In 1986 New Zealand came to England for their 10th Test tour. None of the other nine had been victorious. But their hosts had already lost to India that summer and Richard Hadlee was in fine form.
Mike Gatting (England captain): It was a difficult time. The defeat to India had hit us hard, David Gower had lost the captaincy and we had no Ian Botham. Something had ended up in his bedside dresser that was of the wrong persuasion, shall we say. Bad time to lose your allrounder.
Jeremy Coney (New Zealand captain): Ah yes, the business with the reefer …
At the end of May Ian Botham had been banned from Test and county cricket. The Test and County Cricket Board had found him guilty on three charges relating to smoking cannabis and one of publishing an article about it in a Sunday newspaper without the permission of his county, Somerset. The ban meant he missed the three Tests against India and the first against New Zealand.
John Wright (New Zealand): We knew we had a chance. We’d beaten Australia at home and their place. We rated ourselves.
Coney: It looked like everything in the garden was rosy. But it wasn’t. As the tour went on, we lost a bowler, a keeper, a manager, then finally all our kit was stolen from the bus. It wasn’t plain sailing.
The bowler who was lost was Ewen Chatfield, the undemonstrative farmer’s son from New Zealand’s North Island. He had been the perfect foil for Richard Hadlee.
Coney: He’d run into the wind for you all day. If there was something in the wicket, he wouldn’t get excited, but his moustache would quiver slightly. I knew I could get through a day if I had Chatfield.
That reassurance disappeared when Chatfield broke a thumb early in the tour. New Zealand had to choose between three inexperienced replacements. Willie Watson, aged 20, won the place. England, too, had a debutant for the first Test.
Martyn Moxon (England): Was I nervous? Anyone making their Test debut at Lord’s would be nervous.
Gatting: There was a new captain and the players were still getting used to me. There were no hard feelings from David but it would take a bit of time to get things together.
Moxon: As I remember, there was not a lot of talk about the New Zealand team.
The game was drawn. This was the Test when England used four wicketkeepers. Bruce French was hit on the head and was replaced by Bill Athey, then Bob Taylor, who happened to be at the ground with his gloves and did a stint. Finally Bobby Parks of Hampshire was brought in. Moxon, opening the innings, got over his nerves.
Moxon: I think I got 74, didn’t I? I was disappointed not to get a hundred but, because I had scored some runs, I could at least settle down and enjoy the rest of the game a bit sooner.
The second Test was at Trent Bridge, Hadlee’s county ground. New Zealand’s star bowler had already taken seven wickets at Lord’s and was looking for more.
Gatting: The groundsman must have forgotten he had an England fixture on the calendar. He prepared the wicket as if Nottinghamshire were playing. There was a lot of grass on it.
Richard Hadlee (New Zealand): I’d played a lot of county cricket at Trent Bridge – and of course had done well there. They were bowler-friendly tracks in those days.
Gatting: New Zealand knew Hadlee was their trump card. They protected him – and it worked.
It was Hadlee’s county benefit in 1986 and he was excused playing for his country in their county games, saving himself for the international matches.
Moxon: It was nipping around a bit. I vividly remember it was green and overcast on the first day and when they batted it was beautifully sunny. Then on the Saturday night, when we went back in, it was murky and dark.
Coney: Hadlee knew the pitches, the opposition and his own body. Of course he had that bowler’s elephantine mind – remembered every dismissal – and he had the control to exploit it.
Wright: Richard was really on top of his game. Was it Gatting who said it was like facing the World XI at one end and Ilford Seconds at the other?
It was. At least that is now the legend. New Zealand used the put-down to their advantage.
Coney: What happened next was that we had T-shirts made. Ilford Seconds, they said on the front and World XI on the back with a picture of everyone in the squad. I insisted we warm up in them.
Moxon: By Monday morning after the rest day I just couldn’t pick Hadlee up. Trent Bridge had these dark windows at one end and it was the only time in my career that I really had trouble seeing the ball. If I’d been more experienced, I’d have said something to the umpires. As it was, I got out and soon after they came off for bad light.
Hadlee: If you played a Test match at Trent Bridge the colour of the wicket would go very white and it was far harder to get Test wickets than on county pitches but on that occasion I got 10 in the match, which was amazing.
Coney: Hadlee. The Prince. The Prince of Professionals.
Wright: All of us who played at the same time as him count ourselves lucky. Actually I think he’s still a little bit under-rated.
New Zealand won the match by eight wickets to go 1-0 up with one to play.
Hadlee: I think Gower chucked the last ball to be no-balled to give us the run we needed for victory.
He did and so became the first England player to be called for throwing in a Test in England. Wisden recorded that the match was a triumph for Hadlee’s exceptional qualities and the whole team’s professionalism. “For England it was another dismal game, the eighth defeat in 10 Tests.”
Moxon: I think in those days England were often chopping and changing. I never played more than two Tests in a row in England. That happened to a lot of people. I think the mood was to get your head down and do well for yourself. The concern was to keep your place. Winning was a bonus. That was at home. On tour it was completely different – a much better, closer atmosphere.
Coney: We were even winning the pre-match warm-up sessions. We were meeting in the hotel at 7.30 in the morning and running around the city together – quite
a change from our old habits. Before the day’s play we were there, tight, controlled, focused, able to enjoy our cup of tea afterwards. England walked out like Brown’s cows.
England could have selected Ian Botham for the Trent Bridge Test but declined. That policy changed for the final Test at The Oval.
Gatting: I said to David Gower, “What shall I do to pick the guys up?” “Something might happen,” he said. It did too. Botham came back. He stormed in and someone had got changed in his favourite corner. He roared: “Which **** is using my bench??!?!” and threw all the kit across the room. Suddenly there was a bit more bubble around the place.
It was a memorable return for England’s allrounder. With his first ball back after suspension he had Bruce Edgar caught at slip.
Gatting: It was a tame long hop. I think Edgar was so surprised it was so slow and wide he just left his bat there. Goochie couldn’t believe it was coming so slowly and he nearly dropped it. Anyway Beefy was back.
With his 12th ball Botham passed Dennis Lillee’s world record of 355 Test wickets. New Zealand were bowled out for 287 and, when England took a first-innings lead, there was a chance the series could be drawn.
Gatting: Ian kept hooking Hadlee out of the ground. We were looking for a great position, something like 300 in front. Then it chucked it down for two days.
There was barely an hour’s play on the last two days.
Wright: We weren’t sad to see the rain. That Test could have gone either way.
The game ended in a draw. New Zealand had won a series in England for the first time.
Coney: We knew that for many of us this would be our last opportunity in England, so we had determination and confidence. We had been building throughout the 1980s and developed a culture of winning at home. And we had begun to dip our toes in winning waters overseas. In a sense this success went against the grain. A little hard to explain but most New Zealanders are diffident, humble and modest.
Wright: We had become tougher. It started under Geoff Howarth, when he was captain. Then we had Glenn Turner as coach. He was a very tough professional. We were getting more experienced and were growing together. That was our good era. We were good in the ’80s.
Coney: England may have believed they were unfortunate but we did enough in the first two Tests to suggest that, at the very least, these were two equal sides.
Moxon: It was a disappointing summer. Not a very stable environment. There was a hard core of five or six players, then you could pick the rest from a dozen others. That makes it very difficult to create a winning team.
Coney: We did believe that England would self-destruct. They had too many selectors, a tendency to amputate vital organs, in this case Ian Botham, and they were tinkerers, particularly at home. We knew if we got things right, we could take the tour.
1st Test July 24–29, Lord’s †England 307 (MD Moxon 74, DI Gower 62; RJ Hadlee 6-80) and 295-6 dec (GA Gooch 183; EJ Gray 3-83); New Zealand 342 (BA Edgar 83, MD Crowe 106, JV Coney 51; GR Dilley 4-82, PH Edmonds 4-97) and 41-2. Match drawn. MoM: Gooch. Test debuts: Moxon, W Watson (NZ).
2nd Test Aug 7–12, Trent Bridge Eng 256 (CWJ Athey 55, Gower 71; Hadlee 6-80) and 230 (JE Emburey 75; Hadlee 4-60, JG Bracewell 3-29); †NZ 413 (JG Wright 58, Gray 50, Hadlee 68, Bracewell 110; GC Small 3-88) and 77-2. NZ won by 8 wkts. MoM: Hadlee. Test debut: Small.
3rd Test Aug 21–26, The Oval NZ 287 (Wright 119; Dilley 4-92, IT Botham 3-75) and 7-0; †Eng 388-5 dec (Gower 131, MW Gatting 121, Botham 59*; EJ Chatfield 3-73). Match drawn. MoM: Wright. MoS: Gower and Hadlee. NZ won series 1-0