New Zealand’s Best Test XI: From Reid to Hadlee

New Zealand’s Best Test XI: From Reid to Hadlee

62 years ago, on 13 March 1956 at Eden Park, Harry Cave, a right-arm medium pace bowler, steamed in and wicketkeeper Sam Guillen stumped Alf Valentine to dismiss the West Indies side for 77 in their second innings.The scenes that followed shortly were of eleven ecstatic Kiwis jumping around in jubilance. The monkey was off their backs. It was just the previous season that they had been dismissed for the still-uncontested lowly score of 26 in an innings and now they had broken their Test duck.

It had taken them 45 tests, 22 draws, 22 losses and 26 years to achieve what many dream of. New Zealand have surely come a long way after their maiden Test victory which was led by John Reid.

So, on the 62nd anniversary of their first Test win, I present my best New Zealand test XI:

1. Glenn Turner

One of the most prolific openers ever produced by the Island nation, he played just 41 tests with seven centuries to his name. A skilled practitioner of the art, he struck four double centuries in the West Indies in 1971-72. A penchant for stroke-making and run-scoring saw him accumulate over 34,000 runs in 455 First-Class matches comprising of 103 tons.

2. John Wright

First New Zealand batsman to pass 4000 test runs, this Kiwi southpaw had a full array of strokes in his repertoire to complement a stout defensive technique. He also happens to have scored a ton against all six of his Test opponents back then which was quite a rarity! With 23 half-centuries and 12 hundreds to his name, he put his tactical skills to full use after successive coaching stints with Kent, New Zealand and the Indian national team.

3. Stephen Fleming

One of the best captains to have led New Zealand in all the three formats of the game, Fleming is the most capped Test player in New Zealand cricketing history with a total of 111 tests under his name. Largely an on-side player, he could also pull the short ball effectively. One of the very few Kiwi batsmen to reach 7000 test runs, he was also known for his mature attitude on and off the field.
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4. Bert Sutcliffe

A beautiful stroke-maker who combined masterly footwork to drive, cut and hook the bowlers all around the park, Sutcliffe was also the fittest fielder back in the post-World War era. He played 42 tests making 2727 runs averaging 40.10. The left-handed batsman’s highest test score of 230 may not be remembered as much as his valiant 80 after being struck on the head by a Neil Adcock bouncer. Heavily bandaged, he defied all odds to help his side chase down a total of 180.

5. Martin Crowe

With a classic off-drive, Martin Crowe was regarded as New Zealand’s greatest batsman for his inbred game sense. With all the shots in his arsenal, he went on to play 77 tests for his country scoring 17 centuries and over 5000 test runs. He left his fans spellbound by striking a clean and classy knock of 299 versus Sri Lanka at Wellington.

6. Brendon McCullum

An explosive wicketkeeper-batsman in its true sense who not only changed the course of a match swiftly but also revamped the brand of cricket New Zealand played. He was the first Kiwi to score a triple hundred as he finished with 12 centuries and three scores of 150+. With 179 dismissals to his name, he has affected the second-highest number of dismissals by a Kiwi stumper.
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7. John Reid

The one who captained New Zealand to their first three test wins, many believed that he was a hostile and an aggressive batsman at a time when the country had very few outstanding cricketers. He was also an agile fielder who bowled aggressive medium-pace collecting 85 wickets in 58 tests. With 22 half-centuries and six centuries, he was a ‘modern-age’ all-rounder in an early generation of Test cricket in New Zealand.

8. Sir Richard Hadlee

A devastating fast bowler who swung the cherry a great deal, he was easily the greatest fast bowler to have played the game. He could extract pace and bounce even from dead pitches and his impact showed with 431 wickets from 86 tests. One of the most talked-of moments of his remains the one when he demolished the Aussies with a brutal 15-wicket haul in Brisbane in 1985-86.

9. Daniel Vettori

The youngest test cricketer to have played for New Zealand at the age of 18, he went on to carve out a successful career as a left-arm finger spinner with 362 wickets in 113 tests. His subtle variations using dip and flight made him the most celebrated Kiwi spinner of all time. Also a handy lower order batsman, he has six test centuries to his name. Batting at number 8, he scored over 4000 test runs.
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10. Shane Bond

New Zealand’s quickest and smartest new-ball bowler, his career was, unfortunately, marred by injuries. He could consistently clock speeds of 150-plus kph and would often make batsmen look amateur against him as he snarled them out with his toe-crushing Yorkers. Many believe that he was New Zealand’s best pace bowler in the post-Hadlee era.

11. Jack Cowie

According to Len Hutton, Cowie bowled with terrific pace off the pitch and possessed a lightning outswinger away from a right-handed batsman. Known for his strong-willed character, he took 114 wickets at 19.95 in the 1937 tour of England. With 20 5-wicket hauls in 84 First-Class matches, many consider Cowie as New Zealand’s first bowling superstar.

From Alf Valentine’s stumping to their first test win on Aussie soil in 26 years in 2011….From Hadlee’s 15-wicket haul in Brisbane to Kane Williamson’s six to seal a one-wicket victory versus Australia in Auckland….From Dipak Patel’s opening over exploits to Brendon McCullum’s powerplay shenanigans… From the famous underarm ball incident to Chris Cairns’ alleged match-fixing claims….From Bond’s hattrick versus Australia to Grant Elliot’s six to propel New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup final, New Zealand Cricket has seen it all and never ceases to amaze their fans all over the globe.

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