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Few tours undertaken by England, or MCC before them, have been as successful as this one: their last full tour without a defeat was in the West Indies in 1967-68, when they won four and drew 12 of their various games. This time England won the majority of their matches: two out of three Tests, all three one-day internationals, another one-day game against Auckland (the closest they came to defeat), and two out of four practice matches, while in the two others they were on top. For seven weeks, in fine weather, England played to the peak of their form.
If there was a secret, it lay in what the England players did before landing in New Zealand. Firstly, they had six weeks of rest after the English season, some of them having played without respite since January 1990. Secondly, they prepared for their tour over the following six weeks, together at Lilleshall or at regional centres. Specialist coaches, all of them former England players, were called in to help develop individual techniques, thanks to the sponsorship of the City firm, Whittingdale. Before England's visit to the West Indies in 1989-90 a similar exercise had been tried, but this time the preparations were even more thorough, so that when England played their opening game against Auckland, their bowling and fielding were close to peak performance levels.
Whether England trained too hard in advance, so that they were too run-down by the time they reached the World Cup final three months after their tour began, can only be conjectured. What is undeniable is that by arriving hot in New Zealand, they caught their opponents cold, so that England were overtly superior from the start. A young side, missing not only Sir Richard Hadlee but John Bracewell and Martin Snedden, New Zealand were unable to bowl accurately, take their catches or put together partnerships in their first two Tests. But during the Second, they made a discovery in Murphy Su'a, a fast-medium left-armer born in New Zealand of Western Samoan parents, capable of spin as well during the Wellington Test and a useful tailender. Given his stock bowling to support the speed of Chris Cairns and Danny Morrison, New Zealand had the foundation of a new Test team. But it was a measure of England's power and purpose that not until the Third Test were New Zealand allowed to complete on equal terms.
The co-ordinated nature of England's effort was such that there could be no one outstanding player: throughout, a contribution was made by everyone who could get into the team, under the orchestration of Graham Gooch. But the greatest strides were made by Alec Stewart, the vice-captain and opening batsman, and the wicket-keeper in one-day internationals, who was finally made captain in the third of them, so that he would have some experience in the event of an accident to Gooch. England's selectors had been criticised for not choosing another opening batsman when Mike Atherton had to withdraw because of a back injury (along with Angus Fraser, who was replaced by Dermot Reeve); but there was no need for a specialist opener against inexperienced bowling on largely docile pitches. Aggressive strokeplay was required of England, to give their bowlers time to winkle New Zealand out twice, and Stewart's 148 on the opening day of the series defined exactly the right tone.
Of England's other batsmen, Allan Lamb was less troubled than Robin Smith by the ball not coming on to the bat. Indeed, Lamb was at his best, until he pulled a hamstring in his right leg during the last international. There was no Test place for Mark Ramprakash or Neil Fairbrother- they might not have had a game at all if Atherton had been fit to take up his place - although Fairbrother was selected mainly with the World Cup in mind. If there was a disappointment, it was that Graeme Hick was still not able to make the transition to Test cricket. In two of his three first-class centuries he was dropped before scoring, and the same fallibility was evident at the start of his Test innings against pace, when the straight short ball sometimes found him transfixed with eyes averted. Of the 63 first-class centuries which Hick made by the end of the tour, 13 had been made in only 35 non-Test innings in New Zealand, which suggested the milieu in which he was happiest.
England's medium-pacers had a mostly unrewarding time, except on the one pitch to suit them, in the Auckland Test; Philip DeFreitas had to be re-classified into this category after straining his groin on the first day of practice in New Zealand. The extremes of their attack were therefore important, the pace of David Lawrence and Chris Lewis on the one hand, and the spin of Phil Tufnell on the other. Lawrence, however, strained his left side in Napier, and though desperately keen to play in the Second Test, had to wait until the Third, when he could not overcome the slowness of the Basin Reserve. In his absence Lewis stepped up a gear to become an outright fast bowler in the Auckland Test and Christchurch international. Add to that his fielding anywhere and his growing presence as a batsman - notably his back-foot driving through the off side and off the front foot through mid wicket- and there seemed to be little that Lewis, at the age of 24, could not accomplish.
Tufnell's bowling was as excellent as Jack Russell's wicket-keeping. In the year since his unsatisfactory tour of Australia the left-arm spinner had worked on his fielding and his attitude to authority, to the point where Gooch said that Tufnell's approach was first-class. In general, the pitches were too slow, too lacking in bounce, too reluctant to wear and tear, for Tufnell to gain much help there. What he did have, especially at Christchurch, was a strong wind to enable him to drift the ball into right-handers and make it dip.
On England's previous Test visit, in 1987-88, they had been tired, jaded, and content to play New Zealand at their own defensive game. England's strategy this time was precisely the opposite, although Gooch had not had the experience of playing a Test in New Zealand before. If it was not his most productive tour, he made a hundred of great sagacity in Auckland; and, like a true elder statesman, he was often happier in helping younger members of his team to fulfil themselves.
Under the new ICC regulations, bouncers were limited to one per over, but they would have been strictly rationed in any event, so slow were the pitches; and relations were so cordial that the match referee, Peter Burge, was not called upon to deal with any controversy between the teams. However, on the last day of the series, when Lawrence broke his left knee-cap, there was a scene as he was being carried from the field on a stretcher. Micky Stewart, England's team manager, was incensed by a cameraman whom he thought to be intrusive and became involved in a scuffle. As an attempt to intimidate, albeit an understandable one in an emotionally charged situation, it seemed a clear violation of the new Code of Conduct, but no action was taken. There was only a letter of regret to TVNZ from Bob Bennett, England's well-liked tour manager, in which Stewart was not even mentioned.
G. A. Gooch ( Essex) (captain), A. J. Stewart ( Surrey) (vice-captain), P. A. J. DeFreitas (Lancs.), N. H. Fairbrother (Lancs.), G. A. Hick (Worcs.), A. J. Lamb (Northants), D. V. Lawrence (Glos.), C. C. Lewis (Leics.), D. R. Pringle ( Essex), M. R. Ramprakash (Middx), D. A. Reeve (Warwicks.), R. C. Russell (Glos.), R. A. Smith (Hants) and P. C. R. Tufell (Middx).
I. T. Botham and R. K. Illingworth (both Worcs.) joined the party during the tour. Botham had been allowed to start the tour late to fulfil television and pantomime commitments; Illingworth joined in preparation for the World Cup.
Tour manager: R. M. Bennett (Lancs.).
Team manager: M. J. Stewart.
Test matches- Played 3: Won 2, Drawn 1.
First-class matches- Played 7: Won 4, Drawn 3.
Wins- New Zealand (2), New Zealand Emerging Players, New Zealand XI.
Draws- New Zealand, Minor Associations' XI, Central Districts.
One-day internationals- Played 3: Won 3.
Other non first-class match- Won against Auckland.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Auckland v England XI at Auckland, Jan 2, 1992
Tour Match: New Zealand Emerging Players v England XI at Hamilton, Jan 3-5, 1992
Tour Match: New Zealand U-Bix XI v England XI at Napier, Jan 7-9, 1992
Tour Match: New Zealand XI v England XI at Nelson, Jan 13-15, 1992
Tour Match: Central Districts v England XI at New Plymouth, Jan 24-26, 1992