Story: Cricket

Page 5. International cricket before the Second World War

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International games before 1930

New Zealand cricket had little to cheer about before 1930. National pride became attached to the All Blacks rugby team while the national cricket team inspired sentiments of colonial inferiority.

The 11 foreign teams that toured New Zealand before 1894 played provincial teams, not a New Zealand team, and the first two All-England teams of 11 men (in 1864 and 1877) played New Zealand teams of 22 men. Despite this, both English teams won.

From 1894 major touring teams played a New Zealand representative team, selected by the New Zealand Cricket Council.

There were six Australian XIs (not including state sides) who played New Zealand up to 1928. From 11 matches the Australians won eight and three were drawn. The 1913–14 Australian team was led by Arthur Sims who combined with one of that country’s greatest batsmen, Victor Trumper, in a world first-class record partnership for the eighth wicket of 433 runs. By 2012 the record still stood.

New Zealand teams visited Australia in 1899, 1913 and 1925–26. On each tour Australian state teams beat them by over an innings.

An English team under Lord Hawke visited in 1902–3 and beat New Zealand twice easily. New Zealand did record a win over a Marylebone Cricket Club team in March 1907. However, they were not a representative team but a group of English public-school old boys.

A New Zealand team visited England in 1927 in a very wet summer. They did not play the English national team, but won seven games and lost five of 26 fixtures.

The Kiwi Aussies

New Zealand was the childhood home of two of Australia’s greatest bowlers. Fred Spofforth, a pace bowler known as the ‘demon bowler’, played for Australia from 1877 to 1887 and was the first bowler to take a test hat-trick (three wickets in a row) and 50 test wickets. He spent his early childhood in the Hokianga.

Clarrie Grimmett, a wily leg-spin bowler, played for Australia from 1925 to 1936 and became the first bowler to take 200 test wickets. He was born in Caversham, Dunedin, but grew up in Mt Cook, Wellington, close to the Basin Reserve. He played for Wellington in the Plunket Shield before heading to Sydney in 1914.

Test cricket

In 1926 New Zealand became a member of the Imperial Cricket Conference (later the International Cricket Council) and in January 1930 New Zealand played its first official test against England at Lancaster Park. It was not a full-strength English side, but England won by eight wickets. The following week, at the Basin Reserve, opening batsman Stewie Dempster became the first New Zealander to score a test century. That test, like the remaining two, was drawn.

In 1931 the New Zealand team made a full tour of England and was initially awarded one test at Lord’s Cricket Ground. A fine comeback in the drawn test earned them two more tests. England won one by an innings and the other was drawn.

In 1932 New Zealand played a new opponent – the South Africans – who won both tests in New Zealand.

The following season there was huge public interest when the English team, fresh from victories in a dramatic Ashes series (between England and Australia), toured New Zealand and played two drawn tests. In the first test the English cricketer Walter Hammond scored a double century, and in the second, 336 not out. This was the highest test score at the time.

The New Zealanders returned to England in 1937, drawing two tests but losing the second, which at one stage they had looked like winning.

The first decade of New Zealand test cricket showed promise but no victory. The most proficient test pioneers were Stewie Dempster (batsman), Giff Vivian (all rounder), Tom Lowry (captain), and Jack Cowie (fast-medium bowler).

How to cite this page:

Don Neely, 'Cricket - International cricket before the Second World War', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/cricket/page-5 (accessed 19 November 2019)

Story by Don Neely, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Apr 2016