The seventh New Zealand team to visit Britain ended their tour at Scarborough with a splendid victory. It improved a modest record, but more than that, it spelled out in plain language that the policy on that last day against T. N. Pearce's XI, had it been pursued more enthusiastically earlier, could have given the touring side far more success against the counties.
When the New Zealanders batted on the last day of the tour, they had to counter Underwood and Illingworth on a pitch very receptive to spin, and experts round the ground thought that they would be lucky to score 100, let alone the 183 runs needed. The runs were made for the loss of three wickets because Murray and Congdon, and then Hastings and Burgess, did not permit the bowlers the domination they had exercised in the Tests. The speed and judgment of the batsmen in taking and running their singles also contributed heavily. It was a most meritorious victory, easily the most impressive of the four gained on tour. The team lost two of the three Tests and, narrowly, to Essex but improved considerably on the 1965 record of three wins and six losses.
The New Zealanders, ably led by Dowling, one of the seven members of the 1965 team who returned, might have been better off had a little more of that Scarborough audacity been in evidence. In the Tests, particularly, the players chose to fight it out on England's terms and they were not quite good enough to overcome one of the strongest attacks England has mounted for years. Nor could they find ways and means, very often, to force quick runs from the tight professional bowling of the counties. The New Zealand batsmen were allowed far fewer liberties than their opponents.
The Test matches are reviewed farther on, and little reference need be made to them. The New Zealand bowlers gave their side an excellent chance at Lord's by dismissing England for 190, and at lunch on the second day the tourists, then 71 for one, were in a strong position. But the batting failed between lunch and tea, and with the failure went New Zealand's only real chance of beating England for the first time. In the second New Zealand innings Underwood had a pitch which allowed him to exercise his talents to the full and notwithstanding a gallant innings by Turner, who became the first New Zealander to bat right through a Test innings, New Zealand went down heavily.
At Trent Bridge, New Zealand made a respectable 294 but the pace bowling on the second day was the worst New Zealand has produced since the war. Edrich and Sharpe put England in a commanding position with their long partnership of 249, but rain ruined the match after New Zealand made a good start in the second innings. The first-innings stand of 150 between Congdon and Hastings set a New Zealand third-wicket record against England, and Hastings, at his best a very fluent and attractive batsman, played the best innings for the tourists in the series. New Zealand's chances in the third Test were blighted, after another good start, by rain which livened the Oval pitch and gave Underwood another opportunity to improve his startling Test record.
Against the counties and other teams, the New Zealanders had a good record. They were never in danger of defeat except at Westcliff, where they had to make only 113 but approached a reasonable task, on a sharply-turning pitch, as if it had to be accomplished at the double. Inexperience in the third-day charge brought distinct danger against Middlesex. On the other hand, rain-shortened games against four or five other counties, including Surrey and Glamorgan, could well have cost the tourists victories.
As in 1965, there was a general competence about the batting, but little brilliance, and the team badly needed one player, at least, to distinguish himself as a run-maker. The most successful was the tall opening batsman Murray, who scored 800 runs at 40 an innings. His calm approach as much as his long reach contributed to his succession of good scores. Dowling, at his best a fine opening batsman, did not do himself justice, but Turner, notwithstanding his limited attacking ability, enjoyed a good tour. Congdon, however, fell away badly compared with his 1965 results, mainly because he depended too heavily on the cut and the sweep. Hastings and Burgess were perhaps the most attractive batsmen and although Burgess had a lean patch in mid-tour, there was no question of his ability, and his final innings, at Scarborough, was outstanding. The batting was quite often bolstered by Yuile, who improved considerably on his performances at home, showing a greater flair for attack than before. Pollard, of whom a great deal was expected, averaged 50 half-way through the tour, but in his last seven innings could score no more than 36 runs. Too often he was the victim of impetuosity.
The one player who really made his mark in England was the 25-year-old Howarth, a left-arm spinner making his first overseas tour. With old-fashioned ideas about flight and spin, he won respect wherever he went and his tally of 57 wickets in twelve matches was a fitting reward for his conscientious labours. His tour average of 19.75 was the best ever achieved by a New Zealand tourist in Britain. It was as well that Howarth made this dramatic advance, for he helped to compensate for a disappointing showing by the five pace bowlers on whom New Zealand depended very heavily. Taylor started badly, bowled quite well later in the tour, and was successful in the Tests. Cunis, a workaday sort of bowler, was inaccurate until the tourists reached Hove. From that point he bowled well, and he took 25 wickets in his last five games. Collinge did not come up to expectations, although he tried very hard; illness kept him out of the last four games. Hadlee, very inexperienced when selected, had two or three good matches, but too often erred in length and direction.
The spin support for Howarth was not strong. Pollard showed no advance on his 1965 form, and Burgess, who, it was hoped, might become the principal off-spinner, needed much more work in this department, although he showed promise. Yuile bowled indifferently for some time, but a slight quickening in pace later in the tour brought good returns.
The fielding was always eager and determined, and if Wadsworth disappointed with the bat--he was chosen primarily on the basis of a spectacular century for the South Island against the West Indies--his wicket-keeping improved so quickly that he played in all the Tests, and acquitted himself well. The other wicket-keeper, Milburn, was neat, energetic and reliable but injury kept him out of the last five matches.
Reference to Motz demands especial attention. This fine bowler, New Zealand's best in the post-war years, seemed to have lost his edge and it was only at Birmingham, near the end of the summer, that it was discovered he had been bowling for about eighteen months with a displaced vertebra, an injury which led, sadly, to his retirement and his return to New Zealand before the team left for their commitments in India and Pakistan. Motz had been in pain each bowling day since he fell at the very start of New Zealand's Australian tour at the end of 1967. At least he had the comfort of reaching 100 Test wickets when in England, the first New Zealander to attain such distinction, but he was only 19 wickets short of the New Zealand record aggregate of 537, held by R. W. Blair, when he was forced out of the game. Motz is only 29, and his withdrawal is a sad blow to New Zealand cricket.
It is pleasant to record that the team, under the amiable but firm management of Mr. Gordon Burgess, took home a profit of about £7,000 from their three-country nine-Test tour.
Test Matches--Played 3; Lost 2, Drawn 1.
First-Class Matches--Played 18; Won 4, Lost 3, Drawn 11.
Wins-- Scotland, Minor Counties, Warwickshire, T. N. Pearce's XI.
Losses-- England (two), Essex.
Draws-- England, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Surrey, Middlesex, Kent, Glamorgan, Hampshire, Sussex, Worcestershire, Lancashire.
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