England 1 New Zealand 0

The New Zealand team in England 1937

Wilfrid Brookes

It would be mere pretence to state that the New Zealand cricketers who visited England in 1937 fulfilled expectations. The team certainly had a better playing record than that of the 1931 side, which won only six of 32 first-class matches, but for representatives of a Dominion which, for the first time, had been allotted three Test matches here against the full strength of England, the standard of play in many matches was, frankly, disappointing. There were, however, contributory causes and, bearing in mind the brave showing put up by New Zealand in each of the representative games, one need not dwell too much upon actual results. Nevertheless, it was difficult to form a close estimate of the real value and strength of the team.

Nothing pleased the players more than their success in holding England to a draw both at Lord's and at the Oval. As regards the second Test at Old Trafford, everyone who saw it must agree that at one point New Zealand possessed an excellent chance of winning. Had catches been taken when England, with seven second innings wickets down, were only 152 ahead, New Zealand might easily have sprung a surprise, but Brown was missed four times and a glorious opportunity was allowed to slip.

Weather and wickets were unkind to the New Zealanders during the early part of the tour and delay on the journey to England restricted opportunities for practice to a few hours at the nets before a three days' match had to be played with Surrey. Slow to find form and worried by the pace of the wickets, the side did not win a first-class match until going to Cambridge in the last week of May and after that no success rewarded their efforts until July when they overcame Somerset. The only other first-class counties defeated by the touring side were: Surrey (in the second match), Essex and Sussex, and the number of victories in a programme of 32 games reckoned as first-class was no more than 9. Altogether the New Zealanders had to play 37 matches and, as the summer proved kind if often sunless, the players had few opportunities for relaxation from the strain of travelling and long days in the field. When English weather proves so favourable for cricket as in 1937 suggestions for the curtailing of programmes of a touring team are freely made; more than one of the New Zealand cricketers, accustomed to short hours of play in their own country, complained of the strenuous nature of the tour. It is certainly a matter that ought to receive close consideration.

When the party arrived, a good deal of confidence was expressed concerning the batting ability of the side and M. W. Wallace justified all the good reports about him, but the bowling was regarded as an unknown quantity. Cowie proceeded to demonstrate not only that he was a first-rate fast-medium bowler, but a bowler equal to anyone of his type in present-day cricket. Some of Cowie's colleagues who had played with or against him in New Zealand were surprised at the pace off the pitch which he obtained on English wickets. A player with an enormous capacity for work, who seemed impervious to fatigue and was accurate in length and direction, he often bowled a vicious off-break and, as he could also make the ball lift and swing away, he was a bowler to be feared. Had he been an Australian he might have been termed a wonder of the age.

Cowie was definitely the outstanding player of the team. Taking 114 wickets for less than 20 runs apiece, he headed the averages for first-class matches and his record in the three Tests surpassed that of any other bowler for either side. By the middle of the summer, opportunity was found to give Cowie a well-earned rest and the fast bowler proved the value of this respite by his splendid work on returning to the team at Manchester, where in the second Test match, he took ten wickets for 140 runs. Other notable analyses to his name were nine for 120 v. Oxford University, eight for 126 v. Somerset and eight for 122 v. Essex.

One is led to the conclusion that those who picked the team chose bowlers on the assumption that the English season - so far as weather was concerned - would be the average one and that slow wickets would be the rule rather than the exception. Another fast bowler might have transformed a struggling side into a really formidable team, but no one, of course, could have anticipated so many hard wickets. Shoulder trouble and afterwards a finger injury prevented Roberts from showing his true form with the ball. Right-hand medium-pace, he usually kept a length but, although able to swing the ball, he rarely made it whip off the pitch. Dunning, bowling off-breaks round the wicket, was not difficult to the best batsmen but may be said to have justified his selection. He had several good matches and took seven for 67 against Middlesex, nine for 64 v. Cambridge University and ten for 170 in the match with Essex.

Early form was misleading in the case of Gallichan. Chosen as an additional player after fourteen men had been picked for the tour, Gallichan, who like Cowie, stands over six feet, bowled slow left-arm with command over the leg-break. On a wicket that gave him the least bit of help, he looked awkward to play but on the whole Dunning, and Vivian who also bowled left-hand slow, proved the more consistent. After his fine all-round performances in England six years previously, Vivian fell below expectations. It is true that he pulled a muscle in the left leg and while so hampered could not hope to be at his best and perhaps his figures scarcely do him justice. He showed in the Test matches at Manchester and the Oval that he was a batsman of exceptional gifts and no one scored more runs for New Zealand in the Test series although Roberts, who twice batted with fine resolution when his side were hard pressed, averaged over 47 and headed the batting list. In closing a review of the bowling, one must mention Moloney, whose slow leg-breaks, high and cleverly flighted, proved extremely effective in a few matches.

Not the least blame for the moderate results of the team should be put upon Page, the captain. The averages indicate that he did nothing outstanding with the bat but it must not be overlooked that very often when he went in, usually at No. 6, his team were badly placed. Consequently the value of his batting cannot fairly be assessed by the runs made. Page was responsible for several painstaking innings when circumstances called for steady, watchful batting and it is significant that his highest score - 109 against Nottinghamshire - was made when he went in first wicket down after an opening stand of 74. Occasions when he found himself free to adopt other than restrained methods were few and far between. Page handled his bowling and conducted the general duties of captaincy in a manner that never warranted criticism.

Experiments were made to find the best available pair of opening batsmen but, although the first few men on the side got their 30's and 40's fairly consistently the big totals did not come along. There were too few stroke-players on the side. Although perseverance and determination were shown by Moloney, Kerr and others, there often existed a lack of concentration and signs of inexperience. The batting of Wallace and Donnelly, however, was of a class above that of their colleagues. These young players, who finished first and second respectively in the averages, were the discoveries of the tour. Members of the M.C.C. team which in 1935-36 visited New Zealand had given a strong hint of the capabilities of Wallace and this sturdily-built batsman played many fine innings. For a cricketer of under 21 years, he showed remarkable maturity of methods and judgment. Powerful on-drives and pulls and a good cover-drive featured his batting and, even when he appeared in no hurry to make runs, he always put the bat hard to the ball. After he fractured a thumb in the third Test he made two big scores, including a fine hundred on the Hove ground. Donnelly, a year younger and a left-hander, was another attacking batsman with a good eye and decidedly a star in the making. He commanded the typical left-hander's slash through the covers and many other strokes. What is more important, he showed remarkable coolness at a crisis, one memorable instance of this being in the Test match at Lord's where he and Kerr successfully baulked England's efforts to win and Donnelly emphasised his assurance by some skilful hooking of fast bowling.

Moloney played some valuable innings when the side badly needed a steadying influence. One of the three players who wore spectacles - the others were Kerr and Hadlee - he occasionally went in first but his best performances were accomplished when he batted lower in the order. It may fairly be said that Moloney did the most useful all-round work, for in the first-class matches he scored 1,463 runs and took 57 wickets. Kerr, who hit three hundreds, had a very uneven season. Going in first in the match at Leicester, he scored 130 not out but did not make more than 19 runs in an innings until over five weeks afterwards. Correcting a fault in technique, a tendency to play across a turning ball, he finished the tour in very much more satisfactory style. In his last seven matches, he scored close upon 500 runs including two centuries.

Kerr, as an opening batsman, had five different partners. The best of them was Hadlee, who for a long time did not make the most of his physical attributes, especially his long reach. When he abandoned defensive batting for freer stroke-play, he improved his game no end; one of his best innings was that of 93 in the second Test. Tindill, a left-hander, did nothing out of the common with the bat but as a wicket-keeper he was always worth his place although he did not compare with K. C. James who came over with the 1931 side. Lowry, the Cambridge captain of 1924 who was in charge of the team and carried out the arrangements of the tour with geniality and ability, kept wicket in a few matches and put together a score of 121 at Trent Bridge. Much had been expected of Carson, who in January had set up with P. E. Whitelaw for Auckland v. Otago a world's record third wicket stand of 445, but this hard-hitting left-hander singularly failed. He scored 85 in his first game (with Surrey) and hit 86 against Northamptonshire but otherwise did little of note. Lamason was another batsman unable to reproduce his New Zealand form and Weir, although making the first hundred for the tourists, did not do himself justice except on isolated occasions. Still, whatever their limitations in batting and bowling, the New Zealanders showed themselves first-rate in the field. They put zest and keenness into their ground-work and Wallace at cover was always a joy to watch. W. Ferguson, who has travelled with Colonial teams for more than 30 years, acted as scorer. The players forming the team were:

  • W. N. Carson ( Auckland)
  • J. Cowie ( Auckland)
  • M. P. Donnelly ( Auckland)
  • J. A. Dunning ( Otago)
  • M. Gallichan ( Wellington)
  • W. A. Hadlee ( Canterbury)
  • J. L. Kerr ( Canterbury)
  • J. R. Lamason ( Wellington)
  • D. A. R. Moloney ( Wellington)
  • M. L. Page (Captain) ( Canterbury)
  • A. W. Roberts ( Canterbury)
  • E. W. Tindill ( Wellington)
  • H. G. Vivian (vice-Captain) ( Auckland)
  • M. W. Wallace ( Auckland)
  • G. L. Weir ( Auckland)
  • Manager: T. C. Lowry.

Match reports for

1st Test: England v New Zealand at Lord's, Jun 26-29, 1937
Scorecard

2nd Test: England v New Zealand at Manchester, Jul 24-27, 1937
Scorecard

3rd Test: England v New Zealand at The Oval, Aug 14-17, 1937
Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co