A Forgotten AdventureArchie Mac |
Author: Walters, Stephen
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 3.5 stars
It’s hard to imagine that one Test could possibly have such a profound impact on the development and status of a cricketing country. Well in the case of the first official Test match between neighbours Australia and New Zealand (NZ) in 1946, it held the Kiwis back for years. All over in two days, with the Aussies hardly breaking into a sweat in recording an innings victory, the match was an abject failure in promoting the strength of NZ cricket. The story of this one off Test and its impact on NZ and Australian cricket relationships, is wonderfully told by author Stephen Walters.
The author takes us back to the world in 1946, as a cricket starved commonwealth tried to return to normal after WWII. We learn that a full Australian tour of NZ, including two Tests, had been organised for the 1939-40 season before the war clouds made it impractical. So it appears that the 1946 Test was some sort of compensation match for the Kiwis.
In 1946, Don Bradman, despite health issues, was still the greatest batsmen in the world and as a drawcard the Don was unrivalled. Walters dedicates a chapter to Bradman, who was one of the selectors for the 1946 NZ tour, and why he didn’t make the trip. The chapter also highlights Bradman’s dismissive stance on NZ cricket. As a selector, CA (present name) board member and cricket legend, Bradman seems to have actively sought to stop Australia playing Test matches against its nearest neighbour for years to follow.
Walters provides a brief history of Australian and NZ cricketing contests with one overriding theme. That is a dismissive attitude from Australia towards Kiwi cricket and an inferiority complex from those in charge of cricket in the Shaky Isles. Despite NZ being less than a three hour plane trip from Australia, the 1946 Test was the only one between the countries until the mid 1970s. The other sad consequence of Australia’s cricket attitude, that the author highlights, is that great players such as John Reid, who played 58 Tests, were not afforded the opportunity to play one against Australia.
The Aussie team that went to NZ in 1946, was to form the nucleus of one of the strongest teams ever – the 1948 invicibles. So really it is little wonder that NZ lost the 1946 Test. Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall were on debut and if that wasn’t enough, the bowler Bradman rated the best ever, Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly, made the game his swansong from Tests. It is an often repeated story that Tiger, who claimed 5-14 & 3-19, threw his boots out of the changing room window after the match saying his knees were done. Walters disputes this claim and the author’s evidence is hard to dispute. I personally think I would have rather not known that this cricketing folklore is apocryphal.
The debunking the Tiger story is just one instance of the diligent research from Walters. He also provides interesting side line stories throughout the telling of his tale. The hair raising story of the flight to and from NZ, with the Aussies landing back in OZ with only 15 minutes travel time of fuel remaining would send the modern day media into a frenzy.
All in all this is a fine read, and is certainly far from your typical tour book. As always the production values from this publisher are first rate; quality paper, proofing and plenty of images, to go with a full index, stats and bibliography.