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by Don Neely

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.

What is cricket?

Based on participation and spectator interest, cricket is New Zealand’s leading summer game.

The mysteries of cricket

Cricket is often confusing to those unfamiliar with it. Its rules are referred to as ‘laws’. They are subtle and complex, and often expressed in unique terminology. Cricket is also obsessed with statistics, and the ways they are formatted and abbreviated can be mystifying. Fortunately there are a number of good glossaries and beginners’ explanations available online.

What is cricket?

Cricket is a game of skill and strategy played between two teams of 11 players. Each team takes its turn to bat while the other team bowls and fields. Each turn is called an innings.

At any given time there are two batsmen: one striking (facing the bowler) and one non-striking. They stand at opposite ends of the pitch in front of the wickets (or stumps). The pitch is an area of play 22 yards long (20.12 metres).

The striking batsman uses the bat to prevent a bowled ball hitting the wicket, and if possible hits the ball away from fielders, giving both batsmen time to score runs. To score a run for their team, the batsmen run past each other to the other ends of the pitch, swapping places. Hitting the ball to, or over the boundary of the playing field earns multiple numbers of runs (‘fours’ and ‘sixes’).

The main ways the opposing team dismisses the batsmen, putting them ‘out’ and stopping them scoring runs are by:

  • bowling them (hitting their wicket with a bowled ball)
  • catching a ball the batsman has hit, on the full (without letting it bounce)
  • leg before wicket (the ball hits the pad directly in front of the stumps)
  • running them out – putting down their wicket while no part of a batsman’s body or bat is behind a line (the crease) at the end of the pitch
  • stumping them – the batsman moves outside their crease and misses the ball, and the wicketkeeper removes the bails while holding the ball and before the bat is re-grounded.

Each innings continues until either 10 batsmen have been dismissed or the batting side declares the innings finished. At the end of the game, the team with the most runs wins.

There are several ways cricket results are expressed. For example, if the side fielding last wins, the result is expressed as a win by however many more runs they scored than the opposing team did, or by an innings if the winning team scores more runs in one innings than their opponents did in two completed innings.

If the team batting last wins, the result is expressed as a win by however many wickets they had left to fall. In this context ‘wicket’ refers to an individual batsman’s turn. When a batsman is out, he has ‘lost his wicket’.

If neither of the teams completes their innings twice the result is a draw.

Normally, and always in first-class and test matches, both teams can bat twice. In one-day cricket each team has one innings of 50 overs. An over is a unit of six legitimate balls bowled by one bowler. In Twenty20 cricket each team has one innings of 20 overs.

Two umpires ensure the match is conducted in accordance with cricket’s 42 laws.

Cricket in the 21st century

Participation statistics

Cricket is played throughout New Zealand in the summer months, informally at the beach and park, as well as in structured school, club, provincial and international competitions. In 2007–8, 6.8% of all New Zealanders aged 16 or above (over 220,000 people) played cricket at least once. This made it the 14th most popular recreational activity.

A gradual introduction

New Zealand cricket has a programme to introduce children to the game. Have-a-go cricket teaches six- to eight-year-olds the basic skills using plastic equipment. Kiwi cricket, for seven- to 10-year-olds, involves a simple version of the game. Nine- to 13-year-olds begin to use the hard ball. Children’s teams include both boys and girls in mixed teams.

Of those who played, 78.5% were male, and over two-thirds were aged 16 to 34. However, many people continued to play cricket into their 40s, sometimes in ‘golden oldies’ competitions.

Reflecting the strength of cricket on the Indian subcontinent, Asian New Zealanders were over-represented among cricket players. Pacific people whose cultures have their own form of cricket were also well represented. Māori were under-represented.

In 2009–10 there were 107,271 people involved in organised school or club teams. These consisted of 30,349 adults, 21,228 college players, and 55,694 of primary school age, with teams usually selected on a gender basis.

A century to protect the head

In 1978 cricketers started wearing helmets to protect their heads against fast balls. It had been exactly 100 years since they began wearing boxes to protect their genitals. In the interim other parts of their bodies had also been given protection: legs (with pads), fingers (with gloves) and torsos (with chest protectors).

Professional players

Before the Second World War those who played for New Zealand were amateur club cricketers with other full-time employment. They shared bats and pads from a team bag and provided their own clothing. They were paid a small daily allowance.

By 2012 the top players made a full-time career out of cricket, playing wherever it was summer, usually in countries settled by the British. They could earn $6,000 for one test match and sometimes over $1 million for eight weeks playing in an IPL (Indian Premier League) tournament in India.

They were assisted by full-time coaches, excellent facilities, and medical and fitness trainers using the latest technology. Retired players were often sought after for media work.


During the 2008–09 season over 200,000 people attended international cricket matches in New Zealand. Cricket was the subject of more than 25.2 million viewer hours on SKY television, and radio broadcasts and internet ball-by-ball coverage were also popular.

The most watched forms of cricket were the shorter forms including one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket. Five-day international matches had become less popular, and fewer people watched provincial or club games.

Early history to 1894


By the time the British began to settle in New Zealand, cricket was well established in England, and its governing body was the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London.

While shepherds watched their flocks

Cricket probably evolved in the late 12th century in the English counties of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey. It is believed that to break the boredom of watching their flocks, shepherds lobbed stones or hunks of matted wool at a companion who protected himself with a club cut off a tree. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘cricce’ means a crooked staff.

Aristocrats had begun paying cricketers in the 18th century, and cricket was strong in public schools and universities. It had also spread to villages and local clubs, and county cricket was beginning. The rules were established, straight bats and three stumps had become standard and teams normally had 11 members. Cricket was regarded as not only a game, but a system of manly ethics which expressed English superiority.

The first New Zealand games

In 1832 the missionary Henry Williams encouraged boys in the Church Missionary Society school at Paihia in the Bay of Islands to play cricket. Three years later Charles Darwin watched a game at nearby Waimate North.

Just over a year after their arrival in 1840 the settlers in Wellington were playing practice games, and in November 1842 the Wellington Cricket Club was formed. By 1851 cricket had also been played in Nelson, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch. However, in the 1840s and 1850s games were spasmodic and, although cricket appeared wherever the English settled, there were few regular contests.

What makes a team?

The composition of cricket teams in the early years revealed social distinctions. Some games pitted married men against singles – occasionally described as ‘bachelors versus benedicts’. Other games were played between military and civilians. Yet others highlighted class divisions. The first game in Christchurch in 1851 saw the local club (11 of whom were described in the score sheet as ‘Esquire’) play against a ‘Working Men’s XI’1.

Promoting the game

Initially gentlemen took the lead in organising and playing games. In Christchurch the first game was played in 1851 on Canterbury Anniversary Day (December 16), and involved a team led by the colony’s founder, John Robert Godley. Over the next five years the 41 players of the Christchurch Cricket Club included 15 members of the Provincial Council.

In the North Island the occasional games often involved British soldiers stationed in New Zealand. Their presence helped explain the increase in North Island cricket in the 1860s.

Growth further south was partly due to the gold rushes. Miners played cricket in Central Otago, and the wealth brought to Dunedin by the rushes allowed the draining of the southern Oval and the erection of a grandstand.

In 1864, the entertainment promoter Shadrach Jones enticed George Parr’s All England XI to come over from Australia and play an Otago team of 22 and later a Canterbury team of 22. Otago also played Canterbury in the country’s first domestic first-class game (a game between teams that have been designated by cricket’s governing body to meet a particular standard).

Progress against difficulties

Compared with rugby, which only needed a paddock and a pig’s bladder, playing cricket in colonial New Zealand was difficult. The rainy climate restricted play and made grounds rough and muddy. There were no rollers and mowers until late in the century and English grasses had to be sown. There was also little in the way of equipment at first, and there were no pads or gloves.

As cities grew, clubs became more established and cricket gained popularity. This created a shortage of grounds, especially in Wellington. The 1877 and 1881 Public Reserves acts prevented clubs charging admission. Nonetheless funds had to be poured into improving grounds at Carisbrook in Otago, the Basin Reserve in Wellington, and Lancaster Park in Canterbury.

The players

Early cricket games were as much social occasions as serious contests. After overarm bowling was legalised in 1864 many still bowled using less effective underarm or round-arm techniques. There was also plenty of alcohol and gambling at games.

The length of games and the expense of travel restricted the involvement of the working class. The Shops and Shop Assistants Act 1894 prescribing a Saturday half-holiday helped; but cricket remained a largely middle-class game. There were few Māori players and opposition to the suggestion that women might play.

Believing that cricket was an English game which trained boys in discipline and moral character, the elite secondary schools such as Christ’s College, Wanganui Collegiate and Wellington College were significant cricket nurseries.

The path to a national game

By the early 1880s there were 60 cricket teams in Dunedin.

Trade and business teams began in the cities, and with improvements in roads and railways, provincial games became more regular. By 1883 every main centre had established a provincial association to organise these contests.

Visiting teams from Australia and England received elaborate public receptions and created considerable spectator interest. Between 1876 and 1894 four English teams, three Australian, one Tasmanian and two private New South Wales teams toured most areas of New Zealand.

The first representative New Zealand team played New South Wales in Christchurch on 15 February 1894. This inspired the establishment in December that year of the New Zealand Cricket Council in Christchurch – where it remained. The Council’s job was to arrange international and provincial matches. It adopted the Marylebone Cricket Council’s official rules and chose the silver fern as its insignia.

By the 1890s cricket was considered to be New Zealand’s national game.

    • Lyttelton Times, 13 December 1851 , p. 1 Back

Provincial cricket

Games between provinces were played spasmodically from January 1860 when Auckland beat Wellington by four wickets. Otago against Canterbury was the most frequent 19th-century contest.

Establishing regular competition

The founding of the New Zealand Cricket Council gave provincial cricket a surer footing. In 1906 it established the Plunket Shield competition between the four main provinces (Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago), along with Hawke’s Bay. The shield was named after the New Zealand governor of the time, Lord Plunket. The first game took place in December 1907.

The council also set up the Hawke Cup for minor associations, with the first game in March 1911.

Both competitions were initially on a challenge basis, but in 1921 the Plunket Shield became a regular round-robin format between the four main provinces, excluding Hawke’s Bay. This inspired greater public interest and during the inter-war years crowd attendances were considerable.

For the 1950–51 season Central Districts was added to the Plunket Shield teams. Northern Districts joined in the 1956–57 season.

What’s in a name?

In 1998 the six men’s provincial teams adopted nicknames: Auckland Aces, Northern Knights, Central Stags, Wellington Firebirds, Canterbury Wizards and Otago Volts. In the same year, following a competition, the New Zealand men’s team became the Blackcaps and the women’s team the White Ferns.

The Plunket Shield

For the 1975–76 season the Plunket Shield was replaced by the Shell Trophy. In 2001–2, reflecting a change in sponsor, it became the State Championship. In the 2009–10 season the Plunket Shield was restored.

Between 1921 and 2011, excluding the Second World War years when first-class cricket was suspended, Auckland won this competition 22 times, with particular success in the 1930s and 2000s. Wellington won 20 times, with success in the 1920s and early 1980s. Canterbury won 17 times, most notably in the mid-1990s. Otago won 13 times, especially in the 1970s. Central Districts won eight times, Northern Districts won seven times, and Central and Northern shared the 1991–92 trophy.

Outstanding feats in provincial cricket

  • December 1889: Albert Moss playing for Canterbury against Wellington became the only New Zealand bowler to take 10 wickets in an innings. It was also the only time in the world a bowler had achieved the feat on debut.
  • January 1936: Bill Carson and Paul Whitelaw set a world first-class record for the third wicket, adding 445 for Auckland against Otago.
  • January 1948: Bert Sutcliffe and Don Taylor, opening for Auckland against Canterbury, created a world record of a double-century opening partnership in each innings – 220 and 286.
  • January 1963: John Reid hit 15 sixes in his innings of 296 for Wellington against Northern Districts – a first-class world record.
  • November 2009: In a game against Central Districts, Peter McGlashan, Northern Districts wicketkeeper, became the first first-class player to take 12 catches in a game.
  • April 2010: Playing against Wellington, Otago left-arm fast-medium bowler Neil Wagner became the first first-class bowler to take five wickets in one over.

At 1 September 2014 Mathew Sinclair of Central Districts had scored the most runs in provincial cricket (9,148), while Ewen Chatfield of Wellington had taken the most wickets (403). The highest individual score was Bert Sutcliffe’s 385 for Otago against Canterbury in December 1952 (out of a team score of 500).

Canterbury amassed 777 in the Shell Trophy final in March 1996, the highest team score in New Zealand first-class cricket history.

International cricket before the Second World War

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).

Test cricket 1945–1979

Highs and lows, 1945–60

Post-war test cricket began disastrously for New Zealand in March 1946 with scores of 42 and 54 in a one-off test against Australia. Australia won by an innings, and there would be no more tests against Australia until 1973.

Wounded heroes

New Zealand and South Africa played a dramatic game on Boxing Day 1953 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. At 3 a.m. news came that the fiancée of the New Zealand fast bowler Bob Blair had died in the Tangiwai rail disaster. He was not expected to play.

As the game progressed, the New Zealand batsmen were repeatedly hit by the South African speedster Neil Adcock. Bert Sutcliffe’s ear lobe was split and he was taken to hospital. He returned to play, head swathed in bandages, and when the ninth wicket fell, to the crowd’s amazement, Blair appeared. Sutcliffe launched a fierce attack – three sixes in an over – and the pair added 33 runs in 10 minutes.

The nation’s credibility was restored with a successful tour of England in 1949. All four three-day tests were drawn. Left-handed batters Bert Sutcliffe and Martin Donnelly provided the New Zealand’s team’s highlights. Sutcliffe’s aggregate of 2,627 runs on tour was second only to Australian cricketer Don Bradman’s famous 2,960 in 1930. Donnelly became the first New Zealander to score a test double century – 206 at Lord’s Cricket Ground. (A century is 100 or more runs in a single innings.)

The 1950s saw more lows. There were defeats at home by England in 1951, 1955 and 1958; by the West Indies in 1952 and 1956; and by South Africa in 1953. In March 1955, facing a deficit of 46 in the second test against England, the New Zealand team was dismissed for 26 runs, the lowest total test innings of any team ever.

There were also crushing defeats overseas. In 1953–54 South Africa defeated New Zealand with four victories. From October 1955 to January 1956 New Zealand embarked on an arduous tour of Pakistan and India where they lost four of the eight tests and suffered debilitating stomach disorders. On the 1958 tour of England, New Zealand lost four tests and only reached 200 in one innings.

However, on 13 March 1956, after 45 tests and 26 years of earnest and occasionally humiliating endeavours, history was made in the fourth test against the West Indies at Eden Park when New Zealand won by 190 runs. It was the country’s first cricket test victory.

Respectability in the 1960s and 1970s

During the 1960s and 1970s New Zealand played 83 test matches, winning nine, losing 37 and drawing 37. There were fewer embarrassing defeats; many of the draws were deserved; and New Zealand cricket gained international respect. There were some fine performances.

  • In a shared series (two tests each) in South Africa in 1961–62, New Zealand gained its first overseas test victories. On tour the captain and right-hand batsman John Reid set a record aggregate for a touring batsman with 1,915 runs and seven centuries.
  • An arduous tour covered England, India and Pakistan in 1969. In England, Dick Motz became the first New Zealand bowler to capture 100 test wickets. The test series in India was drawn 1–1. The win in the second test at Nagpur was New Zealand’s first on the subcontinent. They also defeated Pakistan 1–0, New Zealand’s first test series win on overseas soil.
  • There were five drawn tests in the West Indies in 1972. Glenn Turner scored the most runs for New Zealand in a series (672). When he scored 223 not out in the first test he became the only New Zealand batsman to bat through a test innings on two occasions.
  • In the first test in England in 1973 New Zealand faced the huge total of 479 to win. Playing a heroic ‘captain’s knock’ of 176, Bevan Congdon took New Zealand to within 39 runs of victory.
  • In March 1974 Glenn Turner’s 101 and 110 not out steered New Zealand to their first test win over Australia – by five wickets.

On 15 February 1978, after playing 48 tests against England, the New Zealand cricket team ‘climbed its Everest’. It finally beat England by 72 runs at the Basin Reserve. Richard Hadlee captured seven wickets for 23 runs in the second innings.

Players of the 1960s and 1970s

There were some fine cricketers during these years. Batsmen John Reid and Graham Dowling scored well in the 1960s. Bevan Congdon, Mark Burgess and, above all, the consummate professional Glenn Turner scored well in the 1970s.

Successful bowlers included the spinner Hedley Howarth and the fast men Dick Motz, Bruce Taylor, Dick Collinge and Richard Hadlee – who proved to be one of the great bowlers of all time. When Hadlee retired he had taken the most wickets (431), the most five-wicket bags (36), and the most ten-wicket bags (9) in test cricket. He was an aggressive and enterprising left-handed batsman.

Test cricket after 1980

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.

One-day cricket

One-day cricket, sometimes called limited-overs cricket, began in the 1960s. Each team has one innings. In the early years this varied between 40, 50 or 60 overs; but from the 1980s it became standardised as a 50-overs competition.

The first official competition was the Gillette Cup in England in 1963. From 1969 to 1976 New Zealand participated in knockout competitions involving the Australian states, and won three times.

A New Zealand limited-overs competition between the six provinces was introduced in the 1970–71 season and by 2014, 913 matches had been played. Canterbury had the best record.

One-Day International cricket

A One-Day International (ODI) is a form of one-day game played between international teams.

On 5 January 1971 a crowd of 46,000 watched the first ODI between Australia and England. Two years later, on 11 February 1973, New Zealand played their first ODI at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, beating Pakistan.

The underarm incident

Possibly the most infamous incident in limited-overs cricket occurred on 1 February 1981 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia. Australia was playing New Zealand in the third of five matches in the finals of the World Series Cup. So far the series was locked 1–1. By the last ball of the final over, New Zealand needed six runs to tie. Australian captain Greg Chappell had the bowler, his brother Trevor, bowl that ball underarm along the ground to prevent a six being hit.

Although this was technically legal, it was seen as unfair play. The New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie threw down his bat in disgust and New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon famously said it was ‘appropriate that the Australian team was wearing yellow’. 1 As a result of this incident, underarm bowling in limited-overs cricket was banned by the International Cricket Council.

World Series Cricket

In 1979 an Australian entrepreneur, Kerry Packer, revitalised cricket by devising a new commercial, one-day game for television. World Series Cricket featured coloured clothing rather than traditional cricket whites, along with night games under lights, white balls, black sight screens, and numerous television cameras. Advertising dollars poured in and television ratings for cricket games soared. Cricket players began to earn large sums.

World Series Cricket had a strong and rapid influence on all ODI cricket, and many of its features were adopted as standard.

The first time New Zealand played in coloured clothing was in Australia during the 1980–81 season. They wore a beige uniform with dark brown trimmings. The game was beamed by satellite into New Zealand living rooms. Public interest rose and in February 1982, 43,000 spectators attended an ODI between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland.

In February 1996 the first New Zealand night-time ODI, played under floodlights, took place at McLean Park, Napier. Since then most international games in New Zealand have been at night.

The ICC World Cup

The premier men’s ODI tournament is the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup. The first tournament was played in England in 1975, and New Zealand reached the semi-final. The matches consisted of 60 overs a side, but in later World Cup tournaments the number of overs was reduced to 50.

By 2019 New Zealand had competed in all 12 ICC cricket world cups and reached the semi-finals on eight occasions. In 2015 and 2019 the Black Caps went one better by reaching the final. In 2019 they tied with England over 50 overs and then in a single 'Super Over' intended to find a winner, with England declared champions because they had scored more boundaries.

The 1992 tournament was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand created a World Cup record by winning their first seven games, before losing to Pakistan in a semi-final. The highlight was the unorthodox captaincy and exceptional batting of Martin Crowe. He scored 456 runs at an average of 114.00 with a strike rate of 90.66 and was named Player of the World Cup.

In October 2000 New Zealand won its first ODI tournament – the ICC Knockout in Kenya. The Black Caps won the final against India with two balls to spare. Chris Cairns scored 102 not out.

New Zealand’s record

New Zealand has proved a capable one-day cricket side. From 1973 to February 2016 New Zealand won 311 games against international opponents and lost 348. Excluding games against Australia, New Zealand has won more than it has lost, and its record against England is 41–36.

Retro fun

When Australia and New Zealand played the world’s first Twenty20 International at Eden Park on 17 February, 2005, the players dressed in the one-day uniforms of the 1980s. The New Zealanders dressed up as the ‘beige brigade’ and many had moustaches and long hair in the look of the period. Glenn McGrath pretended to bowl underarm in reference to the notorious incident in 1981.

Twenty20 cricket

For some years people had been trialling forms of cricket that would offer even faster-paced games that were exciting to a younger generation. In 2003 a 20-overs-per-side, inter-county competition was inaugurated in England – Twenty20 cricket. A game lasts less than three hours.

In February 2005 New Zealand and Australia played the first Twenty20 International at Eden Park. Since then the game has spread rapidly and become a feature of most international tours.

By April 2016 New Zealand had completed 91 Twenty20 games, winning 48 and losing 43.

    • Jo-Anne Rowney, BBC News Magazine, 13 July 2009. Back

Women’s cricket

Early years

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.

Test cricket

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 was defeated 10 times, but only three times since 1972. Most of the matches, predominantly against England and Australia, ended in draws.

Epic victory

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.

One-day cricket

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 2022.

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.


External links and sources

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Don Neely, 'Cricket', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 September 2021)

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