New Zealand cricket

Page 5 – Playing Australia

It has often been said that New Zealanders would celebrate beating Australians at just about anything. Rivalry with our nearest neighbour has always been intense. While we have often regarded England as a kind of parent figure, the Australians have been more like an older sibling that hasn't always taken us seriously.

It is hardly surprising that New Zealand's early taste of international cricket involved playing various Australian state teams or Australian XIs. The first New Zealand representative team played New South Wales at Lancaster Park from 15 February 1894. New Zealand lost by 160 runs, but gained revenge two years later by defeating New South Wales at the same venue by 142 runs.

For the next half century contact with Australia was limited to matches against state sides and the occasional Australian XI. Australians, generally, did not rate New Zealand as good enough to play full tests, so the first official test match was not played until March 1946, at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. Australian views seemed valid: the New Zealanders were bowled out for 42 and 54, losing by an innings and 103 runs in 1½ days. The next test between the two countries was not played until 1973.

The frequency of matches between the two countries has increased dramatically since then. The growth of the one-day international game (ODI) culminated in a regular series for the Chappell–Hadlee Cup, named after two famous cricketing families, the Chappells of Australia and Hadlees of New Zealand.

Memorable moments against Australia

Australia has dominated the exchanges with New Zealand at test and one-day levels. After the first test of the 2011 series in Australia things appeared to be following a familiar pattern when the Australians won in Brisbane by 9 wickets. New Zealand fought back in dramatic fashion in the second test in Hobart to win by 7 runs. This was New Zealand's first test win on Australian soil since Perth in November, 1985. Hobart was only New Zealand's eighth victory in 52 tests played between the two nations and only the third time New Zealand has been victorious in Australia. Australia has won 26 of these matches with the rest being drawn. In one day cricket New Zealand has fared little better with New Zealand winning roughly 30% of the more than 100 one-day internationals played between the two nations.  

Beating Australia in a test for the first time, 1974
After suffering two heavy test defeats in Australia in January, the New Zealanders triumphed by five wickets in a relatively low-scoring match at Lancaster Park in March 1974. This was a strong Australian team. The win was set up by a century in each innings by the enigmatic Glenn Turner and a good all-round bowling effort in which the Hadlee brothers, Richard and Dayle, took 12 wickets between them.

The underarm incident, 1981

Trans-Tasman cricket contests are overshadowed by the unprecedented events of 1 February 1981. New Zealand needed a six from the final ball to tie the match at the MCG. It was an unlikely prospect on one of the world's largest grounds, but Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand's no. 10 batsman, Brian McKechnie. This was, at the time, within the rules, if not the spirit, of the game. In one of the great sporting understatements, the television commentator and ex-Australian cricket captain, Bill Lawry, initially described the impending delivery as 'possibly a little bit disappointing'. Vilified by New Zealand (and many Australian) supporters for their actions, the Chappells later stated that they regretted them, with Greg Chappell claiming that the stress of the occasion had got the better of him. 

Lance Cairns and Excalibur, 1983

New Zealand lost the second final of the ODI World Series by a massive 149 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on 13 February 1983, but a cult hero was born when Lance Cairns went down swinging. Wielding a heavy bat called Excalibur, Cairns smashed six huge sixes (one of them using only one hand) off the Australian quick bowlers, thrilling the huge crowd and commentators with his power hitting. Big hitting of this nature has become commonplace in modern ODIs, but these exploits (at one of the biggest grounds in the world) ensured Lance Cairns would become a New Zealand cricketing legend. His son Chris went on to become one of the greatest all-rounders in the New Zealand game.

First test victory on Australian soil, 1985

The first test at Brisbane in November 1985 will be remembered for the first-innings bowling display by Richard Hadlee. One of the finest fast bowlers in cricketing history, Hadlee mesmerised the Australian batsmen with pace and movement to capture 9 wickets for 52. The New Zealand total of 553 included centuries by John Reid and Martin Crowe. Despite an Australian fightback in their second innings, New Zealand not only won their first test in Australia but did so by a massive innings and 41 runs. 

A first test series win in Australia, 1985
After New Zealand's victory in Brisbane in the first match of the 1985 series, the Australians bounced back to win the second test at Sydney, setting up the decider at Perth in late November and early December. Eleven wickets for Richard Hadlee and fine half-centuries by Bruce Edgar and Martin Crowe saw the New Zealanders clinch the series 2–1.

Winning a test series against  Australia for the first time in New Zealand, 1986
New Zealand's dominance over Australia in the mid-1980s continued when they followed up the historic 1985 series in Australia with another triumph at home. Victory in the third test at Eden Park in March 1986 came largely as a result of a tremendous spell of spin bowling by John Bracewell (the current New Zealand coach), who took 6 for 32 in the second innings to dismiss the Australians for a meagre 103. Bracewell picked up 10 wickets for the match.

Mark Greatbatch's marathon in Perth, 1989
It is one of the unique features of the longer version of cricket that two teams can spend five days playing without achieving a definite result. To the uninitiated this might seem like one of the game's great weaknesses, but to the purists it is part of what makes cricket special and unique. The one-off test between New Zealand and Australia in Perth in November 1989 is a prime example of how a record stating 'match drawn' can fail to capture the drama of test-match cricket.

Chasing Australia's imposing 521, New Zealand was forced to follow-on early on day four. In extreme heat and up against a strong home bowling line-up, it would take something special to avoid a heavy defeat. That something came in the form of New Zealand's number three batsman, Mark Greatbatch, who took everything the Australians could throw at him for 485 deliveries in a marathon 655-minute stay at the crease. He ended the match on 146 not out, having almost single-handedly steered New Zealand to a meritorious draw when all seemed lost.

New Zealand whitewash Australia 3–0 in Chappell–Hadlee ODI series, 2007
Australia chose to rest key players like captain Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist to keep them fresh for the upcoming 2007 World Cup, and several other players were out injured. Some people argued this was an understrength Australian team, but others pointed out that Australians often bragged about the depth of talent in their domestic game.

The final match in the series, at Hamilton on 20 February, was one of the most thrilling one-day games ever. New Zealand chased down a massive 346 with one wicket and three balls to spare. This was the second-highest successful run chase in ODI history, eclipsing the 337/5 the New Zealanders had posted just two days earlier at Auckland's Eden Park. The series was especially significant in terms of records between the two countries as the New Zealand team had won the first match in Wellington by 10 wickets – the heaviest defeat ever experienced by an Australian ODI team.

The series also showed the growth of big hitting since the days when New Zealander Lance Cairns and his bat Excalibur thrilled the crowds with sixes. A total of 26 sixes were hit in the Hamilton match.

Doug Bracewell's 6-40 spearheads dramatic comeback in Hobart, 2011
Bracewell's match-winning spell of 6 for 40 in the second innings of this low-scoring affair saw the New Zealanders secure an unlikely victory. Bracewell's return, in only his third test match, was the second-best New Zealand innings figures on Australian soil, after Richard Hadlee's 9 for 52 in Brisbane in 1985.

The victory was all the more remarkable given New Zealand was bowled out in the first innings of the test for a paltry 150 runs. This would prove to be one of the lowest first-innings scores from which a team has won in test history. In the final innings the Australians needed 241 to win and shortly before lunch on the fourth day were well placed at 159-2. Bracewell and his partner in crime Tim Southee then took the match by the scruff of the neck with a devastating spell that reduced the Australians to 199-9. Some late heroics by Australian opener David Warner and number 11 batsman Nathan Lyon threatened to carry the day, before Bracewell clean bowled Lyon to pull off a nail-biting win.

How to cite this page

'Playing Australia', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Dec-2016