Rob Franks is, in his own words a “cricket fanatic – spectator, viewer, collector, researcher & writer.” On February 2 1973, it was as the first of these that he sat on the bank at the Basin Reserve, watching New Zealand play the first Test of their series against Pakistan. In itself, the game was fairly unremarkable – a draw highlighted by the bat of Sadig Mohammad. Today though, we recognise the Test for a different reason as it saw the debut of a young fast-bowling all-rounder from Canterbury. The debut of Richard Hadlee.
The Basin Reserve was packed for the third day of the first Test match against the visiting Pakistan team on Sunday 4th February 1973. It was a breezy partly-sunny Wellington day and a large crowd had assembled. Glenn Turner was 41 not out overnight and the possibility of a century had no doubt boosted the attendance. This milestone did not eventuate however as Turner’s wicket fell early in the first session.
It was in the days before the R.H. Vance stand was erected and the pitch was located on a north-south angle. This arena was the backdrop for Richard Hadlee’s first innings, in the 86 tests he went on to play for New Zealand. A newcomer had arrived on the scene and I was lucky enough to witness a rawboned and youthful Hadlee in action. He sported sideburns and a mop of dark curly hair. Slim and athletic, the new all-rounder gave the impression of being energetic and possessing a competitive spirit.
The tricky Safraz Nawaz was bowling from the southern end of the Basin with the new ball. There were plenty of bouncers dished up. In the days before helmets were introduced, the head-high deliveries drew boos from a section in the crowd. The Cantabrian slashed his way to 46 at a run-a-ball pace. I recollect that almost every shot was carved through point or clipped over the slip cordon into the white picket fence. His action-packed and attacking approach hinted at a batting talent that would entertain cricket followers in later years.
While Hadlee’s knock was memorable, a highly amusing incident also took place which is unlikely to be repeated in modern day international cricket. Earlier on in the day Mark Burgess and Brian Hastings had put on a century partnership for the fourth wicket. The field had progressively spread out and Sadiq Mohammed the dashing Pakistani opening batsman was relocated to a fielding position at long off. A group of fans in front of where I was sitting had been drinking copious quantities of beer during the day. A question was repeatedly put to the boundary fieldsman “wanna beer Sadiq?” The Pakistani finally relented and wandered over to take a long swig of ale from a can, much to the appreciative cheers from surrounding onlookers.
An over or two later a huge skier was launched towards the boundary fence. The ball went high up in the direction of Sadiq. He waited underneath, fumbled the ball and finally dropped the catch – much to the amusement of his new group of fans. The drink must have had a sudden effect! A centurion on the opening day of the match, poor old Sadiq received an animated dressing-down from the captain Intikhab Alam.
When the kiwis had been in the field the previous day I recall the loping giant Richard Collinge bowling downwind off a lengthy run-up. Behind the stumps was the fair-headed Ken Wadsworth and alongside in the slips stood John Parker, generously covered with white zinc cream on his nose and proudly wearing the black cap with the silver fern.
Great memories of entertaining days at the cricket in the early 1970s – before helmets, short-pitched bowling restrictions, drink carts and in-depth television coverage arrived on the scene.
This article first appeared in the Auckland Cricket Society magazine several years ago, our thanks to Rob Franks for allowing us to reproduce it here. If you’re keen to hear more from Rob, follow him on Twitter.