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The Roar


A city of historic importance: Why a Black Caps win in Christchurch will mean more than just Trans-Tasman bragging rights

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10th March, 2024

If New Zealand are to grind out a tough and hard-fought victory in the second Test against Australia, perhaps they can draw some strength from history.

Indeed, Kiwis of a certain vintage will be very quick to remind Aussies that this week marks a significant anniversary of a ‘red-letter’ day.

It was 50 years ago that New Zealand recorded their first Test Cricket win over Australia.

To get an idea of why it meant so much to them, you have to go back to the chequered years before that 1974 triumph to know the undercurrent that Kiwis have always had with Australia and their cricket.

This angst was there long before the infamous 1981 MCG underarm incident.

It started when Australia played its first cricket Test match against their Trans-Tasman neighbours at the back end of the first summer after World War II – in March 1946 at Wellington’s Basin Reserve.

With 40-year-old legendary pre-war leggie Bill “Tiger” O’Reilly ripping through the hosts on a wet pitch with 5/14 and 3/19 in what was his last Test, New Zealand were rolled for 42 and 54 in reply to Australia’s 8d/199.


The match lasted just 518 minutes in only five sessions – and was all over by tea on the second day.

The defeat – and its manner – dictated Australia’s cricketing attitude towards New Zealand for the next 27 years.

In this period, Australia played – and toured – against all other available Test Cricket nations. All except one. You guessed it, New Zealand.

With the same logic that was used by the New South Wales Rugby Union against Queensland for a number of years during this same period, New Zealand were deemed not good enough to play Tests by Cricket Australia.

Instead, “Australian XI” teams – the equivalent of Australia A sides – were sent across the Tasman every few seasons for unofficial “Test” tours in the 20 years between 1949/50 and 1969/70.

New Zealand were also kindly invited by Cricket Australia to play the first six years of the then Australasian One Day Knockout competition (1969/70 to 1974/75) against the Australian State sides.


The Kiwis did well enough with their first two One Day Final wins to finally play Tests against Australia again – in back-to-back home and away three Test series in the summer of 1973/74.

The first three-Test series in Australia were won comfortably enough 2-0 by Ian Chappell’s men, although New Zealand may have got their historic win in the drawn Sydney Test if rain didn’t wash out the last day.

The First Test of the return series was a high-scoring draw on an autobahn of a pitch back at the Basin Reserve – 1455 runs scored for just 24 wickets taken over the five days.

So while it looked while it looked liked they had improved, the Kiwis were still not quite good enough to beat Australia.

That was until the second Test began on March 8, 1974 at Christchurch’s now-defunct Lancaster Park.

That’s right, 50 years ago to the same date of the second Test of this current series in the same city – and don’t think the Kiwis did not program this year’s series without that history in mind.


A young tearaway called Richard Hadlee, who was a man to make his mark on Australian teams during his career, took three of the first five wickets to fall, Australia were bowled out for just 223 on Day 1.

Led by the late Max Walker and left-armer Geoff Dymock, New Zealand were bowled out for 255 in reply – setting up a low-scoring contest.

Glenn Turner held NZ together with a fighting century – his 101 being the first of two historic centuries he would score in the match.

Hadlee then chimed in with another 4/71 in Australia’s second dig. That was backed up by brother Dayle with 4/75 to have visitors bowled out for another moderate score – this time 259.

This gave New Zealand a victory target of 228 in just under two days to create their history.

The Aussies looked to be on top when NZ was reduced to 3/62, before Turner – the only Kiwi to score 100 first-class centuries – dug in.


He even got into an on-field scrap with Ian Chappell in the closing stages. Both sides of that argument are found here in a great Spiro Zavos Roar article from back in 2018.

Arguments aside, Turner steered New Zealand home to their historic five-wicket victory at 5/230 half an hour before the scheduled lunch break on the final day.

His 110 not out saw him become the first Kiwi to score a ton in each innings of a Cricket Test in a Man of the Match performance.

One only has to see the jubilation in the crowd that flooded onto the field at the end to see what it meant to Kiwis.

The win was even pumped up in a Notice of Motion tabled and passed in NZ Parliament later that day.

The great Richie Benaud – amongst the media for that tour – also recognized the moment: “Well this is a great day for New Zealand Sport, not just for New Zealand Cricket”.

Australia hit back hard in the third and Final Test at Auckland’s Eden Park – defying a then NZ Record Cricket Crowd of 30,000 on the second day – to win by a whopping 297 runs inside 3 days and earn a drawn series.


The message had been received, though.

Cricket Australia kindly removed New Zealand from their domestic One Day Cup after the Kiwis’ third title in 1974/75, and went back to NZ for their next tour two years later.

Fifty years on, Australia’s men started strong favourites for the last match of a 16-month haul – including two white ball World Cups, two trips to India, a short South African visit, an away Ashes series and a World Test Championship Final.

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However, Pat Cummins and his team have to be wary and on guard one last time in Christchurch.

Otherwise, they could suffer the same fate as Ian Chappell’s side did 50 years ago – to the day and in the same city – this weekend.