The first Test of the BLACKCAPS’ 2015 series against England was the 100th Test between the two sides and the 400th in BLACKCAPS’ history.
In 2018, England return to our shores to continue that tradition. With that tour on the horizon, and the anniversary of our first contest falling in January, we take a look back at the Test that started it all: New Zealand v England, January 10 1930.
In 1926 the Imperial Cricket Conference invited delegates from New Zealand, the West Indies and India to join the Conference’s existing nations, England, Australia and South Africa in Test cricket. When the decision was made, a New Zealand tour to the United Kingdom had already been arranged for 1927, but it was agreed that this tour would not include any Tests. The 1927 tourists “played an enterprising game” which was applauded throughout the UK and led to the decision to include three Test matches in England’s tour to New Zealand in the 1929-30 season.¹
When England (touring under the banner of the Marylebone Cricket Club, or MCC) arrived in Wellington on 10 December 1929, they were greeted with a civic reception led by Wellington’s deputy mayor and the Minister of Education (standing in for the Prime Minister, Joseph Ward). From Wellington, and their opening game at the Basin Reserve, the team toured the South Island, playing five matches from Nelson to Invercargill before the first Test began in Christchurch on 10 January 1930.
The New Zealand selectors had met in Wellington on 30 December 1929 to select their team. Settling on a final twelve, the chosen men were Tom Lowry, Jackie Mills, Stewie Dempster, Roger Blunt, Curly Page, Ken James, Ted Badcock, Bill Merritt, Alby Roberts, Matt Henderson, George Dickinson, with Eddie McLeod as 12th man. Henry Foley would replace Mills less than a week before the Test, although Mills would take his place in the second Test in Wellington. These two men could scarcely have had more contrasting debuts; Foley became the first New Zealand wicket to fall in Test cricket, while Mills would score a century on debut.
Ahead of the match, New Zealand media were excited for the ‘evenly matched’ sides to meet, claiming no game played in the country had aroused as much interest as this one. The experiences of the team during the 1927 tour had led to high expectations, particularly with Lowry’s experience playing First Class cricket in the UK and Dempster, Blunt and Page showing they were as good as anyone with the bat. All hope, however, would be gone by the end of the first day’s play.
After yesterday’s play the opinions held as to the strength of the visitors will need to be revised. – Press, 11 January 1930
Under an overcast sky with a bitterly cold southeasterly blowing, Tom Lowry won the toss for the New Zealanders and promptly chose to bat. One newspaper report recorded the play over the first 45 minutes of the Test as being ‘as sensational as anything ever seen in a big match in Christchurch’ as New Zealand fell to 15 for 3. In spite of the early wickets, Stewie Dempster was still at the crease and his presence always gave New Zealand fans hope. Unfortunately, he was bowled by Maurice Allom off the second ball of an over. Tom Lowry played and missed at the next ball, before being out LBW. Ken James was then caught from the fifth ball and Ted Badcock bowled off the sixth. Four wickets in five balls, including a hat-trick.
New Zealand recovered to make 112, largely thanks to Roger Blunt’s 45*, and then had to watch as England raced to 147 for 4 by the end of the day. The players got the weekend off as rain ruined any chance of play on Day 2 and Sunday was the scheduled rest day. When play resumed on the final day, England lost their last six wickets for 34 runs as Blunt followed up his batting effort with three wickets. Unfortunately, the New Zealanders faired little better in the second innings, making 131 and leaving England requiring 62 for victory. Although Blunt claimed both openers, England cantered to an 8-wicket win.
¹After the third Test in Auckland was reduced to one day of play by rain, a fourth Test was scheduled for the same venue.