On the 6th of May 1934, delegates from each of New Zealand’s provincial centres were invited to a meeting in Oamaru with the intention of establishing a New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council (NZWCC).
There had been a steady increase in the number of women playing the game since the first interprovincial match in 1910, with the Amalgamated Theatres Shield being the centrepiece of the provincial game prior to the Council’s foundation. After the NZWCC was established, progress was quick in organising competition with the English encouraged here for a tour in 1935.
The 1935 English side had already planned to visit Australia before their trip was extended to include New Zealand. It’s remarkable in today’s sporting environment that the team had to pay its own way to Australia, and then the extra to add on the New Zealand tour. The NZWCC looked to help out their visitors by billeting players and providing them with a portion of the gate takings from the tour. They also ensured a hefty amount of sightseeing was included in the New Zealand experience.
When the English players left Australia in January 1935, it was 6 months since they had left England. Their arrival in Auckland was delayed by a day, further cramming the schedule for the tour and forcing the players straight off the boat and onto Eden Park to face Auckland. There didn’t appear to be any ill-effects from their journey as the English put on a brilliant display of “all-round cricket ability” that would’ve done “credit to the best of men’s teams”. The comparison to men’s cricket was regularly used in the New Zealand press since women were still developing their presence in the game – in England and Australia comparisons were slowly fading through years of high-quality competition.
Following the Auckland match, Betty Archdale, the English captain, proclaimed to the press that their opponents had “no need to be nervous” – she thought the Aucklanders were “quaking at the knees” when they came in to bat. In spite of this encouragement from the opposition, the provinces put up little resistance against a very good English side of experienced cricketers. As they travelled down the country, England drew with Auckland, Wanganui, Canterbury, Otago and Invercargill (who all had to follow-on before time ran out in the one-day matches), while Wellington were beaten by an innings and 75 runs. But England saved their best for last.
At Lancaster Park on February 16, 1935, the White Ferns made their first Test appearance. Where the tour matches were played on just one day, the Test was played over two days – giving England the time to push on for a huge victory by an innings and 337 runs. There were encouraging signs for the young New Zealanders, though: in the second innings Margaret Marks stoically batted for 145 minutes to make 23, while New Zealand improved on their first innings total of 44 by making 122 for 9 (captain Ruth Symons was absent injured).
Around 3000 spectators turned out for the match, proving that public interest in cricket was high in New Zealand at the time. While New Zealand would have to wait 13 years before playing another Test, the legacy of this English tour was felt in domestic cricket much sooner.
Following the tour, Mr Hallyburton Johnstone donated a shield in his name for competition amongst the provinces. Initially played for in 1936 on a challenge basis, the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield remained the premier women’s cricket trophy in New Zealand until 1982. In the 2017-18 season it returned to competition.