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The eighteenth New Zealand team to visit Australia undertook a four-match, three-week tour during November 1989. The mainspring for the short tour had come the previous April, when the Australian Cricket Board learned that its proposed itinerary for the 1989-90 season would not be honoured by Pakistan, who had double-booked for the period leading up to Christmas. Pakistan were to be hosts to India for a four-Test series in November and December. After hasty negotiations, Pakistan agreed to a three-Test tour of Australia, starting in the New Year, while Sri Lanka, Australia's other visitors, were awarded two Test matches instead of one, as originally planned.
An approach was made to the New Zealand Cricket Council in early May to fill the remaining scheduled Test date, and even though its senior players were opposed to the idea, the NZCC agreed to the ACB's suggestion. The ACB was not helped in its planning by the insistence of its television and marketing organisation that the New Zealand visit had to be early in the season, because no international cricket could be played while Channel Nine was televising the Commonwealth Games from Auckland. The consequence of this was that John Wright and his team arrived in Perth with, at most, two club games behind them by way of early-season match practice. Moreover Richard Hadlee, their most successful Test bowler, had withdrawn four days before the team's departure with a recurrence of an Achilles' tendon problem. When Brendon Bracewell, Hadlee's replacement, broke down in the first week, and there were also injuries to his off-spinner brother, John, and to Andrew Jones, Mr Gerald Bailey, the New Zealand manager, had to call for Dipak Patel and Chris Cairns as additional replacements. Cairns won his first cap for New Zealand in the Test match at Perth.
Although excellent ambassadors for the game of cricket, the New Zealanders did not attract large crowds to any of their matches. The first of these, a day/night game against Western Australia, saw just under 5,000 present as the New Zealanders were comprehensively outplayed and lost by seven wickets with 15.5 overs remaining. The subsequent four-day match in Perth was drawn, after Wright and Ian Smith, the New Zealand wicket-keeper, had put on 191 runs for the seventh wicket on the last day, and another draw followed against South Australia in Adelaide, where both sides viewed the match as an ideal opportunity for batting practice.
The Test match, in Perth, was poorly attended, with an official attendance of 29,607 for the five days. Of those present, a considerable number were Western Australia Cricket Association members, corporate box ticket-holders, and those who took advantage of offers from Perth's six radio stations, each of whom gave away 250 free tickets a day. Yet the match was a classic Test encounter. Australia built a large first-innings score, after which New Zealand failed to avoid the follow-on and then, led by a marathon innings by Mark Greatbatch, batted courageously to claim a draw.
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