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The All Time XI For All Time: New Zealand

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17th May, 2024
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New Zealand took 28 years to win a Test match, finally triumphing in 1956.

There were plenty of skilled individuals before that but not a complete team.

They recently reached their zenith, becoming the inaugural World Test Champions in 2021, but looking back is an interesting exercise in seeing the many all rounders New Zealand employed throughout their history.

With the West Indies, I split the 1970s and 1980s as this was their most successful era – similarly I have split the 2000s and 2010s for New Zealand such that the eras covered are: 1930-39, 1940-49, 1950-59, 1960-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, 2000-04, 2005-09, 2010-14, 2015-19


Glenn Turner
30 Tests, 2370 runs @ 49.37

An immaculately technical opener, Glenn Turner is the only New Zealand batter to have reached 100 First Class centuries – primarily through his county career with Worcestershire.


He started his Test career with a duck against the West Indies, and it turned out to be the only such blemish until his Test retirement.

In 1972/73 against West Indies Turner scored two double centuries, including carrying his bat for an unbeaten 223 in Kingston to help New Zealand save the match.

Against Pakistan the next year he was remarkable consistent, scoring between 24 and 58 in all six innings, before scoring two innings against Australia in Christchurch in 1974 to lead New Zealand to victory over their antipodean neighbours for the first time.

His highest score was a 259 in Georgetown, scored in partnership with Terry Jarvis in an opening stand of 387 – still the fourth highest in Test cricket.

In the one day game, Turner has the curious distinction of holding the record of most balls faced in an innings with his unbeaten 171 from 201 balls against East Africa in the 1975 World Cup – as well as second place due to his 114* from 177 balls against India a week later.

Honourable Mention:
Bevan Congdon: 32 Tests, 1935 runs @ 37.94, 48 wkts @ 37.08



Stewie Dempster
10 Tests, 723 runs @ 65.72

New Zealand’s first great batter, Stewie Dempster first drew attention during the 1927 tour of England – no Tests were played, but Dempster led the batting averages.

Nimble of foot and neat of technique, he played in all four of New Zealand’s first Test series against England, scoring his country’s first Test century and following it up with an unbeaten 80 in the second innings in Wellington.

This included an opening partnership of 276 with Jackie Mills, a national record until passed by Turner and Jarvis 40+ years later.

At Lords in 1931 Dempster scored his second century, and across his 15 innings was never dismissed for less than eight.

His final Test was in Christchurch in 1933, scoring an unbeaten 83 out of a team total of 158 before Wally Hammond scored the small matter of 336 in England’s reply.


Moving to England, Dempster was recruited by Sir Julien Cahn to play for Leicestershire and captained the county for three years.

Of all Test batters to have a completed career of at least 10 innings, Dempster has the second highest average to only Bradman.

Honourable Mention:
Giff Vivian: 7 Tests, 421 runs @ 42.10, 17 wkts @ 37.23


Kane Williamson
40 Tests, 3656 runs @ 61.96, 5 wkts @ 40.20

Kane Williamson has been considered one of the ‘big four’ Test batters of the past decade alongside Steve Smith, Joe Root, and Virat Kohli.

His purple patch of the five years covered here certainly lends credence to the call.


With a steady head and limitless concentration, Williamson has been a linchpin in the New Zealand order for the team to build their batting around.

Against Sri Lanka in 2015, he scored an unbeaten 242 in the second innings to set up a big victory, and followed that up with two centuries in the Trans-Tasman series later that year.

In each year barring 2016 Williamson averaged over 50 – and only dipped to 47 in that outlier year.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 13: Kane Williamson of New Zealand raises his bat after scoring a century during day five of the First Test match in the series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval on March 13, 2023 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

New Zealand’s Kane Williamson. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

His second unbeaten double century was part of a massive total of 6/715 against Bangladesh, enough for an innings victory in 2019.

Against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, his double of 89 and 139 in the deciding Test of the 2018 series was enough to cement New Zealand’s first away series victory over Pakistan for nearly 50 years.

Williamson’s last century in this period was a grafting unbeaten 104 to repel England in Hamilton. Earlier this year, he played his 100th Test, and seems set to continue his career for some time longer.


Honourable Mentions:
Tom Latham: 41 Tests, 2911 runs @ 42.80
Ross Taylor: 37 Tests, 2534 runs @ 47.81
BJ Watling: 39 Tests, 2191 runs @ 43.82, 141 catches, 6 stumpings
Neil Wagner: 30 Tests, 143 wkts @ 23.28
Trent Boult: 36 Tests, 150 wkts @ 28.58


Martin Crowe
32 Tests, 2317 runs @ 45.43, one wkt @ 69.00

Batting with an effortless class that made the difficult look easy, Martin Crowe helped lift New Zealand from plucky underdog to among the highest peaks to the 2010s.

His most notable innings this decade was 299 against Sri Lanka at Wellington to save New Zealand against a first innings deficit of 323 – he was caught behind with three deliveries left of the match to bowl.

A double of 140 and 61 set up a series win against Zimbabwe, and against England in 1994 Crowe had his last successful series, scoring two centuries and averaging 63.33; not enough to prevent an England series win.


Back and knee injuries limited his effectiveness thereafter, and he retired as New Zealand’s leading Test run scorer and century maker.

The One Day game saw Crowe’s inventive captaincy take the 1992 World Cup by storm, promoting Mark Greatbatch to open with an aggressive bent and using Dipak Patel as an opening bowler – both tactics that have been adopted into the mainstream hence.

Honourable Mentions:
Stephen Fleming: 48 Tests, 2984 runs @ 38.25
Chris Cairns: 43 Tests, 2026 runs @ 29.36, 150 wkts @ 28.90
Adam Parore: 58 Tests, 2249 runs @ 25.55, 131 catches, four stumpings


Bert Sutcliffe
29 Tests, 1854 runs @ 37.83, one wkt @ 163.00

The measure of Bert Sutcliffe as a batter for New Zealand in the 1950s is magnified by the fact that only four other players averaged over 30 with the bat in the decade, and none played more than eight Tests.

His country’s first great post-war batter, Sutcliffe was aggressive and powerful, particularly on the leg side. He debuted in Wally Hammond’s last Test, and continued through to 1965, having been recalled almost six years after his previous Test.


Although he scored two centuries in New Zealand’s tour of India in 1955 including a massive unbeaten 230 in a total of 2/450 declared, his most famous innings is the 80 not out he scored at Johannesburg in 1953/54.

Having been laid out by a Neil Adcock bouncer and taken to hospital, Sutcliffe returned to the create sheathed in bandages.

He took the attack to South Africa to avert the follow on before a last wicket partnership of 33 in 10 minutes with Bob Blair – whose fiancee had perished in the Tangiwai disaster overnight.

In all first class cricket, Sutcliffe scored over 17,000 runs at an average of 47.41.

Honourable Mention:
John Reid: 32 Tests, 1487 runs @ 27.03, 47 wkts @ 35.08
Tony MacGibbon: 26 Tests, 814 runs @ 19.85, 70 wkts @ 30.85


Brendon McCullum (Wicketkeeper)
42 Tests, 3374 runs @ 46.86, one wkt @ 69.00, 35 catches, one stumping


Before Bazball, there was just Baz. Brendon McCullum was an aggressive batter who started his career behind the stumps, before moving into the field as a standard-setter for New Zealand.

In only four of his Tests in this period was he named as designated wicketkeeper, however as with Clyde Walcott in my West Indies side, he dons the gloves here in recognition of his earlier career.

Although somewhat inconsistent – in 16 of 42 Tests he failed to score 50 runs across the match – McCullum was capable of massive scores, with four double centuries and a 195.

India were his favourite opponent, with three scores of 224 and above – including New Zealand’s first triple century to turn around a first innings deficit of 246.

Appointed captain in 2013, he averaged 51.47 with the responsibility in this period and laid the groundwork for the team’s success in the latter half of the decade.

Honourable Mentions:
Ross Taylor: 39 Tests, 2952 runs @ 48.39
BJ Watling: 27 Tests, 1347 runs @ 33.67, 87 catches, 2 stumpings
Tim Southee: 32 Tests, 882 runs @ 18.37, 119 wkts @ 28.01
Trent Boult: 29 Tests, 306 runs @ 16.10, 106 wkts @ 27.19



Chris Cairns
18 Tests, 1265 runs @ 45.17, 68 wkts @ 29.63

In the vein of his father Lance, Chris Cairns was a hard hitting all rounder who bowled fast and batted faster.

Throughout the 1990s Cairns was a regular member of the New Zealand team but only in the second half of the decade was he an ever present, with injuries and selection vagaries playing their parts.

Indeed, as his career wound down, Cairns played only one Test in both 2002 and 2003, but team balance and a batting average in this period a full 12 runs higher than his career mark saw him take a position in this team.

Cairns scored three centuries in his 18 Tests, including a career best 158 off 171 balls against South Africa to set up a nine wicket win, and he signed off with 9/187 against England in a four-wicket loss.

At Lords in 2004, Cairns overtook Viv Richards in hitting the most sixes in Test cricket – he now sits ninth in that category, with only Brendon McCullum and Tim Southee ahead of him for New Zealand.

Honourable Mentions:
Mark Richardson: 38 Tests, 2776 runs @ 44.77
Stephen Fleming: 41 Tests, 2679 runs @ 40.59
Jacob Oram: 17 Tests, 1002 runs @ 43.56, 35 wkts @ 36.25



John Reid (Captain)
24 Tests, 1768 runs @ 40.18, 38 wkts @ 30.84

Unquestionably New Zealand’s finest all rounder in their first half century as a Test nation, John Reid was a fearsome batter capable of hitting all around the ground, while he could bowl either deceptively quick medium pace or tight off cutters.

Captaining New Zealand to their first Test win in 1956, Reid played 58 consecutive matches from his debut to retiring in 1965, captaining in 34 of those matches.

His finest hour was the tour of South Africa in 1961/62 – he scored 1915 runs in total on the tour, averaged 60.66 with the bat and 19.72 with the ball in the Tests, and led New Zealand to a 2-2 drawn series.

Against England in Christchurch in 1963, Reid scored 74 and then 100 out of an innings of 159 – his innings percentage of 62.89% runs was the closest anyone had come to that point of beating Charles Bannerman’s 67.34% from the first ever Test.

In the 1990s, Reid was a respected match referee not averse to controversy; he reported Shoaib Akhtar’s bowling action on suspicion of throwing.


Honourable Mentions:
Graham Dowling: 35 Tests, 2163 runs @ 32.28
Bruce Taylor: 20 Tests, 712 runs @ 22.25, 62 wkts @ 26.83
Dick Motz: 32 Tests, 100 wkts @ 31.48


Daniel Vettori
37 Tests, 2289 runs @ 45.78, 124 wkts @ 30.78

In the second half of the 2000s, no one scored more runs for New Zealand or took more wickets than Daniel Vettori.

He had always been a capable lower order batter to go with his regular vocation of subtle left arm orthodox spin to lure unaware batters to their doom.

His most successful Test in this period was against Zimbabwe in Harare, scoring 127 and taking match figures of 6/29 in 2005.


Later that year, he was selected for the ICC World XI Test against Australia – it was a difficult match, scoring only 8* and 0 while taking 1/111 in total.

Against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 2006 Vettori took his only 10-for in this period, but it wasn’t enough to avert a Sri Lanka win.

When Stephen Fleming retired, Vettori was elevated to the captaincy, and this did not affect his play, averaging similarly with both bat and ball.

Vettori excelled with the ball in 2008, taking 54 wickets at 26.12, before averaging 59.92 with the bat in 2009 including centuries in each of the three series he played in that year.

Honourable Mentions:
Ross Taylor: 22 Tests, 1644 runs @ 42.15
Chris Martin: 35 Tests, 113 wkts @ 34.03


Richard Hadlee
53 Tests, 2040 runs @ 30.90, 289 wkts @ 19.28


New Zealand’s finest all rounder and fast bowler, Richard Hadlee was greatly responsible for their rise to the upper echelons of Test cricket.

A tearaway in his younger years, Hadlee developed a mastery of swing and seam as his career progressed, and his batting was such that he was considered one of the four totemic all-rounders of the 1980s alongside Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Imran Khan.

Curiously, he only scored two centuries – both in draws, but not before he became one of Alvin Kallicharran’s four Test wickets. But his innings of 99 off 81 balls combined with match figures of 8/44 set up a famous innings win against England at Christchurch in 1984, bowling them out for 82 and 93.

Hadlee’s finest hour was the 1985/86 tour of Australia, taking 9/52 (and catching the other wicket, Geoff Lawson, for Vaughan Brown’s only Test wicket) and scoring 54 off 45 balls to dominate the Brisbane Test, and 33 wickets at 12.15 across the series.

In 10 of the 17 series of more than one Test during the 1980s, Hadlee averaged under 20 with the ball, and only once did he average over 30 – and he still took five of the 12 wickets New Zealand took across two Tests for 1054 runs.

Hadlee retired in 1990 having been knighted for services to cricket, and left with the record for most Test wickets, with 431.


Honourable Mentions:
Martin Crowe: 45 Tests, 3127 runs @ 45.31, 13 wkts @ 46.69
John Wright: 56 Tests, 3271 runs @ 34.07
Jeremy Coney: 45 Tests, 2303 runs @ 39.03, 24 wkts @ 33.33
Ian Smith: 49 Tests, 1376 runs @ 25.01, 128 catches, 7 stumpings


Jack Cowie
six Tests, 82 runs @ 16.40, 26 wkts @ 22.07

In the 1938 Wisden, editor Wilfrid Brookes said of Jack Cowie, “Had he been an Australian, he might have been termed a wonder of the age.”

Australia certainly could have done with a fast bowler of Cowie’s ability at that stage, for he had taken 114 wickets at 19.95 on the 1937 tour along with making his Test debut.

The infrequency of matches was such that Cowie’s Test career consisted of each of the nine matches played between 1937 and 1949, including New Zealand’s first ten wicket haul in a match, with 10/140 at Manchester in 1937.

In the first Test after World War II ended, Cowie was the only New Zealander to acquit himself well against Australia, taking 6/40 in an innings of 8/199 declared.


Against England in Christchurch in 1947, he scored a handy 45 (half of his total Test runs) before taking 6/83 in a rain-marred match.

By 1949, age had wearied him somewhat, but he still took 14 wickets at 32.21 in a drawn series, Wisden claiming that the figures did him “far less than justice”.

Only once did Cowie bowl to Don Bradman – returning home from the 1937 tour of England, New Zealand stopped off in Australia for a handful of state games.

Bradman was 11 not out overnight, before Cowie had him caught behind first ball the next day – this had the side effect of crowds heading elsewhere and the NZCC treasurer telling both Cowie and wicketkeeper Eric Tindall that they owed NZ Cricket 1000 pounds!

Honourable Mentions:
Martin Donnelly: 4 Tests. 462 runs @ 77.00
Bert Sutcliffe: 5 Tests, 481 runs @ 60.12

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This gives us a team in batting order of:

Glenn Turner (1970-79)
Stewie Dempster (1930-39)
Kane Williamson (2015-19)
Martin Crowe (1990-99)
Bert Sutcliffe (1950-59)
Brendon McCullum (2010-14) [Wicketkeeper]
Chris Cairns (2000-04)
John Reid (1960-69) [Captain]
Daniel Vettori (2005-09)
Richard Hadlee (1980-89)
Jack Cowie (1940-49)

Up next is India, with one of the deepest batting lineups of all these teams and a varied bowling attack.