After 52 years, and at the 29th attempt, New Zealand beat England in a Test match in England. For that victory the tenth New Zealand side to England will hold a lasting place in its country's cricket history. Unbeaten outside the Test matches, Geoff Howarth's team may be regarded alongside its most eminent predecessors, although in some respects it failed to fulfil expectations. The other three Tests were lost by convincing margins, two of them in four days, and New Zealand failed to reach the semi-finals of the Prudential Cup, which occupied the team's interest in June before the first-class tour began.
The problems of choosing a team to cope with a programme of limited-overs and first-class cricket have in the past been presented as one reason for the poor performance of touring sides facing dual commitments, but this could not be applied to the 1983 New Zealanders. They represented the core of New Zealand's recent successes in both forms of the game. Howarth, Richard Hadlee and John Wright (as well as Glenn Turner in the Prudential Cup squad) knew English conditions from regular county cricket, while Lance Cairns, Martin Crowe and Evan Gray had recently played league cricket in England. Jeff Crowe had played for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield for five years. No previous New Zealand side to England could boast such experience.
Following the final Test, Willis, the England captain, said there was a need for New Zealand to find some fast bowlers, and certainly, Hadlee apart, the New Zealand attack had held few fears for England's batsmen. Neither Ewen Chatfield nor Martin Snedden, the candidates to share the new ball with Hadlee, was better than a useful fast-medium, with Snedden the quicker of the two and the 33-year-old Chatfield the more accurate. It speaks volumes, perhaps, that Chatfield's five for 95 in sympathetic conditions at Headingley was a personal best in Test cricket. Although surprising batsmen occasionally with unexpected lift and away movement, he lacked that decisive edge to open a Test attack. Snedden failed to do himself justice. Hit for 105 in twelve overs on his first appearance in England (v England in the World Cup at The Oval), he took time to find an English length and had too few weapons on a good wicket.
The medium-paced Cairns, whose big hitting frequently provided brief entertainment, also began the tour out of sorts but regained form with eight wickets against Warwickshire on the eve of the second Test. With ten wickets he played the major role in that historic Headingley victory. In addition to swing he had at his disposal an excellent leg-cutter, a useful slower ball and even a leg-spinner. Martin Crowe, at medium-fast pace, joined the seam brigade later in the tour and could develop into a fine all-rounder. During the tour the New Zealanders gave two games to the twenty-year-old Auckland fast bowler, Sean Tracy, with Gloucetershire on a cricket scholarship. His performance against Brian Close's XI gave promise that he might answer some of New Zealand's bowling problems in the future.
Chosen as Man of the Series, Hadlee always lived up to his reputation and his own high standards. His bowling, off a shortened run-up, was a model for an aspiring fast bowler, full of variation, control and hostility. At 33 he remained one of the world's leading fast bowlers, as well as strengthening his claims to a place among the top all-rounders. His left-handed batting had few frills but his approach was undeniably effective. His 21 wickets were a record for a New Zealand bowler against England, surpassing Tony MacGibbon's 20 in the five-Test series of 1958.
Of the two spinners, the tall off-spinner, John Bracewell, enjoyed greater opportunity and success, finishing the tour as leading wicket-taker. He was less effective in the Test matches, but at 25 he was still a novice. It is to be hoped New Zealand continue to encourage his development. Gray, slow left-arm and right-hand middle-order batsman, enjoyed an afternoon of success in his début Test at Lord's.
If their bowling was always going to handicap the New Zealanders, the failure of their recognised batsmen to provide match-winning or match-saving innings in the Test matches was a serious setback. No one reached three figures in the series. Bruce Edgar and Wright, both accomplished left-handed openers, only once provided a first-wicket stand of more than 20 - at Headingley - although each enjoyed individual success. When Wright, whose calling of a run was dismal for a professional cricketer, suffered a broken toe against Leicestershire, his place in the final Test was taken by the tall, upright Auckland opener, Trevor Franklin, who discovered that a run of high scores against the counties meant little when it came to Test cricket.
The great pity was that Glenn Turner, in England for the Prudential Cup only, could not be persuaded to remain with the touring side. His experience and class batsmanship would have strengthened New Zealand's early order considerably. Howarth, twice the victim of run-out mix-ups with Wright, had an unlucky tour, only occasionally providing evidence of his true ability. His captaincy was never less than adequate and he led a popular, well-mannered side which made a big contribution to a happy summer's cricket. The twenty-year-old Martin Crowe, while still getting the feel of Test cricket, did enough to show that he should be the bulwark of his country's batting for years to come.
An appreciation of Jeremy Coney's contribution will be found in the Five Cricketers of the Year section. The epitome of the New Zealand cricketer who makes the transition from Saturday afternoon club cricket to Test cricket with only limited first-class experience, often under-rated, he was vital to the side, either shoring up the innings or containing opposing batsmen with his deceptively mild swing bowling.
Of the two wicket-keepers, Warren Lees and Ian Smith, the latter inspired the greater confidence with tidy, undemonstrative display, regaining his Test place after Lees had an erratic first Test at The Oval. A broken finger put Smith out of consideration for the fourth Test.
During the tour Howarth spoke out about the attitude of counties in respect of the opposition they provided touring sides, a criticism which was later echoed by the team's manager, Sir Allan Wright, and has been made by other tourists. Howarth's reaction came after his side's early and easy victory over a second-strength Hampshire eleven at a time when New Zealand were in need of a good work-out before the third Test. The TCCB could do worse than look to the hospitality it affords its visitors in this respect.
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