New Zealand lost their 12th Test series in England and beat only Glamorgan during their programme of 12 first-class matches. But to call the enterprise a failure, as no less a judge than Sir Richard Hadlee came close to doing during the final Test at Old Trafford, would, nevertheless, be to divorce it from history both ancient and modern.

New Zealand have beaten England only four times in 65 years, all the wins coming when Hadlee himself was cutting swathes through the best batting teams everywhere. If the 1994 tour was, to some extent, the latest exercise in coming to terms with life after Hadlee - he last played for his country in 1990 - it must also be seen in the context of the temporary retirement of the steadiest of their batsmen in recent times, Andrew Jones, and of injuries to their two established fast bowlers. Chris Cairns, an all-rounder of proven Test ability, if not quite in Hadlee's exalted class, missed the trip in order to recuperate after knee surgery. Danny Morrison travelled but, because of persistent groin trouble, played only in the first one-day international. Another of the seam bowlers originally selected, Simon Doull, managed one match before being obliged to return home injured. Michael Owens replaced him but, by the end of the tour, further casualties meant Stuart Roberts of Canterbury had to be called up from English league cricket. It says much about the lack of experience and consistency in the fast bowling department that Roberts should, by taking eight wickets in 47 overs, have finished comfortably top of the averages.

No cloud is without its silver lining, however. In Dion Nash, only 22 and pleasantly ingenuous, New Zealand discovered a champion of the future. He took 17 wickets in the three Tests and at Lord's, where he surpassed any previous performance by a Kiwi bowler against England with match figures of 11 for 169, he and Martin Crowe, whose masterly batting in the last two Tests saved the tour from being a complete débâcle, all but won the day. Had Ken Rutherford, a captain whose humour and equanimity never wavered during good and mainly bad times, taken the gamble of bringing Nash back to bowl in very dim light in the dying moments of the game, the ambition of every touring side to England - victory at Lord's - might have been achieved. As it was, England held on for a draw and moved on to dominate the Third Test almost as clearly as they had the First at Trent Bridge, which they had won by an innings and 90 runs. But for rain, England would have won at Old Trafford in four days. In the event, traditional Manchester weather, another hundred by Crowe (aided, with skill and determination, by Adam Parore) and some ill-directed bowling as time ran out, combined to ensure that England won the series by no more than 1-0. Thereby justice was done; although the stronger team, England would have been flattered by a 2-0 margin.

The paradox was that New Zealand made more progress than England. A new home selection committee, under a very different chairman in Raymond Illingworth, dismantled the winter's touring party. At Old Trafford, only five players - the captain Mike Atherton, his deputy Alec Stewart, plus Angus Fraser and two insecure batsmen in Robin Smith and Graeme Hick- survived from the tour of the West Indies that had ended barely two months before and which had included a famous and romantic victory in Bridgetown. And both Fraser and Smith were later left out of the winter touring party to Australia. Some critics looking to the long-term future were dismayed by the recall of Graham Gooch, who scored a double-century at Trent Bridge but 13 runs in his next three innings.

The rebuilding against New Zealand, was, nevertheless, half-hearted and clearly incomplete when the South African series began in July. While England were feeling their way towards a brighter future, partly by piercing the mists which had hitherto hidden Yorkshire from the gaze of the selectors, New Zealand were busy proving that, in addition to Nash and Parore, Bryan Young and Stephen Fleming both have what it takes to succeed in Test cricket. Young reached 94 at Lord's before nerves defeated him. He is a brave, compact, correct opening batsman, with a nice balance between the off and on sides and also between front and back foot. It is a pity for both himself and his country that he did not make the decision to abandon wicket-keeping earlier than he did; his true worth as a batsman has been recognised only recently.

Fleming had established himself in the last few weeks before the tour as a batsman of exciting potential. Tall and dark-haired, he shares with David Gower left-handedness, a birthday - April 1 - and the same ability to hit good balls for four. Like Gower, he is a distinctive puller of the short ball; unlike him, he is still largely an on-side player. Two hundreds in first-class matches and 170 runs in six Test innings confirmed the good impression he had made when scoring 92 in his first Test, against India, and 90 in his first one-day international. Matthew Hart and Shane Thomson may establish their Test quality too. Both were excellent in the Second Test. Hart did not take as many wickets as his beautifully poised left-arm spin threatened but, at Lord's in particular, he tied the England batsmen down and helped to create the pressure which led to their dismissal at the other end. His eventual four Test wickets from 147.3 overs cost him almost 70 runs each. Thomson, a batsman of undoubted flair, hit the ball with relish and style during his partnership with Crowe at Lord's and confirmed that he is a developing, although inexperienced, off-spinner. His batting limitations were exposed at Old Trafford, where he was distinctly unsettled by fast short-pitched bowling on a bouncy pitch.

The same, unfortunately, was true of Mark Greatbatch, who joined Fleming, Rutherford, Crowe and Young in scoring more than 500 first-class runs on the trip but could not earn a Test place until the end of the tour. He took time to recover from knee surgery, like Crowe, who played the first few matches with a palpable limp. The difference was that Crowe showed glimpses of his rare ability even before the Lord's Test, notably on his old stamping ground at Taunton. His confidence and self-esteem came surging back during his impeccable century in that match and he went on to score two Test hundreds. By contrast, Greatbatch owed his return largely to the inability of the two Blairs, Pocock and Hartland - both victims of uncertain footwork - to establish a right to go in first with Young. A broken thumb sustained in the field at Old Trafford sent Greatbatch home a disappointed man with an uncertain future.

The lack of a consistent opening pair is a frequent problem for teams which struggle in England and, since Rutherford's batting did him less than justice, New Zealand were one experienced batsman short of presenting England's bowlers with a solid challenge. In both the First and the Third Tests, the batting was unravelled by the swing bowling of Phillip DeFreitas, whose 14th reincarnation as a Test player was by some margin his most successful. In the last match he had the support of a hostile young fast bowler in Darren Gough.

But for all the anticlimax after Lord's - the New Zealanders were held by the Combined Universities and badly beaten by Derbyshire before Old Trafford - there was no pessimism and no need for the kind of recriminations and post-mortems which have invariably followed recent tours by England. Indeed, Rutherford, who played the game as New Zealanders still do - with a smile and no attempt to bend either the laws or their spirit - made the following bullish statement at the end of the tour: "Twelve months down the line, I like to think that New Zealand will be a very, very competitive Test match unit. In one-day cricket we already are. England tours are all about development; we're disappointed to have lost the series but we're looking forward to doing well in a busy season at home."

His optimism might be vindicated if Cairns and Morrison return to full fitness and Crowe can act as elder statesman as well as prima donna batsman. Stories in the New Zealand press suggested that Crowe and the team manager, Geoff Howarth, were not seeing eye to eye. Undoubtedly there were clashes, but both were happy to give Rutherford their support.

Parore played well throughout, though his best came in the final Test when his stand of 141 with Crowe - more than three and a half hours of determined resistance between showers - saved the match. His form made watchers in the United Kingdom wonder why he had not been New Zealand's regular wicket-keeper-batsman since displacing the injured Ian Smith on the previous tour in 1990, when he was the baby of the party. He kept wicket with neatness and agility and batted with a nice mixture of solid defence and occasionally explosive attack. His penchant was for forcing strokes off the back foot, sometimes played West Indian-style against half-volleys. Already, Parore would be on the short list for wicket-keeper in a world eleven.

Nash's strong, willing, accurate fast-medium bowling was based on an excellent action, starting from close to the stumps. His efforts won him the Cornhill award as his team's man of the series and he was the bright light amid some rather dismal fast bowling. Michael Owens had some good spells at Old Trafford but the balls he bowled were seldom as impressive as his long and menacing run-up. Heath Davis was as fast and as wild as he had been when playing in Sussex two years before. Then, bowling for Bexhill against Chichester, he delivered 42 no-balls and eight wides in 14 overs. He was given every encouragement early in the tour, because of his ideal build and genuine speed, but his willingness to learn was not matched by his ability to do so.

Chris Pringle and Gavin Larsen are more experienced and both contributed much without being able to make an impact in the Tests. It was because Pringle was injured before the first match that Larsen, a medium-pacer who rarely bowls badly, at last won his Test cap, after faithful service for New Zealand in 55 one-day internationals. Even in defeat Larsen will always be glad of that Test at Nottingham. His spirit was typical on his team's: a determination to make the most of limited ability, and to enjoy the game, whatever the outcome.