Story: Cricket

Page 7. Test cricket after 1980

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Success in the 1980s

New Zealand test cricket came of age in the 1980s. The New Zealand team played 59 tests, won 17 and lost only 15, with 27 games drawn. They were unbeaten at home, winning seven series and drawing four.

  • New Zealand won its first series at home in 1980 by beating the West Indies 1–0.
  • In August 1983 at Headingley, Leeds, New Zealand beat the English team on its own soil for the first time.
  • In February 1984 New Zealand beat England at Christchurch by an innings and in a total time of only 12 hours and one minute. For the first time in the 20th century England failed to reach three figures in either innings.
  • In February 1985 one of New Zealand’s most exciting test wins took place at Carisbrook in Dunedin. Requiring 278 runs to beat Pakistan, all appeared lost when No 11 Ewen Chatfield – a perennial ‘batting bunny’ (bad batsman) – joined Jeremy Coney with 50 still needed. Chatfield survived 84 balls and scored 21 not out, while Coney finished on 111 not out.
  • In November 1985 New Zealand beat Australia 2–1 in a series on Australian soil. In the first test in Brisbane Richard Hadlee captured nine wickets for 52 runs and six wickets for 71 runs. The nine for 52 was the best performance in an innings by a New Zealand bowler, as was his overall match performance of 15 for 123.
  • In 1986 New Zealand won its first series in England 1–0 and completed its tour of 15 matches unbeaten.

Success revolved around two of New Zealand’s finest cricketers, Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe. Hadlee was supported as a bowler by Ewen Chatfield; Crowe as a batsman by the openers John Wright and Bruce Edgar. Ian Smith was an excellent wicketkeeper, and the side was well captained by Geoff Howarth and Jeremy Coney.

Cult of youth

In February 1997 Stephen Fleming, aged 23 years and 319 days, became New Zealand’s youngest test captain. He went on to captain his country in 80 tests and score nine centuries. Two weeks earlier Daniel Vettori, aged 18 years and 10 days, had become New Zealand’s youngest test cricketer. He was a talented left-arm spinner and gutsy lower-order batsman who succeeded Fleming as captain of the Blackcaps.

Mixed results in the 1990s

In the 1990s the New Zealand men’s team suffered twice as many test losses (34) as they had wins (17). But the decade ended with a test series win in England including victories at Lord’s and the Oval, and a 2–0 defeat of the West Indies at home. This reflected the maturing captaincy of Stephen Fleming, the coaching of Steve Rixon and the management of John Graham.

The most notable individual achievement was batsman Martin Crowe’s New Zealand record of 299 runs scored against Sri Lanka in February 1991 while partnering batsman Andrew Jones. Between them Crowe and Jones also scored a test-partnership world record of 467 runs. Additionally, in that game New Zealand scored its highest innings total of 671 runs for four wickets.

Changing times, 2000–2014

The years from 2000 to 2014 appeared relatively successful for the men’s team (by then named the Blackcaps), with 31 wins, 47 losses and 29 draws. Until 2013 almost half the wins came against the two lowest-ranked test teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh; and more came in the early years of the decade than later. However, in the 2013–14 summer the Blackcaps defeated both the West Indies and India.

There were significant changes in test cricket. From 2001 drop-in portable pitches began to be used in New Zealand. There was also a changing tempo in test cricket, led by Australia. Batting became more aggressive. Shots developed for one-day matches were played with impunity. Wins were sought at the risk of loss, and it became common to have thrilling run chases.

There were other highlights during those years:

  • In November 2001, in a test against Australia in Perth, four New Zealand batsmen (Lou Vincent, Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Adam Parore) scored centuries in one innings.
  • In March 2002 Nathan Astle scored the fastest double century in tests (off 153 balls). His score of 222 was the highest test score by a New Zealander against England. It contained 11 sixes.
  • In December 2011, after being beaten by Australia in Brisbane by nine wickets, New Zealand won the second test in Hobart by seven runs. In a low-scoring game Doug Bracewell led the bowlers, with match figures of nine wickets for 60 runs. It was New Zealand’s first test win in Australia in 25 years.
  • In the series against India in February 2014, captain Brendon McCullum scored a double century in the first test, and New Zealand's first triple century and highest individual test score in the second.
How to cite this page:

Don Neely, 'Cricket - Test cricket after 1980', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/cricket/page-7 (accessed 19 June 2019)

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