Story: Cricket

Cricket arrived with British settlers in the 19th century, and has endured as New Zealand's favourite summer game. Kiwi cricketers have been successful on the international stage, particularly in the 1980s.

Story by Don Neely
Main image: New Zealand cricket team, 1981

Story summary

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Game basics

During a cricket game, one team bats while the other bowls and fields. A batsman tries to prevent the bowled ball hitting the wicket behind them, and if possible hit the ball away and score runs. At the end of the game the team with the most runs wins. In certain situations the game is declared a draw.

The form of cricket played widely in New Zealand originated in England and is also played in many other countries that were colonised by the British.

Early history

Cricket was first played in New Zealand in the 1830s, around the mission stations in Northland. Initially it was played only irregularly. However, by the early 1880s there were 60 cricket teams in Dunedin alone.

Early in 1894 New Zealand put together its first national team, which played New South Wales in Christchurch. In December that year the New Zealand Cricket Council was established.

Provincial cricket began to grow, and in 1906 the New Zealand Cricket Council established the Plunket Shield to foster more regular games between the provinces.

Women’s cricket

During the mid-19th century cricket became particularly associated with manliness, and women’s cricket all but died out. However, from the end of the 19th century women’s cricket revived in England, Australia and New Zealand, although the game remained male dominated.

The first New Zealand women’s interprovincial cricket tournament took place in 1933 for the Hallyburton-Johnstone Shield. In 1934 the New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council was formed, its administration separate from that of men’s cricket.

Improving performance

Until the mid-1950s the New Zealand’s men’s and women’s cricket teams lost or drew all their test matches.

The New Zealand men’s team had their first test cricket victory in 1956 – over the West Indies at Eden Park. After that things began to look up. During the 1960s and 1970s the New Zealand men won nine test matches.

In the 1980s the New Zealand men won 17 tests and lost 15. Cricketers such as Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe became household names.

In 1972 the women’s team had their first and only test victories, beating both South Africa and Australia. After that most of their test games were draws.

New cricket formats

Traditional cricket involves three to five days of play, and test cricket matches are played over five days. However, since the 1970s the popularity of shorter games – called one-day or limited-overs games – has risen dramatically. These include One-Day International (ODI) games and Twenty20 cricket.

World Series Cricket, developed by Australian entrepreneur Kerry Packer, particularly revitalised cricket – making it much more exciting to watch on television as well as at the ground, and attracting a lot of commercial funding.

New names

In 1992 New Zealand Cricket Inc. was formed, combining the administration of men’s and women’s cricket. In 1998 the New Zealand men’s team was named the Blackcaps and the women’s team the White Ferns. The provincial teams also adopted nicknames.

How to cite this page:

Don Neely, 'Cricket', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 July 2024)

Story by Don Neely, published 5 September 2013, updated 1 April 2016