The New Zealand Tour to England 1973Martin Chandler |
Author: Parsons, David
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 4 stars
It is more than a century since the first and so far only Triangular Tournament took place in England in 1912. Bad weather and the fact that six leading Australians were not present conspired to ensure the experiment was not one that was repeated. Only once since, in 2010 when Australia played Pakistan twice, have two overseas nations contested a Test match in England , and that was a stand alone series, so nothing like the Triangular Tournament in format.
After the Great War Test cricket carried on as it had before. There were visits from South Africa and Australia every four years, and as West Indies, New Zealand and then India attained Test status it became possible for a tour to be accommodated in the English season every year. After the Second World War Pakistan were also elevated to Test status, and a problem presented itself. If the traditional rivalries with Australia and South Africa were to continue every four years it meant the newer nations were only going to be seen every eight years. The strain on the calendar became intolerable after a memorable series with West Indies in 1963 captured the public imagination every bit as much as the Ashes.
Something had to give and in 1965 the experiment of having two touring sides each summer, each playing three Tests against England began. So half a century after the Triangular Tournament we saw New Zealand visit in the first half of the summer, and South Africa in the second. This time the experiment worked and was repeated regularly until 1996 when India and Pakistan, as they had done on several occasions, shared the summer. 1997 was the last time England hosted just a single opponent, Australia for what I suspect will prove to be the final six Test Ashes series. Since then there have been two tours every year, a shorter two or three Test series against a less commercially attractive opponent in the early part of the summer by way of an hors d’oevre, followed by the main course, a four or five Test series against one of the leading sides in the world.
Books about tours, other than those which contain Ashes contests, have slowed to a trickle in recent years and have been on the decline ever since colour television and slow motion replays made their debut. There has never been any appetite amongst UK publishers to produce books about short tours, and apart from occasional offerings from the sub-continent I do not recall a single book appearing after such a visit*.
As time has passed it has proved to be the case that the shorter the Test series the less likely it, as opposed to the individual matches within it, will prove particularly memorable. The 1973 visit of New Zealand to England is no different. At a time when the visitors had yet to win a Test against England a 2-0 win to the home side was considered routine. Despite that it was sufficiently memorable to capture the undivided attention of 13 year old David Parsons, a New Zealander living in England. The series was also a fascinating one to at least one thirteen year old Englishman, this reviewer.
My imagination was initially caught by the tourists’ main batsman, Glenn Turner, and his attempt, ultimately successful, to become one of the small band of men to have scored 1,000 First Class runs before the end of May. I then looked to Turner to continue his hot streak into the Test series. He didn’t, but instead I was captivated by his teammates’ wonderful attempts to win the first two Tests without any significant assistance from him.
The first Test match at Trent Bridge looked like an easy England victory when New Zealand, chasing a mammoth 479 for victory, stumbled to 16-2. England did run out winners eventually, but by just 38 runs, and for a long time it looked like the visitors might get home. Skipper Bev Congdon with 176 and lay preacher Vic Pollard with 116 were the heroes. In the second Test at Lord’s the same pair stood up to be counted again with innings of 175 and 105 respectively, and with Mark Burgess matching Pollard New Zealand led by 298 on first innings. Sadly however their bowlers could not emulate the batsmen and England got out of a tight corner without any major alarms.
That was the extent of the New Zealanders’ glory, an innings defeat following at the Oval, although Turner at last managed a decent innings, last man out for 81 out of 142 in the second innings. The profile of New Zealand cricket was raised immeasurably by the tour. Congdon and Pollard certainly became favourites of mine, as did the two members of the touring party who are sadly no longer with us, wicketkeeper batsman Ken Wadsworth and left arm spinner Hedley Howarth, a man whose statistics, decent enough as they are, in no way reflect how good an orthodox left arm spinner he was.
Parsons is an accountant by occupation rather than a professional writer or journalist, and this is not his only book, though it is his first on cricket. Acknowledged as a labour of love his research is impeccable. He spoke to all of the surviving members of the New Zealand party, and the widows of Howarth and Wadsworth. He also consulted all that has been written on the subject of the series elsewhere and, importantly, has his own memories, having followed the series so intently at the time.
The book is not a long one, just 86 well illustrated A4 sized pages, but what it may lack in quantity it makes up for in quality. The state of the cricketing nation prior to the tour’s start is looked at, and then all the tour games are considered, not just the matches against England. Entirely properly the main focus of attention are the three Tests, and the myriad of sources that Parsons has gone to ensure that even though I remembered the matches well myself, the stories of those games were a joy to read.
As any good retrospective tour account should, after dealing with the cricket the book goes on to look at what became of the New Zealanders, of whom only Turner and Richard Hadlee have been the subject of any biographical work. For the illustrious Sir Paddles, then a raw 21 year old, the tour came a year or two too early. He played in just the first Test, going wicketless in conceding 143 runs before finally taking John Snow’s wicket immediately before Ray Illingworth declared the England second innings.
As well as updating his reader on what became of those involved, the closing chapter of the book, uniquely I suspect, reproduces both the Tour Manager’s report and that of Captain Congdon. No great controversies are disclosed, but they are nonetheless interesting documents. Finally, there is a short appendix in which Parsons sets out his own thoughts on the tour. That is rather self-indulgent, but it is certainly interesting and he has undoubtedly earned the right to include it in his book about his favourite cricket team.
The New Zealand Tour to England 1973 is not quite perfect. I would have liked to have learned a little more about the prior careers and subsequent lives of the tourists, and perhaps rather more of their opinions. In addition I must confess to not much caring for the landscape** orientation of the book, nor indeed any such A4-sized book, but that is a very personal quibble and neither of those complaints in any way detract from the book deservedly getting 4 stars.
*Red Leather, Silver Fern and Scoreboard ’69 by Dick Brittenden do deal with the visits of the New Zealanders in 1965 and 1969, but those books also deal with the Kiwis other commitments on trips during which, for them, the time spent in England was a relatively small part of their itineraries. Similarly a book by Henry Blofeld, Cricket in Three Moods, deals in part with the West Indies short visit to England in the first half of the 1969 summer, but mainly with their full series against England and Australia in the 18 months before that.
**My sincere apologies to author and publisher for the fact that my IT skills are such that I am not able accurately reproduce an image of the book.