Astle dispatched the ball to nearby Christchurch suburbs through a shadowy haze. New Zealand might have lost by 98 runs but Astle's knock was hard to match for raw entertainment.

6. Sunday, March 9, 2008, fifth day, first Test, Seddon Park
Kyle Mills' spell of four wickets for nine runs from seven overs electrified the final day's play. England folded, needing 300 to win from 81 overs. Mills' wickets left them 30 for 4 before lunch. Wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum snaffled left-handers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, while right-handers Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen succumbed lbw. England were eventually dismissed for 110. If Mills never plays another Test (and it seems likely, given the 33-year-old's last appearance was almost four years ago) this may well be remembered as his finest hour - almost literally - with the ball.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 20, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    After that sixth memory, it was business as usual again a week later. But how about that amazing knock by Tim Southee in the Third Test - in a lost cause he set about everything within reach and blazed 77 runs at nearly two a ball (nine 6s)? Fantastic slogging. As a Pom with, realistically, nothing to lose by that point, I was willing him on to get his hundred... he'd have done it in two more overs at that rate!

  • Dummy4 on February 20, 2013, 2:46 GMT

    Watling again? Lets hope we get Guptill back for next match or someone worthwhile otherwise this series will be another one of those memorable ones, for England

  • Craig on February 19, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Nice article, Andrew. On the Dipak Patel run-out on 99, I remember he had played the previous ball out to deep mid-wicket, where Derek Pringle had "bowled" the ball back to save his shoulder (as he often did). Dipak could easily have run three, so when he played the same shot and set off for the three that would bring up his century, the result was obvious. Pringle realised there was more on this shot, so he attacked the ball more than before, and threw it in overarm. Poor Dipak dived for the crease, but came up about a metre short. I watched him walk off puzzled that he had not made his ground easily.

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it brought back a few memories for me too. If I'm not mistaken, in the same innings that Jeremy Coney got his 174*, Martin Crowe got his maiden test century. I was out that day, in Wellington but not at the test believe it or not! No idea what I was doing, but I do remember taking my little transistor radio out with me holding it to my ear willing Crowe on and sitting down on The Band Rotunda at Oriental Parade on the harbour as he got near three figures to hopefully hear him do it.

    Funny, I know exactly what you mean about hopes of representing your country (utterly futile, in my case) being dashed as soon as someone younger makes their debut. For me that moment was Chris Cairns in Perth 1989. Although he's only about a month younger than me, seeing the son of one of my '80s heroes' playing for NZ made me realise it was never going to happen.

  • Jack on February 19, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    Andrew, this is a beautiful article and I really treasured reading it over lunch today. It's so rare to have expert writing that's also quality on the subject of NZ cricket. Your personal touch - framing the circumstances with whatever you were doing - show your passion and humanise the piece.

    I'm bookmarking this one to perk me up during the next NZC crisis!

  • Nathan on February 19, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    The Astle innings was great to watch, even as an Englishman, but preceding it was one of the the fastest test double centuries by Graham Thorpe (231 balls). I remember the boundaries being so short in places that it only took a well timed flick for a six to be hit. There was a genuine fear that Astle would do it as he was so hard to bowl to that day. 8 quicker test double centuries have been scored since Thorpes' innings but it was just as good to watch

  • Dennis on February 19, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Astle's innings was special esp it was Caddick (born and raise in Canterbury) who was the main bowler who was getting smashed , another fond moment was Boycott getting cleaned out by Collinge for a duck as NZ got its first win v Eng in 78

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2013, 8:16 GMT

    Nothing beats the Astle Morrison partnership

  • Vivek on February 19, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    I fondly remember the Astle blizzard. We were a group of college mates who regularly took part in cricket fantasy leagues, and competed against each other. Out to settle some scores with me, one of my friends substituted someone with Astle without my knowledge. And when Astle and Cairns were blasting the new ball, I could see the disappointment on his face. There were 3 fielders in slips and rest of them were on the boundary; you rarely see such a grand spectacle.