Bert Sutcliffe was born at Auckland on 17 December 1923. While still at school he represented Auckland (1941–42). He played for the province, with an interval in Japan with J-Force, until 1949–50, when he took up a coaching position in Dunedin and joined the Otago team. Sutcliffe has established an enviable reputation as a batsman in New Zealand first-class cricket. He has represented New Zealand 34 times and scored 230 (not out) against India at New Delhi, 137 (not out) at Hyderabad during the 1955–56 tour, and 151 (not out) at Calcutta during the 1965 tour. He scored centuries against England at Manchester, 1949, and Christchurch, 1951, and holds the record for a second-wicket partnership for New Zealand v. England, 131, with J. R. Reid. His test-cricket record, in 62 innings, is: not out, five times; aggregate score, 2,335 (including four centuries); highest test score, 230 (not out); and a batting average of 40.96. In New Zealand first-class fixtures Sutcliffe has twice scored over 300 runs, (355 for Otago against Auckland in 1949–50 and 385 for Otago against Canterbury in 1952–53), and he has 42 centuries to his credit, including four occasions when he has scored two centuries in a match. He holds the record for the best first-wicket stand, 373 (Sutcliffe, 275, L. A. Watt, 96), Otago v. Auckland; and, for the fifth wicket, 266 (Sutcliffe, 355, W. S. Haig, 67), Otago v. Auckland, 1949–50. With Don Taylor, of Auckland, he shared in double-century opening partnerships in each innings of the Auckland v. Canterbury match (1949). Sutcliffe established a world record when he scored 141 and 135 in partnerships worth 220 and 286 runs respectively. He also holds the world record for the greatest number of runs scored by a left-handed batsman in a first-class innings – this was his 385 for Otago against Canterbury (1953). From 1942 until the end of the 1965 tour, Bert Sutcliffe's record in first-class cricket was as follows: 224 matches (120 in New Zealand, 104 overseas); 391 innings; 37 not outs; highest score, 385; aggregate runs, 17,019 (9,934 runs in New Zealand, 7,085 for New Zealand overseas); 44 centuries and a batting average of 48.07. In 1950 Sutcliffe was selected as Wisden's cricketer of the year. He has also held the Redpath Cup – for the best New Zealand batsman of the season – on six occasions. Bert Sutcliffe holds practically every New Zealand batting record and is second only to Sir Donald Bradman for the most runs made on an English tour.
In a test against England during the 1965 tour, Sutcliffe, with V. T. Pollard, made a record seventh-wicket stand for New Zealand of 104 runs. The previous record of 100 runs was established by T. C. Lowry and H. M. McGirr at Auckland in 1929–30.