To say that Richard Hadlee was the difference between England and New Zealand in the 1986 Test series between the two countries is not an exaggeration. And yet to say so does an injustice to the fifteen of his countrymen who comprised the tenth New Zealand side to visit England on a Test-match tour. The record partnership between Bruce Edgar and Martin Crowe at Lord's; Evan Gray's determined half-century and John Bracewell's hundred at Trent Bridge; John Wright's long innings at The Oval: all were essential to the touring party's prime aim. This was to win, for the first time, a series in England, and with victory by eight wickets at Trent Bridge, that aim was realised.
Hadlee's influence, however, cannot be overestimated. At 35 he was a master of the arts of fast-medium seam and swing bowling. Only at The Oval, late in a full season for him, did English batsmen play him with confidence. As New Zealand's only experienced fast bowler, once Ewen Chatfield's broken thumb ruled him out of the first two Tests, Hadlee maintained fitness, form and concentration so that Jeremy Coney, his captain, was able to bowl him in short, demanding spells. Few passed without a wicket falling. His nineteen wickets in the series took his total in Test cricket to 334, with only Botham and Lillee ahead of him.
With the consent of the Test and County Cricket Board, Hadlee played in the Test matches only. Otherwise he appeared for his county, Nottinghamshire, who had granted him a benefit in 1986. Regarded by some as a dubious precedent, it was none the less appreciated by the New Zealand Cricket Council, who wanted to use the tour to bring on young seam bowlers. With Chatfield 36 and Lance Cairns retired, replacements for them and Hadlee are New Zealand's greatest need.
Three possible candidates toured: Derek Stirling, a tall, heavily built man who had represented his country in Pakistan and West Indies, and two youngsters from Auckland, Willie Watson, twenty, and Brian Barrett, nineteen. None achieved as much as had been hoped of them. Stirling's most important contribution, perhaps, was with the bat, rather than the ball, in the second Test. Otherwise his approach looked long and laboured, his control variable. Watson, prone to an open-chested action, looked to have more potential as a stock bowler with ability to move the ball late, while Barrett, who played for Worcestershire in 1985 by virtue of qualification for Ireland, hoped mostly for movement off the seam, some bounce and a modicum of away-swing.
In the absence of an established seam attack, New Zealand were fortunate in their contrasting spin bowlers - Bracewell, an off-spinner, and Gray, a slow left-armer. Both had toured in 1983. Bracewell, having played a leading part in New Zealand's recent success over Australia, was thought to be the bowler around whom New Zealand's future attack would revolve. Tall, with good control and the confidence to give the ball air, he arrived with a striking-rate in Test cricket superior to that of Edmonds and Emburey and yet was not bowled as often as Gray in the series. Gray's accuracy allowed him to be Coney's stock bowler, but his success in this role owed something to the shortcomings of England's strokemakers. Both had batting averages of more than 50 on tour to emphasise their all-round value to a side which possessed a solid, consistent batting order.
Martin Crowe's balance, his stillness at the crease, his selection of stroke, all bore the hallmark of a world-class batsman. His century at Lord's was his fifth in 30 Tests. Little he did was clumsy or inelegant. Back trouble, however, restricted his use as a seam bowler.
The New Zealand batting was not as dependent on Martin Crowe as the bowling was on Hadlee. The left-handed opening pair of Wright and Edgar scored heavily on tour and one or the other put down roots in the Test matches. But there was a problem at number three, the position so capably filled at home in recent years by John Reid, who had chosen not to tour. Jeff Crowe and Ken Rutherford were tried but neither gave an air of permanence. Rutherford, a pleasing strokemaker who opens for his province, may need no more than a long Test innings to give him the confidence to make the difficult transition to the highest level. His 317 at Scarborough, though not against an attack of county standard, showed he has an appetite for runs.
Crowe, on the other hand, remained an enigma. Attacking the bowling in the one-day internationals and on tour, he looked little less a player than his younger brother. But in the serious environment of Test cricket - and these New Zealanders did regard it as serious - some of the technical flaws which were apparent in 1983 were still in evidence. Trevor Franklin began his second tour of England with runs but broke a thumb at Nottingham before the first Test. Even more unluckily, he suffered multiple fractures when a luggage trolley hit his leg at Gatwick Airport on the day of the team's departure.
Ian Smith and Tony Blain were more wicket-keeper-batsmen than specialists, which meant that with Hadlee also in the lower-middle order, the New Zealand batting had the shortest of tails. When Smith was unfit for the third Test, and returned home during it, Blain batted with assurance in a pleasing, old-fashioned manner and kept neatly to suggest a ready replacement should Smith's international career have ended.
For Coney, New Zealand's defeat of England was his third successful series in a year. If once or twice his tactics were open to question, he was firmly in charge and kept the morale of his younger players high when the distractions of Hadlee's benefit activities could easily have introduced an air of disenchantment. Moreover, his team lost only one game - the second one-day international, though they did take the Texaco Trophy. Since Coney's last visit to England, his batting, then built on solid defence, had become a means to counter-attack, while his slow-medium swing bowling appeared even slower but was no less lacking in guile.
The collective experience of the side was strengthened by the presence of Glenn Turner, the former Worcestershire and New Zealand opening batsman, as cricket manager. When Mr Bob Vance, the manager and Chairman of the New Zealand Cricket Council Board of Control, took ill early in the tour and returned to New Zealand, his duties were shared by Turner, Chatfield (while he was injured) and Edgar, who acted as treasurer. Such resourcefulness, however, was not surprising in a touring party whose great strength was that its players worked for themselves, their team and their country.
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