England 1 New Zealand 0

The New Zealanders in England, 1931

Paying their second visit to England after an interval of four years, the New Zealand cricketers could point to no phenomenal success in the general results of their tour, but it was gratifying to find that many of the players gave abundant proof of the value to their own game with which their previous experience had furnished them. At the same time the six men who were making their first journey to this country showed that the lessons provided by the visit of the MCC side under Harold Gilligan to New Zealand had to a large extent been well learned.

The summer being one of the wettest and most cheerless of recent years, the team had very few opportunities of playing cricket here under conditions which might reasonably have been expected to favour them but they came through the handicap with fine pluck and fortitude. Match after match was interfered with and in some cases quite ruined by the dismal weather, so it was not at all surprising that no less than twenty three out of their thirty two first-class engagements should have been left drawn. Of the rest they won six and lost only three. The victories were gained over Essex - their opening match - the MCC, Northamptonshire, Scotland, Glamorgan and Gloucestershire. They lost to Middlesex, England and Kent. Outside first-class games they played four others in one of which they beat Norfolk, with the other three drawn.

As they themselves, through their captain T.C. Lowry, were always careful in pointing out, the actual results of their tour were not allowed to weigh prominently with them. Naturally they wanted to win as many games as they could but they never for one moment permitted the thought of the issue to become an obsession or to influence their ideas of playing the game for the game's sake. They realised that, although in the original programme mapped out for them they had been allotted one Test match against the full strength of England, they were still very young in the history of cricket and primarily were here to learn and thereby lay the foundations for stronger sides to come later on to england.

Representatives of one of our great Dominions beyond the seas, the New Zealnaders looked upon the tour perhaps from a bigger point of view than the mere playing of cricket. And it can be said at once that both on and off the field they bore themselves in such a modest manner that wherever they went they made and left behind countless numbers of friends and admirers. Nothing indeed could have been more wholehearted and deserved than the praise bestowed upon them for their wonderful victory over the MCC at Lord's and, a little later, for the glorious battle they gave England in the Test match at the same ground. No other performance during the tour redounded so much to their credit as to their play in these two encounters.

As the outcome of their most creditable draw in the Test match, it was afterwards decided that representative games should be allotted to them on the days when they were to have met Surrey at the Oval and Lancashire at Old Trafford. Opinions as to whether this was altogether a wise move may differ. Personally I hold the view that it was a mistake to arrange the additional Tests in the absence of which the tourists would have returned home fairly entitled to claim the honour of having held their own with England in the one big fixture. As it was they were beaten in an innings in the Second Test at The Oval, while the third was almost completely washed out by rain. In expressing these ideas I am not unmindful of the fact that owing largely to the bad weather the finances of the tour had suffered considerably. In arranging two more Test matches the authorities no doubt took into consideration the help that would be given by the incresed gate receipts.

The point about the cricket of the New Zealanders which impressed people in this country was the vast improvement in fielding. When they came here in1927 their fielding, and particularly their throwing in, left a lot to be desired; last season scarcely a word could be said against it. Moreover, their catching was safe, and to mention only one name nothing could have been better than the work of Page at slip. In the match against the MCC he excelled himself. Taking the team as a whole they had their limitations. While on occasions they batted consistently, they were rather inclined to lean a little too much on the doings of Dempster. If he came off- which he did many more times than he failed- everything was all right, but unless he and Mills gave them a first rate start failures occurred and it was often left to some of the later batsmen, notably Lowry himself, to pull the game round. They did not possess, and we did not expect them to possess, the solidity in batting, say, of an Australian team.

With regard, to their bowling, they undoubtedly suffered from the fact that Merritt, although in first class matches he took 99 wickets, was day in day out not quite the bowler of four years previously. Neither for that matter was Blunt. So while they had a fairly good array of men, all of whom enjoyed their days of success, they did not possess either one of real speed or an outstanding medium pace right handed spin bowler. Yet in the MCC match the bowling of Cromb, Merritt and Blunt reached a level good enough to have dismissed any side cheaply. Unfortunately for the team, these three bowlers did not again, at the same time, touch a similar standard.

Beyond all question the outstanding member of the side was Dempster. Jumping straight into form in the opening match with an innings of 212 against Essex, he reached three figures on no fewer than six other occasions, winding up with 122 in the closing first class match against a strong side at Scarborough. Nothing in the course of the tour, however, probably gave him so much personal satisfaction as the 120 he scored in the second innings of the Test match at Lord's, an occasion which also provided Page with the opportunity of making 104, while in the same innings Blunt narrowly missed a third hundred against England.

That particular game, allowing for a breakdown in their batting after lunch on the first day, showed the New Zealanders at their best as a fine fighting side, proof of this being afforded by the fact that Lowry was able to declare after being 230 behind on the first innings. Opinions were strongly expressed afterwards that England at the finish should have gone for the runs instead of being content to play quietly for a draw but it is extremely doubtful if any better success would have rewarded their efforts. Fighting the clock and an extraordinarily plucky spell of fine bowling for two hours by Cromb might easily have led to disaster.

To return to Dempster. Ending the tour at the top of the batting figures with an average of 59, his aggregate of 1778 runs in a wet season was a really great performance. He missed the distinction of playing in the Second Test match owing to an injured leg, his absence being a great blow to the chances of his side. Still, he had a wonderful tour, stamping himself by no means a Bradman but a t least one of the best and most consistent batsmen in the world. Neat and compact in his methods, he owed much of his success to his admirable footwork which enabled him to bring into his play a wide repertoire of strokes. As a partner to open the innings Mills proved wonderfully effective and when at his best there was nobody in the side so attractive to watch. Like all left handers he drove beautifully and cut very well but, going for the bowling as he almost invariably did, he always looked to be giving the opposite side every chance of getting him out.

Blunt again showed himself a fine cricketer, not so great in his all round doings as before, and possibly not quite so difficult to dismiss. With the restricted back lift of his bat he created the impression of being cramped and sometimes unenterprising, but there were many occasions on which he had to restrain any tendency to score more quickly. That he could hit hard and make runs at a fine pace was amply demonstrated at Eastbourne when he scored 225 not out - the highest innings of the tour. If his batting did not show any pronounced falling off, his bowling, taking the whole summer through, was nothing like so good as previously.

Outside his hundred at Lord's against England, Page made three others, and proved himself to be a much sounder bat than when he was here before. Nobody in recent years has hit to leg with such certainty and power. He was always a good reliable batsman, and as vice-captain proved to be a valuable lieutenant to Lowry. As captain, Lowry on nearly every occasion was one of the most accomplished leaders we have seen for some time. He knew almost to a fraction exactly the capabilities of his bowlers. What was just as important, he also knew the strengths and weaknesses of opposing batsmen. In the management of his attack and the placing of his field, he earned high opinions wherever he went. Only once, as far as one noticed, was his judgement at fault. This was in the Test match at Lord's when, with Ames and Allen making their big stand, he did not put Weir on until the damage was done. One pronounced feature of his leadership was the manner in which he seldom kept a bowler on too long at a particular batsman, and it was noticeable that whenever Duleepsinhji went in he at once called upon one of his left handers Allcott or Vivian. Moreover, his theory in this respect generally proved correct. Another good point about his captaincy was his insistence upon the team being on the field in plenty of time. So strong was his regard for punctuality that on one occasion after lunch at Lord's the New Zealanders were on the fieldbefore the ropes and iron pickets had been removed.

Seeing that for the greater part of the tour the duties of manager were also undertaken by him, Lowry could be most heartily congratulated for the generally able and judicious manner in which he led the side. But his success did not end there, for in the course of the season he played many valuable innings, often pulling a game round by a period of fine hitting and in particular batting exceptionally well, together with Allcott, when at one point in the second innings of the Test Match at Lord's the New Zealanders, despite their great recovery, were threatened with defeat. Only a man of Lowry's strength of character and pluck in desperate circumstances could have led his side so successfully through what, after all, was a rather difficult season. Singularly enough, he headed the bowling averages, but against the best men he did not often exploit his weird theory in this department of the game.

Not the least interesting member of the side was the youngest, H.G. Vivian. Coming to England for the first time, he showed himself to be a capable all rounder. Like Dempster, Blunt, Mills, Lowry and Weir, he scored over a thousand runs, and, taking 64 wickets he came out second in bowling. He took a little time to settle down but, once he had found his form, he was a most attractive batsman to watch and quite a capable left hand bowler. His hundreds against Oxford University and Yorkshire and his second innings in the Test match at the Oval were brilliant little affairs marked by splendid driving. Being young, he had, of course, a good desire for knowledge of the game. He was never above being told; he sought out and conversed with all the leading cricketers he could. It is fairly safe to assume that, profiting by the lessons he gained during the tour, he will, with his natural abilities, develop into one of the finest all round cricketers New Zealand has produced.

Of the other new men, Weir was the best. Eminently sound in his methods as a batsman, he played some good innings, he fielded admirably and at times bowled medium pace with effect. Kerr was a little disappointing, probably because he was rather troubled with his eyes, but clearly he possessed ability. Talbot, brought over to take the place of Dacre as a hitter, started in great form, his driving at times being tremendous but as the season wore on he endeavoured to play a more correct game, lost his punishing powers and only towards the end did he make any real recovery.

Reference has been made to Merritt's falling-off as a bowler. He had his great days but in many matches bowled the bad ball too often. Against Yorkshire, on a wicket which should have suited him to perfection, he failed to keep a length and he neglected the more effective leg spinner in order to exploit the googly. Probably the best bowler on the side was Cromb, whose performances at Lord's stamped him as being a most difficult man to face. With a rather slinging action, he made the ball swerve and frequently straighten itself and come right back on the batsman. Jardine described his bowling in the MCC match very neatly when he said that Cromb made the ball come at you so quickly that it hit the bat before the bat could hit it. Nothing Cromb accomplished during the tour was better than his work against the MCC and in the second innings of England. On the latter occasion when he was on for a long time, he sent down scarcely a single bad ball.

Allcott, who looked after the financial side of the tour ably, had one or two successful days but did not do a great deal in the big matches, and Matheson, fast-medium right hand, bowled well at times without creating any pronounced impression. It would not be proper to finish this account of the tour without reference to the magnificent wicket keeping of James. He had an immense amount of work to do and came through it with flying colours, the manner in which time after time he took the ball on the leg side with the greatest of ease, being really splendid. I ought to mention, too, that towards the latter half of the tour Mr A. T. Donnelly, the chairman of the New Zealand Cricket Council, came over and relieved Lowry of a large part of his managerial duties. By his courtesy and his high ideals how cricket should be played, he endeared himself to everyone with whom he came in contact.

Match reports for

1st Test: England v New Zealand at Lord's, Jun 27-30, 1931
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: England v New Zealand at The Oval, Jul 29-31, 1931
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: England v New Zealand at Manchester, Aug 15-18, 1931
Report | Scorecard

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