Page 1: Biography
Cave, Henry Butler
Cricket player, farmer
This biography, written by Bruce Hamilton, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 5, 2000.
Henry Butler Cave was born in Wanganui on 10 October 1922, the son of Henry Bernard Cave and his wife, Gertrude Marion Allison. Bernard Cave farmed at Westmere, north of Wanganui. He was one of five brothers who played cricket for Wanganui; one brother became a test umpire.
Harry was educated at Westmere School, St George’s School, and Wanganui Collegiate School. As a boy he lacked stamina and was a late developer physically; as a man he was six feet two inches and broad-shouldered but of slim build. The Wanganui Collegiate headmaster, F. W. Gilligan, was an influential coach, insisting on sportsmanship and encouraging Harry to maintain the high delivery action that was the secret of his bowling success. In his second year in the First XI Harry took 28 wickets at an average of 8.1 runs, including seven for six against Palmerston North Boys’ High School.
After leaving school, Cave worked on the family farm; he eventually farmed in partnership with his brother Tom. Throughout his career he had to balance cricket with farming, and only the co-operation of his family – especially Tom – made representative cricket possible. He first played for Wanganui in 1941, and made a major contribution as an all-rounder in the following years. In 1948 he made 171 and 96 against Manawatu and took 5 for 68 and 7 for 59 when Wanganui won the Hawke Cup from Hawke’s Bay. During Wanganui’s tenure of the cup from 1952 to 1955 he excelled when first-class commitments allowed. In all he took 166 wickets for Wanganui at an average of 12.62, and scored 1,720 runs at 33.08.
Between 1945 and 1949 Cave frequently represented Wellington, an association notoriously reluctant to select country players, yet equally determined to prevent the formation of Central Districts from its country area. A torn elbow muscle in 1947 deprived him of his stock out-swinger, and from then on he relied on seamers, cutters and in-swingers. After the Central Districts Cricket Association was formed in 1950, Cave’s bowling was a major factor in the team’s success: in nine seasons he took 150 wickets at 17.45, including 7 for 31 and 6 for 33 in one day against Auckland in 1953. He formed a deadly partnership with Don Beard: ‘They were both tall, slim, Guardsman-stiff of back … They wheeled down over after maiden over [and] allowed each other one half-volley a season’. Even the best batsmen found Cave a handful. Cave took over the captaincy of Central Districts in 1953–54 when they won the Plunket Shield for the first time. He also scored two first-class centuries, his top score of 118 being his contribution to a New Zealand record ninth-wicket stand of 239.
Cave’s international career of 19 tests began with the 1949 tour of England; circumstances required him to increase his pace, and bowl too many overs, which affected his rhythm and performance. Late in 1955 he captained the first New Zealand team to India and Pakistan in an exceptionally demanding tour, which featured temperatures reaching over 40ºC, hotels without air-conditioning, terrifying unreliable flights, inadequate food, and constant stomach upsets and illness. On the field the team contended with outrageous umpiring, flashing mirrors, and well-timed firecrackers. Cave remained the diplomat under great provocation; he gave the tour everything, bowling 543 overs, but lost over two stone, his frame becoming skeletal. It took him two years to recover physically.
Cave was dropped for one test following a heavy defeat by the West Indies in 1956. In the fourth test at Auckland, he took 4 for 22 off 27 overs in the first innings and 4 for 21 in the second to spearhead New Zealand’s first test win. He was the top bowler against Ian Craig’s Australian team in 1957, taking Neil Harvey’s wicket three times. In 1958 he made a second tour of England, as vice captain, but the team was outclassed. After Cave retired in 1959 he served the Central Districts Cricket Association in many roles, and had a term as a New Zealand selector.
He had married Yvonne Joyce Anderson at Wanganui on 28 April 1951; they had two sons. Harry and Yvonne were keen and skilful gardeners, with camellias a special interest – Harry developed a variety which was named after him. Both were fine golfers, and they enjoyed entertaining visiting cricket teams and showing films Harry had made (he was an expert photographer).
Harry Cave was gentlemanly, soft-spoken, diplomatic, loyal, determined and enduring. He loved the game and its humorous side. He had the admiration of his players and imbued them with formidable team spirit. A true amateur, he made financial sacrifices, learning to juggle cricket and farming. Above all, he was a sportsman. He died at Wanganui on 15 September 1989, survived by his wife and sons.