March 1974

New Zealand's great day of fulfilment

In March 1974, New Zealand defeated a full-strength Australian team for the first time in a Test

New Zealand 255 and 230 for 5 beat Australia 223 and 259 by five wickets

Not even the Commonwealth Games, held in the same city a few weeks earlier, attracted more public interest than New Zealand's successful attempt to defeat a full-strength Australian team for the first time.

It was a very notable occasion for New Zealand cricket; it was only the eighth time, in 110 matches, that New Zealand had won a Test, and the smallest of the Test countries now needs only a win against England to have an entry on the credit side of each of its Test ledgers.

New Zealand's win on a green Lancaster pitch was thoroughly deserved. The wicket never gave excessive bounce or movement, but it held together so well that the seam bowlers of both sides received some encouragement throughout the match. By the same token, spinners were at a discount. O'Keeffe did not bowl a ball; Mallett of Australia and Howarth of New Zealand totalled 27 overs.

Success no fluke
There was no fluke about this unexpected success. New Zealand had given notice last year at Trent Bridge and Lord's that they were capable, at least occasionally, of protracted resistance and of sustained pressure. There was a hint at Sydney a few weeks earlier that New Zealand's pace bowling was as good as Australia's, if not better.

At Christchurch, New Zealand scored at only 2.8 runs an over, Australia at 3.6 runs an over. And that really was the key to Australia's defeat. The Australians, an engaging and aggressive batting team, did not handle lively bowling as well as a determined team of New Zealanders.

None of the scores of Tests this writer has reported has held the sustained excitement of this one. The switches of fortune went on day after day, and the excitement the match engendered was reflected in a total attendance of 40,000 and a New Zealand record gate in excess of $28,000. The crowd figures may seem small to English or Australian readers. But Christchurch is not a large city, the first day was grey and cold - play did not start until 40 minutes after lunch - and on the last day New Zealand had only to make 51 runs.

Brave decision
Congdon won the toss for New Zealand for only the third time in 14 matches and sent Australia in. It was a brave decision, for he was risking last use of the pitch against a side far stronger in spin than his own. The outfield was slow, however, and the pitch carried a strong sole of grass.

Although Stackpole, sadly out of form, was soon out, Australia progressed steadily and even when Ian Chappell was bowled when trying to hook, at 45, Australia had no great cause for concern. Redpath, sounder than at Wellington, and Greg Chappell went through to lunch, and were safe, if slow, in early afternoon. Chappell, the finest batsman to grace New Zealand grounds in many a day, was an hour over 10 as Collinge put in a very accurate and lively spell.

The batsmen slowly assumed command, and New Zealand's gamble looked likely to fail, until Congdon himself worked a typical piece of magic. Chappell thrashed a very short ball and Howarth at gully held a fierce hit. Richard Hadlee struck two great blows with the dismissal of Davis and Walters and at the close Australia were struggling at 128 for 5.

The pendulum swung again on the second morning, with Marsh in his most belligerent form. In three-quarters of an hour he made 38 of a stand of 53, with a succession of hammer blows. Congdon winkled him out, then dismissed O'Keeffe, and when Collinge held a superb catch from his own bowling, Redpath too had gone, and Australia were in the toils. Redpath batted 256 minutes for his 71, a stoic display, and the Australians were out for 223.

Astonishing innings
Between lunch and tea, New Zealand went from 2 to 99, for the loss of Parker and Morrison. Turner played an astonishing innings. He was quite unlike his careful, cultured self, playing and missing quite regularly. His colleagues were not so fortunate. Congdon, Hastings and Coney were all taken in positions behind the wicket and at close of play Turner was 99.

It took Turner 35 deliveries before he went to three figures, his first Test century in his own country. It was agonising for everyone; and in the same over he was caught in slips playing a most untypically careless shot. Wadsworth banged three fours in an over from Dymock but New Zealand could win no larger a lead than 32, and that seemed not nearly enough. Eight batsmen were caught by Marsh or in slips. The Australian seam bowlers, more accurate if a little less penetrating than the New Zealanders, performed admirably, particularly Walker and Dymock.

Australia received its rudest shocks after lunch. Stackpole went again, at 12; Ian Chappell, with his pronounced shuffle into his off stump, tried to turn Collinge and lost his exposed leg stump. That was at 26. Seven runs later Greg Chappell cut Richard Hadlee straight to an astonished but delighted Coney.

Confident Davis
But Redpath was there again and young Davis played an extremely good innings as they added 106. Davis had had very little success on tour, his Test place must have been in jeopardy, and the situation was critical. But he batted with extraordinary confidence and skill, while Redpath held things together, as he had done in the first innings. They departed within minutes - Redpath taken at gully, Davis caught hooking - and when Marsh fell victim to an incredible caught and bowled by Dayle Hadlee - he hit the ball with tremendous power - Australia were only 128 in front. But there was still Walters and an obstinate, determined O'Keeffe. They saw the day out, taking their side to 211.

The fourth morning belonged to the New Zealanders. In 14 deliveries Dayle Hadlee accounted for Walters, with one which cut back sharply, Walker and Dymock. O'Keeffe and Mallett, Australian-fashion, fought back with 20 for the last wicket, but by lunch New Zealand had made 21 of the 228 required, without loss.

Turner and Parker staged their second half-century stand of the match but there were reversals ahead. Parker was out at 51, Morrison at 55 and Congdon, run out by 12 yards, with the total only 62. But it was a different Turner in this innings. He played beautifully as he and Hastings restored the situation.

The batsmen were under tremendous pressure from the Australians. There was an unhappy incident late in the day which led to a request for Ian Chappell to apologise for allegedly foul and abusive language directed at Turner. This was an unfortunate business, for otherwise the game was played in a proper spirit.

New Zealand entered the last day at 177 for 4, Hastings having thrown his wicket away in the final over, after a splendid stand of 115. The main obstruction to New Zealand's progress was the burly Walker, whose stamina and skill won the warmest admiration. By the end of the innings he had bowled 28 eight-ball overs for 50 runs, and was as fiercely determined in his last over as in his first.

On the final morning Coney sealed Australia's fate by staying almost an hour while 29 were added. Wadsworth came in to see Turner become the first New Zealander to score two centuries in a Test and it was Wadsworth who thumped Greg Chappell through the cover field to finish the match. Turner, never pedantic, and always looking for runs, played a chanceless innings, but it took him 371 minutes to make his 110 - some measure of the strains and stresses of this great battle.