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From every point of view the New Zealand Cricket Council must have been highly satisfied with the outcome of the 1949 tour in England by W. A. Hadlee and his team. The playing performances alone aroused nothing but admiration. Although, like England's, their bowling did not carry sufficient thrust to give them victory in Tests limited to three days, their batting strength ensured that in good conditions they would not be beaten, anxious as they must have been more than once in the series.
Certainly the New Zealanders were an attraction wherever they played and, favoured by a remarkably dry summer, they were the first of their country's touring teams to return from England with a profit. Not only did the receipts cover the £25,000 expenses of the tour, but the New Zealanders finished with a balance of £15,000, a sum which was sure to bring benefit to New Zealand cricket generally for a number of years. Furthermore, by every action on and off the field the fifteen players enhanced the already firmly established reputation for sportsmanship which belongs especially to New Zealand cricketers. On not one occasion did anything occur to cause even the slightest spirit of irritation to be shown by a New Zealander or an opponent.
Of importance for the future was the fact that, as a result of the extraordinary pains taken by Hadlee to guide and instruct the younger players in every intricacy of cricket tactics and technique, each one left England with a keener insight of the game than when he departed from New Zealand. There was good reason to expect that, besides being able to pass on their increased knowledge to the cricketing youth of their own areas at home, these same young men would form the strength and nucleus of New Zealand teams for several years ahead.
Statistics are not enough to give the full story of a cricket tour, but their evidence testified to the correctness of the New Zealanders' own expectations that the batting would be a good deal more powerful than the bowling. Any representative side containing batsmen of the calibre of Donnelly and Sutcliffe, the two left-handers, scarcely could fail to be happy about its ability to make runs.
Donnelly and Sutcliffe were far from being the only two competent batsmen in the side, but a measure of the reliance placed upon them was that neither could be spared for more than three matches, and only once, on the batting paradise at Trent Bridge, did both receive a rest at the same time. So consistent were they in the Tests that Donnelly passed 50 in five out of six innings and Sutcliffe in five out of seven. Donnelly's 206 at Lord's set up a New Zealand Test record, and the total of runs of each in first-class matches exceeded all previous feats by New Zealand batsmen.
It is no disparagement of Donnelly to say that in 1949 Sutcliffe was the more brilliant batsman. Too often in the bigger matches Donnelly faced the necessity of pulling round the side after a moderate start to allow him to give free and unchecked play to his rich array of strokes. Responsibility at no time caused him to be ultra-careful; it did serve to make him even harder to dismiss than before and against him bowlers seldom could have viewed their prospects with optimism.
By contrast Sutcliffe continually flirted with danger. Time and again in the first month of the season Sutcliffe's tendency to hook behind square-leg on slow pitches cost his wicket, but a typical move by Hadlee remedied that weakness and set Sutcliffe on the road to triumph after triumph which extended from the beginning of June to the end of the season. Sutcliffe was given frequent spells of special net practice at which bowlers were instructed to concentrate on his leg stump so that he could cultivate his hook stroke wide of mid-on. By the advent of fast pitches Sutcliffe had conquered a temptation which before had been so costly. Thereafter Sutcliffe was a dashing, debonair batsman of a consistency unusual in a stroke-player so daring. From June onwards bowlers were made to realise that Sutcliffe's adventurous methods prompted in them more than a few hopes which were to remain unfulfilled.
There could be no suggestion that Donnelly and Sutcliffe lacked support in batting. Six others also made over 1,000 runs, and the total of 15,658 obtained in first-class matches by the New Zealanders exceeded even that of the free-scoring Australians of 1948.
The experiences of Wallace, the vice-captain, were strikingly dissimilar to those of Sutcliffe. By May 19, Wallace scored 727 runs, including four centuries, in eight innings, and, naturally, he was given every opportunity to join the few who have perpetuated their names in cricket history by reaching 1,000 in May. Wallace narrowly missed that distinction, but worse than such failure, if failure it could be called, was the reaction. No doubt the efforts of the first month imposed a strain on Wallace, and for some time afterwards he looked over-tired. Then came a spell when nothing would go right for him, and for the whole of June and July Wallace struggled for runs. Not until the beginning of August did he return to anything like his best, but in the fourth Test he lived up to his reputation with two valuable innings.
The tall, fidgety Scott was by no means a classic batsman to watch, but of his usefulness there could be no two opinions. In spite of a back-lift short enough to be almost negligible, some of his strokes, made mostly with the forearm, travelled at surprising speed. As an opening batsman he provided an excellent foil to Sutcliffe. Of much different character was the batting of 21-year-old Reid, who made the greatest advance. Long before the end of the summer Reid was established as the leading all-rounder. Learning rapidly by experience, he improved his batting by adding solidity to his punishing strokes. He was always the best of a superb fielding side, showed himself a good deputy in the last Test for the injured wicket-keeper Mooney, and, though Hadlee resisted the temptation to use him much, he could deliver as fast a ball as anyone in English cricket at that period. In his desire to allow Reid to develop as a batsman and wicket-keeper, Hadlee refused to over-burden him with bowling.
Hadlee always gave the impression that without the onus of captaincy he would have scored many more runs. In critical situations he was at his best. Few batsmen in post-war cricket have driven a ball with Hadlee's power and precision, but when his side were well placed not infrequently he put more value on giving batting practice to others than allowing himself to settle down to a big innings. Rabone, defensive to a degree, performed his allotted part with credit, and the talents of neither Smith nor Mooney could be disregarded. As well as being a most competent wicket-keeper, Mooney batted soundly, and Smith's cheerful acceptance of his omission, when second to Donnelly in the Test batting averages, from the last two Tests typified the comradeship of the whole team. Reid justified the preference of the selectors in both games and, scores apart, he was sounder than Smith, whose fondness for cutting often led him into trouble.
One comparison with the Australians of 1948 is enough to show the difference in bowling of the two touring sides. Whereas the Australians conceded over 300 four times--all in Tests--the New Zealanders did so on twenty-one occasions. For all that, seldom was the bowling collared. In the Tests, particularly, the New Zealanders provided a perfect illustration of the achievements possible to a team of only limited resources. They approached each match well aware of their shortcomings, but every time only four regular bowlers were chosen. Of these Cowie alone could have been regarded as an attacking weapon of any deadliness. Accordingly they embarked upon a policy based on extreme accuracy in bowling, field placing planned specially for each opposing batsman, and the highest standard of fielding of which every individual was capable.
Although the methods contained a tacit admission that the bowling was not hostile enough to storm through the cream of English batting twice in three days on a good pitch, to refer to these as defensive was hardly fair, expecially as Hadlee regularly used two slips, a gulley, leg-slip and no extra cover for the first 40 or 50 runs against the new ball. These tactics simply provided the best alternative for dismissing the opposition as cheaply as possible. Cowie, Burtt, Rabone, Cave and, in the last Test, Cresswell, faithfully pursued their objectives of bowling a length, bowling straight, and bowling to their fields to induce the batsmen to make errors. In the main they succeeded, but these stratagems alone were not sufficient to check Simpson in his whirlwind innings at Manchester, nor he, Hutton and Edrich at The Oval.
The final figures did far less than justice to Cowie, the 37-year-old fast-medium bowler. For a bowler of his pace his consistency was remarkable. Cowie bowled well up to the batsmen, aiming always to compel the forward stroke, and his direction, swing and lift from the pitch invariably impressed. Another 25 or 30 wickets for the same number of runs would have given him an analysis more in keeping with his value, which was emphasised when injury kept him out of the team for the best part of a month between the third and fourth Tests. In his absence the New Zealanders did not win once, but they began to do so as soon as he returned, and, with him in the eleven, they were victorious in four of the last five games. All through Cowie was affected by minor strains, the first time in seventeen years he had suffered from any kind of muscular trouble.
Most bowling fell upon the stocky, left-arm Burtt, who sent down nearly twice as many overs as anyone else, and, with 128, took more than twice as many wickets. Burtt, too, specialised in perfect length and he was no mean exponent of the art of flighting. His method of attacking the off stump to a packed off-side field made him extremely difficult to get away, and usually he was skilful enough to prevent quick-footed batsmen from advancing to the pitch of the ball. With profit Cave might have used his outswinger more frequently, but he was always steady and reliable, and Rabone, who varied his medium-pace with slow off-breaks or leg-breaks, made himself a useful all-round bowler. During the latter part of the tour, when the atmosphere was often rarefied, Cresswell, a slow in-swing bowler not unlike Amarnath of India, developed a leg-roller which he used with telling effect on his Test debut at The Oval. Unfortunately, the young fast bowler, Hayes, tore a muscle midway through the season and could not play again, and Burke was not able to spin his leg-breaks and googlies quickly enough to worry the best batsmen.
After the Second Test the New Zealanders were approached regarding the possibility of an extra day being added to the last two Tests. Following consultation with their authorities at home, they indicated to M.C.C. their feelings that they should not withdraw from anything on the pre-arranged fixture list, as only by a cancellation of the following match could a fourth day for the last two Tests be made possible. In every way it was a most exacting tour. One must remember that, apart from a few Plunkett Shield matches or an occasional tour, the New Zealanders confine themselves entirely to Saturday club cricket. Playing cricket week in and week out for four months is a most strenuous experience, and on top of this they scarcely gained any respite from the weather. Most of their matches went well into the third day, and the only one that was seriously interfered with by rain was the August Bank Holiday fixture with Glamorgan at Swansea.
No more efficient or courteous manager of a touring side can be imagined than Mr. J. H. Phillipps.
Test Matches.--Played 4, Drawn 4.
All Matches.--Played 35, Won 14, Lost 1, Drawn 20.
First-Class Matches.--Played 32, Won 13, Lost 1, Drawn 18.
Wins.-- Cambridge University, Combined Services, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancashire, H. D. G. Leveson Gower's Xl, Maori Club, Middlesex, Scotland, South of England, Surrey, Sussex, Worcestershire.
Draws.--Club Cricket Conference, Durham, England (4), Essex, Glamorgan (2), Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, M.C.C., Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire, Yorkshire (2).
Loss.-- Oxford University.
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