In 18th- and early 19th-century England many women played cricket, but this died out as cricket became increasingly identified with manliness. Women remained keen spectators and from the end of the 19th century women’s cricket revived in England, Australia and New Zealand.
The first New Zealand women’s interprovincial cricket tournament was staged in 1933 for the Hallyburton-Johnstone Shield. It continued until 1982. The games were played over two days.
One that got away
By 2014 New Zealand had never defeated England in a women’s test, but they should have done so at The Oval in Kennington, London in August 1966. Rain interfered throughout the game. New Zealand led by 70 runs when England began their second innings. Jocelyn Burley, a right-arm fast-medium bowler then captured seven wickets for 41, the best bowling for the Kiwis in a test. England were dismissed for 153 giving them a lead of 83. Because of the continual stoppages for rain, New Zealand were only able to score 35 runs without loss when the game ended.
The New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council was formed in 1934, and until 1992 the administration of women’s cricket was separate from men’s. In February 1935 at Lancaster Park a touring England side overwhelmed New Zealand in their first test match.
In 1954 the New Zealand women toured England, playing 19 games, including three tests. Team members had to make their own touring uniforms from a set of patterns and raise money to pay for their transport and accommodation.
After 1935 New Zealand women played only 45 test cricket matches, the last a one-off game in 2004. Their only victories came in 1972 and were over South Africa and Australia. Their victory over Australia in Melbourne by 143 runs was the first time New Zealand had defeated Australia in a cricket test – men’s or women’s.
The women’s team has been defeated 10 times, but only three times since 1972. Most of the matches, predominantly against England and Australia, have been draws.
The White Ferns’s victory in the 2000 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup was an exciting one. At the BIL Oval, Lincoln, batting first against Australia, New Zealand were dismissed for 184 with the leading scorer Kathryn Ramel 41. The Australian captain Belinda Clark guided her team with a splendid 91. Australia required five runs off the last over. The first ball of the over from Clare Nicholson was nicked to Rebecca Rolls and New Zealand were the ecstatic winners by four runs.
In 1973 the first Women’s Cricket World Cup took place and was won by England. This popularised one-day cricket so that it began to dominate international and domestic women’s cricket. Test cricket became a rarity.
To encourage one-day cricket and prepare New Zealand players for the World Cup, in 1981 the Hallyburton-Johnstone competition changed from two-day games to two rounds of 60 overs games.
In 1986 the Shell Rose Bowl for trans-Tasman competition was inaugurated, and in February 2012 the 100th completed game for the Rose Bowl was played. Australia has won 71 times and New Zealand 29.
In April 2016 New Zealand had won 146 and lost 142 of its completed one-day matches. The White Ferns' record in Twenty20 internationals was 46-40.
New Zealand hosted the third ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in 1982 and the seventh in 2000, when the White Ferns won the cup for the first time. New Zealand will host the tournament again in 2021.
In 1992 New Zealand Cricket Inc. was formed, combining the administration of men’s and women’s cricket. The national women’s team was named the White Ferns at the same time as the men became the Blackcaps.
New Zealand women’s cricket has had some fine players:
- The wicketkeeper Bev Brentnall had an outstanding tour of Australia and South Africa in 1972, taking 25 catches and making 37 stumpings.
- Trish McKelvey became the first New Zealand women’s test centurion when she made 155 not out against England at the Basin Reserve in 1969. Then in January 1972 she made 117 not out against South Africa in Cape Town. She was the captain on both occasions.
- In a test against Australia played in Melbourne in 1979, the New Zealand right-arm leg-spinner Jackie Lord captured 10 wickets in the game, six for 119 and four for 18.
- Debbie Hockley represented Canterbury at age 15 and played her first test for New Zealand at 16. She became the first woman to score 1,000 test runs. In five World Cups between 1982 and 2000 she scored 1,351 runs, the most scored in this competition. She is one of women’s cricket’s greatest batsmen; and in 1998 was named New Zealand Cricketer of the Year – the first time in the history of cricket a woman player has taken a top national award.
- Kirsty Flavell became the first woman to score a double century in women’s test cricket, when she made 204 against England at Scarborough in 1996. New Zealand’s 517 was their highest test score.