First Test match

England v New Zealand 1937

The form of the New Zealand cricketers against the counties had not inspired hope that they could withstand the full strength of England but, although outclassed, they warded off defeat, time being called when they had two wickets to fall. When His Majesty The King visited the ground on the Monday, New Zealand were engaged in a determined struggle to avert a follow-on; seven wickets had fallen and the side were 248 behind. Then came a plucky stand by Moloney and Roberts, who put on 104 runs and dispelled the immediate danger. Although England gained innings lead of 129 and on the second day there came the rare spectacle of England batsmen hitting runs at a rate of 104 an hour, so making possible a declaration at lunch-time 355 ahead, all efforts to force a win were baulked.

Much of England's bowling was of a negative description, and watching the play one dreaded to think what would have occurred had Australian batsmen faced such limited resources. A much more encouraging aspect of the game was the batting in each of his innings of Hardstaff, who confounded his few critics by proving himself an admirable number 3 batsman and scoring 178 in the match. Having regard to the fact that seven of the players who went to Australia the previous winter were in England's eleven, the result reflected much credit upon New Zealand's representatives.

R. W. V. Robins, who led England, preferred to opened his innings with Hutton and J. Parks, two players appearing for the first time in a Test match. As Barnett was included, the procedure naturally invited criticism. With the dismissal of both men for 31 runs in the first innings and for 19 in the second, the old story of failure by an England opening pair had been repeated, but Cowie, who dismissed each man twice, undoubtedly bowled extremely well.

Hardstaff and Hammond rescued England from the woeful start on Saturday by adding 245 runs for the third wicket and staying together for three hours and a half. Each man hit a hundred, Hardstaff doing so for the first time in a Test match and Hammond reaching three figures in a Test for the 17th time. It was a tribute to the fielding side and to steady length bowling that in two hours up to lunch-time only 87 runs were scored. Vivian's slow left-arm deliveries and the accuracy of Roberts compelled care to be taken, and not until he had made 43 did Hammond hit the ball to the boundary. Hardstaff often failed to get the ball in the middle of the bat but his progress was always steady; Hammond for a long time seemed cramped in strokes owing to the held placing on the off-side, but quickened up so that his last 90 runs came in eighty minutes. Gorgeous cuts and sound hitting on the leg side featured the admirable batting of Hardstaff.

Both men fell quickly after the tea interval, Hammond, who hit a 6 and fourteen 4's, being caught at slip, and Hardstaff at forward mid-on. Before stumps were drawn for the day with seven wickets down for 370, Paynter made runs well and on Monday he again scored freely by skilful hitting on the leg side. Although two catches were missed off Gover's bowling, New Zealand lost six wickets for 147, of which Wallace scored 52. Two pulls for six were memorable strokes in the innings of Wallace, who was prompt to punish anything on the leg side and timed the ball beautifully. Verity was called upon for a lot of bowling but did no more than keep batsmen on the defensive. Possibly Kerr would have done better but for a blow on the chin from a ball bowled by Hammond, who once or twice made a delivery pop up awkwardly. Kerr retired but resumed his innings after lunch and batted very steadily for two and a quarter hours. During the eighth wicket partnership of Moloney and Roberts, Robins carried out a series of bewildering bowling changes, but Moloney remained steady and both he and Roberts hit the over-pitched ball with assurance.

As Hammond had water on the knee, Barnett went in second wicket down when England batted again and, obviously enjoying a situation which demanded bold methods, he drove and cut with power. Hardstaff, if less spectacular, was very sure of himself and helped add 104 in fifty-five minutes, while Ames and Robins also forced the game with good results. The kind of cricket Barnett played can be realised from the fact that he reached 83 in a hundred minutes and hit fourteen 4's. He scored almost as freely off good length bowling as off bad balls.

New Zealand had to bat a full four hours to save the match. They lost three wickets for 15 - Paynter ran out Moloney by hitting one stump with a throw from cover - but Wallace, missed when five, made a vigorous attack on Verity's bowling in a fourth wicket stand with Page realising 70. Kerr, owing to his injury, did not go in until the fifth wicket fell and in staving off defeat New Zealand owed much to his stubborn batting for the rest of the match. When the seventh wicket fell with an hour to play, Donnelly met the attack very coolly. More than once he hooked the fast bowling, much of which was too short, and he stayed with Kerr until out to the last ball bowled. But for a ten minutes' interruption owing to bad light, he would probably have played out time. Kerr batted an hour and three-quarters for 38 and yet hit eight 4's - a curious innings. It was estimated that 50,000 people saw match.

© John Wisden & Co