THE SKIPPER’S DIARY, COMPILED BY SIR RICHARD HADLEE (THE CRICKET PUBLISHING COMPANY, 2017, 473 pp), and NEW ZEALAND CRICKET TEAM TOUR OF ENGLAND,1949, DVD produced by JAMES CAMERON
The death last October of the great John Reid at 92, marks the passing of the last survivor of the justly famous ‘Forty- Niners’ , the New Zealand cricket team that toured the UK in that year and against history and expectation drew the test series with England, setting a standard for all future New Zealand teams. Reid’s passing, like that of Merv Wallace in 2008, Johnny Hayes in 2007, Walter Hadlee in 2006, Bert Sutcliffe in 2001, Martin Donnelly in 1999, Tom Burtt in 1988, and the others, back to Fen Cresswell in 1966, will have registered with every historically attuned follower of New Zealand cricket; while for me, once I reached later middle age, each depletion of the original party became a very personal marker of mortality.
Personal because my parents, myself aged 6, and my sister emigrated to New Zealand in September 1949 on the SS Rangitata among whose passengers were the New Zealand cricketers returning home after their tour. At six I knew very well who they were. My parents had taken me to the first game of cricket I ever attended, an unofficial Sunday game on 19 June in which the New Zealanders played against an East Molesey Invitation Eleven, bolstered (as I have just seen from the scoreboard in Cricket Archive – the game isn’t included in my precious battered copy of The Cricket Almanack of New Zealand 1949 ) by the Surrey players Constable and Fishlock and the Australians Bill Alley and George Tribe. The only thing I clearly remember from the occasion was the general excitement at the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh, but by our embarkation in September I was already enraptured by the game, identifying with Martin Donnelly (my father must have told me about his double century in the second test a few days after the East Molesey game) and saying that like him I batted number 5. Sadly, he wasn’t on the ship, staying behind for a while in England working for the big midlands firm Courtauld’s, but there were heroes enough for a young boy to shadow when they came on deck.
A few years later, going with my father to Plunket Shield games at Eden Park, I would feel frissons of pride as Bert Sutcliffe or Tom Burtt (when Otago or Canterbury were the visitors) would stop to say hello to my father, their fellow passenger on the Rangitata. I remember being bought my first bat from Wallace and Webb’s sports store somewhere off Queen Street, and even having a few minutes coaching from Merv Wallace at secondary school when I was about fourteen. I recall wishing I was a left hander like Donnelly and Bert Sutcliffe, when my new paragon scored 385 v Auckland after his 355 v Canterbury, in spite of the traumas, which my sister experienced, associated with correction of left handedness in children in those days. In the 1950s we often filled up at the service station Geoff Rabone co- ran, a little way along the Great South Road. During the pioneering 1955-56 tour of India and Pakistan I took advantage of my parents’ having known many of the team by writing to its captain Harry Cave asking for the team’s autographs (real not printed please; they came, but I was disappointed by the photocopy produced in industrial quantities for subcontinental fans). A decade on, beginning my academic career in the English Department of Victoria University in Wellington in 1967, I walked along to John Reid’s nearby Squash Centre in Kelburn, for a coffee and to watch the New Zealand v Australia unofficial test on their television. The great man, now retired, was sitting watching the play and I plucked up courage to ask him whether he could ‘pick’ the Australian mystery spinner Gleeson who was bowling. Reid, I remember, said he thought he could, but added quickly that it was one thing to do it sitting watching on television and from behind the bowler, quite another thing to do it on the field, facing him.
For me therefore, as for many others – I’m thinking especially of my fellow Anglo-New Zealand contemporary , Professor Rod Edmond, who recalled the meanings the Forty-Niners had for him in a ‘My Golden Summer’ (1949 of course) piece published by Wisden – the book and its accompanying video are special productions. The book has the full text of the captain’s capacious diary and various prefatory materials and appendices – some touching Hadlee family memorabilia, interesting documents like the contract that the tourists signed, which included a clause agreeing not to take cricketing employment outside New Zealand for two years, to guard against its members moving to professional contracts with English counties, as players such as Dempster, Dacre, James and Merritt, understandably wishing to pursue the professional careers inpossible for them at home, had done after earlier tours to the detriment of New Zealand’s development as a test playing country. There are also the manager Jack Phillipps’ tour report to the NZCC and statements made at various times after the tour by some of the players, adding further voices to the account, as well as many splendid, illustrations, off and on field photographs, caricatures of the team from Punch, lists of Hadlee’s favourite humorous stories and occasionally mildy blue jokes (he had a liking for the saucy entertainer Ronald Landau), cartoons by Tom Webster, Arthur Mailey, and ‘Minhinnick’, the latter well known in New Zealand, with a witty and topical production having the Finance Minister Walter Nash, visiting England at the time, coming out to bat and Hadlee saying to one of the team (it looks like Donnelly) .’What’d I tell you? Soon as we make a profit, HE turns up’.
The author of the diaries, Walter Hadlee, like other New Zealand cricketers of his time played only a few test matches – eleven, eight as captain – all but two against England – stretching from 1937 to 1951. A tall right hand batsmen he scored 543 test runs at 30.16, with one century, against England in 1947, other highly regarded innings being the 93 he made against England at the Oval in 1937, and the 198 he made in the second innings for what was briefly his provincial team, Otago (he played nearly all his games for Canterbury) against the 1945-46 Australian touring team, an attack which included Lindwall, O’Reilly , Johnson, McCool and Dooland. Though as a young player on the 1937 tour he opened (but not in the tests), afterwards he batted anywhere from 3 to 6, in 1949 at number 3 in all four tests in which he made a useful 193 runs at 32.16, with no failures but no big scores. Having taken a double dose of the medication for his troublesome leg, well set and on 43 in the second test, possibly over confident because of the pills’ effect, he got himself out to Hollies the last ball before lunch, for which he emotionally apologised to the team, leading to Martin Donnelly’s “Leave it to me,skip” before walking out to score 206.
As a batsman Hadlee was in Bert Sutcliffe’s words, self made, with no frills, ‘straight up and down the line’, but he was an aggressive player, a fine driver, sometimes getting out on the 1949 tour to ambitious shots. In the diary he recorded each innings he played and how he was out, with a batsman’s retentive memory for failures as well as successes. The most interesting passage about his own batting, however, comes not in the diary, but talking to camera on the accompanying dvd, about one of his best innings on the tour, his 119 not out in the second innings against Surrey. Here, as he put it, he determined to bat on his own rather than the England off spinner Jim Laker’s terms, countering his off spin and four close legside fielders by taking guard inches outside the leg stump and hitting into the all but vacant offside, and when the ball was on his legs, either sweeping to disturb the leg trap or using his feet to drive along the ground to long on or midwicket.
He was also one of the relatively few bespectacled batsmen to succeed in test cricket, his bad eyesight disqualifying him from wartime service. It prompted the statement by Duncan White, one of his team mates in the 1938 Canterbury provincial rugby side in which he played centre, when he missed three penalty kicks in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Otago, and then was relieved of kicking duties, that without his glasses he couldn’t see the goalposts! His greatest fame, though, resides in his captaincy of the Forty- Niners, the role commemorated in the book and dvd. After his last test in 1951, he was a dominating figure in New Zealand cricket administration over a long period, a patriarchal presence, besides as literal family patriarch fathering three New Zealand representatives among his five sons, including, of course, New Zealand’s greatest bowler Sir Richard Hadlee, the editor of this volume. In his long administrative reign, certain inflexible qualities that were very largely positive in the 1949 situation, had more ambiguous effects. For instance, despite his long association and friendship with Mervyn Wallace, as well as his appreciation of his old vice-captain’s deep knowledge of the game, he opposed John Reid’s wish, as captain of both teams, to have Wallace as coach on the 1958 and 1965 tours. The explanation for this must, one feels, have had its source in an obdurate resistance to any infringement of the amateur status of New Zealand cricket which dominated his playing days, and was soon overtaken by change, though not before he clashed with the great New Zealand opening batsman and captain of the New Zealand team, Glenn Turner, a professional with Worcestershire, over payments, resulting in Turner’s injurious absence from test cricket for crucial years.
The genre sporting diary usually inspires, even in this sports-addicted reader, a tendency to yawn and skip pages with little observational interest outside the field of play, and hardly more on it, but Hadlee’s diary is one of the exceptions. Recording events every day for eight months from before the team’s departure on the Dominion Monarch on 25 February 1949 and until just after the Rangitata’s return to Wellington on 25 October, its author was undertaking the central moments of his cricket career, even his life, determined to leave his mark on New Zealand cricket history and the greater cricketing world of the UK. The diary was not written for publication – for which it has waited nearly seventy years – but has gathered significance over that time span, not only recording the achievements of a tour whose significance has grown as New Zealand cricket has fulfilled its earlier promise (as I write New Zealand has just beaten India for the 2021 World Test Championship, a feat almost unbelievable to those who lived through New Zealand cricket’s darkest days in the 50s), but capturing for later contemplation much else pertaining to its time both in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Like the best sports books , whether they set out to do so (in the highly conscious mode of the historians C.L.R James and Ramachandra Guha and the poet-editor Alan Ross), or whether the thematic emerges less directly, even accidentally, between the lines, as with Hadlee’s altogether more modest writing, his diary (and the dvd accompanying it) touches frequently on much fascinating social history, of the game, its participants and followers, and, two of the places where it was played nearly three quarters of a century ago.
What made Hadlee such a worthwhile writer within the conventions of the tour diary genre)? Qualities such as a clear concise prose, an occasional ability to produce witty cameos (‘The Duchess of Beaufort is the favourite niece of Queen Mary and was Lady Mary Cambridge before marriage. She is the fastest eater I have ever seen’). A keen admiration for mastery of the language, especially the rhetoric of speech makers he encountered on the tour, above all Lord Birkett at the Cricket Writers Club dinner (‘a great orator – next best to Churchill. Difficult to follow him’). [i.e. to have to speak after him]. An instinct to record, sometimes it’s true resulting in catalogues – most obviously in the long section on the visit to Windsor – that feel lifted from guidebooks. But these can be forgiven as pedestrian manifestations of the practical man’s wide- ranging curiosity about so many things and their workings, not just the accountant’s interest in profits, losses and dividends – though that is certainly frequently present, as when meeting a New Zealand rugby league player playing for a northern club, he notes ‘He earns £8/10 per game he is selected for, plus a win bonus and for every try scored, each player receives 2/-‘. Even the pages-long notations of rooms and objects in the Windsor Castle visit, for which he consulted notes that the schoolteacher Brun Smith also took, complexly reflect the crossing of a proud local patriotism with a deep-seated anglophilia. And occasional naïve comments reveal the product of a tightly homogeneous white New Zealand society slightly disconcerted by the cosmopolitan in the marked Jewish and foreign presence he observed in Leeds and Manchester.
Though speech after speech given in his honour on the tour couldn’t resist emphasising the obvious in stressing his accountancy background, his interests were wide. He was an all round sportsman who played rugby at centre for Canterbury and hockey for both Otago and Canterbury. In Cardiff he visited the spot at the Arms Park where Bob Deans did or didn’t score in 1905, and followed closely the unsuccessful All Blacks tour of South Africa taking place concurrently with the cricket tour, writing to its captain Fred Allen with whom he went to primary school. On the tour he played golf, snooker, bowls, squash, bridge, and shipboard games, recording the results and scores punctiliously. It’s characteristic both of his interest in sports generally and his attachment to detail that when he transcribed the result of the Epsom Derby, he wrote not only that the British horse Nimbus beat the French horse Crimson Drake by a head, but also noted the fading of the Royal favourite ridden by Gordon Richards, even adding a snippet about the race odds. He and the team watched the Amateur Cup Final, attended a rugby league game between Hull and Bradford Northern, tennis at pre-Wimbledon Hurlingham and Wimbledon itself (on both occasions impressed with the left handed Drobny), the England v Scotland football international, where he was not so impressed with the legendary duo of Matthews and Finney ‘too much juggling and no speed’. On other occasions he presented a greyhound racing trophy at White City, and watched Reg Parnell driving his Maserati at Goodwood.
He also possessed the average New Zealander of the time’s well-recorded love of cinema. He noted – to the great interest of this film academic – every film he saw after leaving Wellington: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – recording the director as John Huston, a sign of an assiduous cinema-goer – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Johnny O’Clock, My Brother Jonathan, The Red Shoes (much appreciated), It Happened on Fifth Avenue, The Snake Pit, Blood on My Hands, One Wild Oat, It’s Not Cricket (‘refined English chaos’),The Loves of Carmen, Young Wives Tale (with an ungallant complaint about Joan Greenwood’s ‘grating voice’!), London Belongs to Me, Passport to Pimlico, Sorry Wrong Number, El Paso (Alan Mitchell’s shout), The Passionate Friends ( at the Odeon Cinema, Taunton, ‘a love story drama type in which the acting is very good. We enjoyed it’), Her Excellency (actually a staging in May of what became an early TV film in September), Variety Girl ,The Perfect Woman — sometimes with a brief positive, or negative comment , the positive outnumbering the negative, and an occasional admission of sleeping through some of the showings, usually when he had already seen the film.
One of the negative comments, on The History of Mr Polly, reveals a rather censorious side to the captain’s work ethic, ‘the morbid story of a shirker who will not work, sets his own shop afire, and abandons his wife’. When the team visited Pinewood they met Jimmy Hanley, Wylie Watson and Rona Anderson who were about to make Boys in Brown ‘a reformatory picture about the problems with a group of lads stuck in a borstal’. They also saw Ann Todd rehearsing for Lean’s Madeleine. In Cardiff on the first day of the Glamorgan game Derek Farr, Naunton Wayne and Joan Greenwood met the team. One of many splendid photographs in the book commemorates the Pinewood visit, as ,watched by an admiring slip cordon of New Zealand cricketers, Rona Anderson in hot pants plays an exuberant lofted drive. Hadlee’s accountancy ethos, always present, but never obscuring other interests, is evident in his note. ‘Cost before the War was about £40,000 a film- today it is up to £250,000’.
He was a committed Methodist, visiting the John Wesley Chapel in Old City Road, reading the lesson by invitation at the Albert Hall Methodist Church, where he brought greetings from New Zealand Methodists, sometimes attending Anglican Churches, e.g. St Martin in the Fields with the team on Anzac Day. His appreciation of rhetoric (e.g. his admiration of Lord Birkett’s speech at one of the early functions the team attended) is again evident in his note on an Anglican sermon by the very Rev John G. Terks – ‘grand sermon on Communism…forceful simple principle of the dethronement of God and enthronement of man’. He also went to the Albert Hall to listen to the American child evangelist, ‘Little David’, unsceptically it seems. While he never seemed to proselytise, there were some in the team who found occasional religious discussion congenial, as on 15 May when ‘Frank [Mooney], Merv, Alan Mitchell,[the press man who covered the tour and wrote Cricket Companions ] discussed Christianity. I tell them of Mrs Bell’s spiritualism’ [a reference hard to trace possibly the Mrs Bell in Conan Doyle’s work The History of Spiritualism].
While the tour was a golden time, blessed with remarkably good weather throughout (with only two games seriously affected by rain), successful beyond expectation, losing only one game ,to Oxford University on a wicket that the celebrated umpire Frank Chester said became the worst he had seen, and drawing the test series, with the team attracting big crowds everywhere, the first day of the Manchester test drawing 38,000, even more than the Australians of the previous year, and that of Leeds 31,000.
This was not just for the test matches, for the tourists were popular everywhere and sports attendances in the UK were still in their immediate postwar boom – for instance, the team attracted 22,000 for the first day of the Notts game, 20,000 and 17,000 to the first two days of the return Yorkshire game at Bramall Lane, and 17,000 to the second day of the Glamorgan game. Such crowds meant that the tourists returned with a profit of £16,000, over half a million in today’s terms.
But the programme was arduous even for fit young men on the trip of a lifetime 32 First class games (including four tests ) mostly against the county sides, some of them twice, were played, with a match against a near test strength MCC side early in the tour, and end of tour fixtures against The South of England and H.D.G. Leveson-Gower’s XI – 96 days cricket, and another few days playing second class matches (v Durham, v the Club Cricket Conference and the second game against Combined Services played in Occupied Germany) plus a scatter of one day games. The schedule was so crowded that some overnight train journeys were necessary, in at least one case the players arriving to go, not to their hotel, but straight to the ground for the game. Apart from Sundays (when no first class cricket was played) the only notable periods for recovery and preparation were the three days before the first three tests, though not the fourth, which began the day after the Essex game, a quirk of programming that it’s surprising the New Zealand authorities agreed to when with foresight the value of those days to a tiring end of tour team should have been anticipated. Perhaps diplomatically, no complaint at this was noted in the diary.
A propos of the rigours of the playing schedule, there’s a tetchy note by Hadlee, strongly disagreeing with the one day fiesta arranged against his and Phillipps’ wishes at the East Molesey Cricket Club near Hampton Court, that game that I attended with my parents. He wrote ‘Jack and I have never approved of this game because we could easily incur the displeasure and rightly so, of any ‘Sunday Observance Society’ in this country or in NZ’. This is the committed Methodist speaking, but he went on to give a second reason, ‘It is not desirable for the team to be committed to cricket seven days a week’. And as he notes on the dvd, the county teams in those days played their strongest sides against the tourists, to which one might add, very much unlike today when in twelve or thirteen side games visiting teams feast dismally on second rate attacks or run through second team batsmen, while the top county players rest for a limited overs clash. So the cricket was exacting as can be seen if you check, for instance, the Surrey, Yorkshire, Middlesex, and Lancashire teams the Forty- Niners played. They and the other counties were also eager to reassert themselves against the tourists after almost all had been embarrassingly overwhelmed by the Australian ‘Invincibles’ the previous year.
Though both the Indians of 1946 and the South African tourists of 1947 had squads of sixteen, and the 1948 Australians seventeen for their long tours, the Forty-Niners had only fifteen players, one fewer than really necessary, no doubt for cost- cutting fears that if the tour was financially less than successful, as the three earlier teams’ were, another might be a long time coming. The pioneering side of 1927, managed by our elderly next door neighbour in 1950s Auckland, Douglas Hay, who once demonstrated to me and Pat Gallagher two houses away, a secret of batting the great Australian lefthander Clem Hill, no less, had passed on to him, which was not to grip the bat too tightly, somehow got by with fourteen players, as did the 1931 team with Tom Lowry doubling as captain and manager. The 1937 team, with Lowry player- manager, numbered a more sensible sixteen (with Lowry playing quite a number of games), but the Forty- Niners made do with fifteen, though had they been granted the four (or even five) day tests they asked for, it seems certain another player would have been included.
Just fifteen meant that there was always a concern with injuries, especially with a bowling attack felt justifiably to be weaker than the batting, and with the still formidable opening bowler Jack Cowie, now a veteran at thirty seven, at his peak back on the 1937 tour on which he taken 114 wickets, having to be carefully nursed through a propensity for leg strains in order to be fit for the tests. He took 59 wickets on tour at 27.13, and 14 wickets at 32.1 in the tests though he was unable to bowl in the second innings of the first test and was relatively ineffective against the England top order in the fourth test, no doubt from tiredness, though he recovered to end up with four lower order wickets in the big England total.
At the time of the first test, for which the young fast bowler Hayes was considered, Hadlee wrote of plans to use him with Cowie as the opening attack in the later tests. Those plans were disrupted by a bad injury to Hayes, which severely limited his appearances. Alan Mitchell in Cricket Companions noted that in the East Molesey game Merv Wallace suffered a groin injury which lingered for some time, increasing his mid-tour difficulties. Frank Mooney, the wicketkeeper missed the fourth test with a finger injury. On 5 August, in the Warwickshire game, with a month of the tour left, Hadlee noted eight injuries carried by the team, though for the most part without major consequences. After very nearly scoring a thousand runs in May, Wallace was, as he himself said, physically and mentally ‘buggered’, but this crucial batsman was unable to take R&R because of the smallness of the squad, as a consequence only regaining something of his early season form towards the end of the tour, that brilliant May which led Denzil Bachelor to include him in his Gallery of Great Cricketers published in 1952.
Hadlee himself was not in the best of health throughout the tour, suffering from persistent insomnia, carrying a nasty leg injury which often had to have attention, and nearly not playing in the second test. He rather dramatically suffered a nervous collapse after an exciting win at Derby on a day of tropical heat ( 94 C!), having to be revived with smelling salts and brandy.
At one point, as it was becoming clear that Hayes’ injury was not healing quickly, serious thought was given to asking the New Zealand Board for a replacement player. This, alas, couldn’t have been Tom Pritchard, the Taranaki-born fast bowler, who had taken 172 wickets for Warwickshire in the previous season (many of them clean bowled ) and reached his 100 wickets for the 1949 season on 3 August playing for Warwickshire against the tourists, taking 6-96, in the same game that Tom Burtt reached his 100. The loss of this formidable fast bowler with his 125 wickets for the season, must often have been in Hadlee’s mind, as it was in Denis Compton’s when he wrote in a newspaper column early in the season ‘that Pritchard would have added fire to the attack’.
At one point early in the tour Hadlee met up with Pritchard , and afterwards recorded the curious remark that he was ‘unlucky’ not to be in the touring team, which seemed to suggest that he was available for selection, but not picked. However, as he knew, the fast bowler had declared himself unavailable for selection because of his contract with Warwickshire. Perhaps then Hadlee meant that Pritchard was unlucky not to be sharing in the cameraderie and success of the tour. Here, it must be remembered that Pritchard was a professional earning his living from cricket whereas the team were all amateurs, playing for £1 expenses a day , retrospectively increased to 30 shillings later in the tour, and with employment to return to, while the Warwickshire bowler had little choice in a matter which was his livelihood. Martin Donnelly, of course, played for Warwickshire as well, but as an amateur, so his situation was very different. An online tribute to Pritchard by the Warwickshire Club sheds some light on the question, saying that Pritchard’s decision was swayed by the club having just reduced from ten years to five the period before a player’s benefit, which meant that taking a season’s leave would delay his from 1951 to 1952, though the piece says that he regretted his decision and felt he was wrongly advised, perhaps meaning by this that his value to Warwickshire was so great that a compromise might have been effected if he had taken a year off to play for his national team. A fantasy for winter nights when sleep comes slowly has often been the trio of Cowie, Hayes (who Reid claimed was the fastest bowler in England in 1949) and Pritchard, oneirically united, taking aim at Hutton, Edrich, Compton, Simpson and the other English batsmen. As it happened, no extra bowler was added to the team.
The team’s management also felt the pressures of a task load which in touring teams today (on very much shorter tours ) is mitigated by numerous backroom personnel. The captain and the manager J.H.Phillipps, with some help from the scorer and baggageman, Warwick Watts (both besuited in the team photograph above) bore a great burden of administrative tasks and social arrangements. Given his bouts of ill health, not just the leg injury which needed a lot of attention including draining at a couple of points, but persistent insomnia and other complaints, culminating in his collapse at the end of the game against Derbyshire, combined with his middleman role with English firms wanting entry to the heavily-barriered New Zealand market (discussed below), as well as his many social duties, indefatigable letter writing, and assiduous attention to the team and cricketing matters, Hadlee was often exhausted. Phillipps, by general consent an exemplary manager, hugely overworked, occasionally found it too much, on one occasion uncharacteristically in a ‘white rage’ over some mix-up, threatening to cable the NZCC asking to be relieved of his duties and having to be talked round into continuing his role.
The social side of the tour was of enormous importance, a weightiness increased by the historical circumstances of the immediate post-war period and the nearly five month length of the tour, consisting of social-diplomatic engagements on a scale unthinkable today. Not all the team attended all of the functions they were invited to, but the management made sure that a certain number always did, and the whole team attended the most important of them. In the early stage of the tour before the serious matches started, Hadlee’s and to some degree the team’s schedule was hectic. Between 19 and 25 of April, there were visits to Arthur Sims, a cricketing notable with strong New Zealand connections, lunch for Hadlee with ‘Jim’ Swanton, a visit with him to the Public Schools Club, a BBC broadcast with Arthur Gilligan, a meeting with members of the New Zealand Commonwealth Conference delegation at New Zealand House and then at the Savoy, while the team, which was still in Eastbourne, attended a cocktail party. Then the tourists attended the FA Amateur Cup Final before the Cricket Writers’ Club dinner; visited Windsor Castle and Eton; then, for Hadlee and Donnelly, dinner with the notable sports journalist Denzil Batchelor. The next day (25 April) ‘the team except Frank Mooney and Verdun Scott’ [is there an untold story here?]attended the Anzac Day service at St Martin in the Fields, then a buffet given by the Overseas League, the Royal Society of St George and the Royal Empire Society; afterwards a small ceremony at the Commonwealth Food Distribution Centre, followed by a party for the team given by Simpsons of Piccadilly. As the tour proceeded Hadlee and the team met many distinguished persons. The Prime Minister Clement Attlee told Hadlee that he used to watch Lockwood and Richardson bowl at The Oval. Sir Anthony Eden talked with him about his visit to New Zealand the year before. Hadlee discussed trade and other topics with Geoffrey Cox, an expatriate New Zealander who made a distinguished career in England, later becoming a driving force in Independent Television. Naturally he and the team also encountered many illustrious English cricketers of the past, e.g. Jack Hobbs, Maurice Leyland, Walter Hammond, Herbert Sutcliffe, Wilfred Rhodes, Gubby Allen, Douglas Jardine, and various others.
‘The past is another country. They do things differently there’, as the opening of a famous novel containing a pivotal cricket scene (L.P.Hartley’s The Go-Between, of course) declares. Those seventy years ago when New Zealand’s population was still under two million -officially 1,930,000 in 1951 – and the end of the war was only four years distant, both New Zealand and the UK were very different from today, ties between them stronger than in the present with most of the pakeha (white) population with close relatives in the UK , often still thought of as ‘home’. New Zealand’s economy was, as in the war, almost wholly directed to a Britain still in post-war austerity, very noticeable to the New Zealand cricketers whose country, though it had lost 12,000 men in the war, and had rationed primary produce in the war to send to Britain and feed the American troops in the Pacific, was physically untouched, with most rationing over by 1949. One of the team’s early engagements was at the Commonwealth Food Centre in Knightsbridge where symbolic food parcels were given to eleven schoolboy cricketers and where John Strachey, the UK Minister of Food thanked New Zealand for supplying 4 million lbs of food.
Food in austerity Britain not surprisingly is a running sub-theme through the diary and some of the team’s reminiscences on the accompanying dvd. As elsewhere Hadlee’s listings of food and drink consumed at various venues, good and average hotels, private houses and banquets are informative about the times, from three course meal descriptions, to important gifts of eggs, a note that a cake actually had cream on it, to Denis Compton’s generosity in tipping the team off where they could get extra rations of meat, plus the extra sustenance of cakes sent from home. On the dvd Wallace and Reid are amusing about the unpalatable minced chicken and spinach they were sometimes served. But some of the meals, especially at the many dinners put on for the team, were sumptuous, indeed on one occasion too much so, with a lunch interval banquet served up by the Lancashire club, excessive, leaving the team feeling that such a meal amidst scarcity had to be eaten down to the last mouthful, so that ‘The zip went out of the bowlers and the fieldsmen had difficulty in bending down. The Lancashire batsmen prospered’.
In cricketing terms the past of 1949 was indeed another country, or two countries. In England tours by the test playing nations, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies, and India, occupied the whole of the season. Apart from the touring side, the English season was dominated by the county championship, the seventeen sides playing each other in three day games, with one day cricket still decades off. The old distinction between ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Players’ still prevailed.
In New Zealand there were only four first class sides that competed for the Plunket Shield, Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago (long before the advent of Central Districts and Northern Districts ). Thus there were only three first class matches for the best players in the country, plus at the end of the season, when teams visited after their tours of Australia, either one or two test matches. So it’s true to say New Zealand cricketers before the 1970s were basically club players, for whom the move from club cricket to test matches (by way of only a few first class games) was difficult in the extreme. And with few overseas tours (the last before 1949 was 1937, while the next would be the 1953-4 tour of South Africa) it was very rare for players to have the opportunity of sustained high level cricket for months on end, making the experience of Hadlee, Donnelly, Wallace and Cowie on the 1937 tour so valuable for the Forty-Niners.
More generally, immediate post-war relations between the settler dominions and the UK, so close to the end of the Second World War, were of great importance. The bonds of wartime continued in the intimate linking of the New Zealand and British economies, only broken in 1973 when the UK joined the EEC, with New Zealand’s food exports to Britain the basis of the home economy and British exports to the highly controlled New Zealand economy important, though needing complicated controls and licencing procedures in order to protect both New Zealand’s balance of payments and local production, Hadlee’s role in the latter makes another of the diary’s sub-themes, as can be seen below.
In April 1949 during the early preparation time before the first major matches, a Commonwealth Conference was held in London ( 22-29 April ) to discuss the question of whether newly independent India might remain within the Commonwealth, while known to be about to declare itself a Republic (which it did the next year). Alongside representatives of the other white settler dominions, a New Zealand delegation attended, headed by the Labour Party Prime Minister, Peter Fraser. Fraser had already farewelled the team at a function at Parliament Buildings in Wellington, and significantly twice made time while in the UK to see them, first for afternoon tea on their Windsor Castle visit and then again on the first day of the opening game against Yorkshire at Bradford (the book has a photo of him with Hadlee and Phillipps from that occasion). Bill Jordan, the New Zealand High Commissioner in London from 1936 to 1951, was a major contact throughout the tour, present on many occasions – greeting the team on their arrival at Southampton ( a photo of this too), seeing them off when they sailed home,attending the Cricket Writers’, Surrey C.C.C’s, the House of Commons’, and Lord Mayor’s dinners with the team, making various speeches, and shouting the team to a farewell lunch at Claridge’s. Walter Nash, the New Zealand Minister of Finance, plays some part in the diary too (Minhinnick’s cartoon of him has already been mentioned), going to the first day of the Manchester test along with Paul Fussell, the Governor of the New Zealand Reserve Bank, where Hadlee talked to Nash about duty on cricket bats, later receiving a licence for someone to import bats, an instance of the strict controls that had to be negotiated on imports to New Zealand, and receiving a licence to buy and import a car costing up to £500, this last making up another minor but interesting sub-theme in the diary, with the captain inspecting Singers, a Hillman Hunter, a Humber ‘Hawk’ (such as my parents brought to NZ and my prep school headmaster owned), before finally settling on a Vauxhall 12. This is one of many reminders throughout the diary of Anglo – New Zealand market closeness, a home car market wholly dominated by British cars -of course now overwhelmingly Japanese, with British makes exceptional. One of several amusing anecdotes Hadlee records concerns both Nash and Jordan, and may be of interest to historians of New Zealand diplomacy. ‘Ted Webber discusses the lack of love between Bill Jordan and Walter Nash…who Bill called a “bloody egomaniac”……Jordan detests Nash and vice versa, apparently the situation has arisen out of a lot of petty incidents which Nash has magnified. One was the fact that he had a seat behind a pillar in 1937 at the coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey and blamed Jordan for it’.
While meeting with important New Zealanders in or visiting Britain – Peter Fraser the Prime Minister, Walter Nash the Minister of Finance, Bill Jordan, the High Commissioner, Geoffrey Cox, a notable expatriate, Ken Sleight, the NZ PM’s secretary, Alister McIntosh, Secretary of the NZ Department of External Affairs, and others- Hadlee made many connections which not only attested to the diplomatic importance of the tour, but were instrumental in giving him the role of go-between for Anglo-New Zealand business contacts. It was Bill Jordan the High Commissioner, who, on one of Hadlee’s visits to New Zealand House ‘spontaneously offers me a letter to A de V Leigh (Lee), Secretary of the London Chamber of Commerce … to assist in gaining agencies’, a letter that said ‘not only will you be helping Mr Hadlee, but also me and many others who will gain the benefit in that far distant Dominion of ours’. The explanation for this is that imports into New Zealand, overwhelmingly British, were a complicated area given New Zealand’s policies of stringent import licensing to protect its balance of payments and protect local industries, meaning that things were by no means simple for British companies wanting New Zealand outlets. From the chat with Walter Nash about the accrual of taxes on imported cricket bats, things developed into what became, with the help of Jordan’s letter, a sort of semi- official position as a middleman helping English manufacturers wanting to expand into the highly controlled New Zealand market. Hadlee’s accountancy background, working for and then rejoining after the tour a Christchurch firm of accountants, made him an obvious choice for such a role, the pursuit of which is evidenced in many diary entries, for instance that of 10 June when George Mann (the England captain in the first two tests ) put him in touch with Whitehall Mills, manufacturers of woolens and worsteds – ‘I think as a result, we will have revived an agency in New Zealand’, while on 29 July he recorded arranging an agency for a firm making horticultural knives, noting a 10% commission. Such a commission might well have been true for all or many of those he noted, like the three business appointments he had on 4 August before and after the first day’s play against Warwickshire. The New Zealand sports writer Lyn McConnell is straightforward in his online review of the Diary in saying that Hadlee used the role to his personal advantage. ‘It was little wonder Hadlee required some extra storage on the boat on the way home’. His role was obviously a useful combination of profit and patriotism. As captain, no one questioned his pursuit of these opportunities, which were tiring and time consuming, and certainly would not have been approved in later times.
As early as 2 July, before the third test, Hadlee , Phillipps and the senior players, Wallace, Donnelly, and Cowie met to discuss what was known to be coming, a query from Colonel Rait Kerr, the MCC’s secretary, as to whether, in the hope of breaking what might still be a stalemate after the third test, the New Zealanders might agree to the proposal for a fourth day to be added to the Oval test. This created a difficult dilemma. In the ‘very full discussion’ that ensued, there was a marked division of opinion, Hadlee, Donnelly and Phillipps arguing to accept, Wallace and Cowie to refuse, Hadlee’s position being that, even if they lost, the opportunity should be grasped for the future, for ‘this [at least four day tests] is what New Zealand cricket has been striving for’. Wallace’s and Cowie’s opposing position saw the prospect of a tired team losing an extended last test and thus diminishing the influence on the future so far gained. Finally, it was decided to cable the New Zealand Board without a definite recommendation, noting that the Executive was split. The text of the cable is included at the end of the 2 July entry. Back home, the Board’s decision was not to accept. Rather oddly, its reply, which must have been sent by cable, is not noted in the diary or commented on by Hadlee.
To refuse the extra day was, from the playing point of view, the right decision, since the restriction of the touring party to fifteen had been decided on in the light of the tests being of three days only, and had four day tests been agreed from the beginning (as they had been for the 1947 South Africans, though not the 1946 Indians) there would surely have been a sixteenth tourist, doubtless an extra bowler. By the time of the Oval Test , with Hayes out since the end of June, and Cowie’s fitness precarious , the team were tired by the long tour, and as Hadlee noted at the end of the second day, after big scores from Hutton, Edrich and Simpson, ‘I am afraid our bowlers have left their best in past Test matches’. A sleepless winter night’s fantasy imagines an available Pritchard alongside Cowie and a fit Hayes, which would have been a superior pace attack to England’s, especially with an out of tune Bedser not available for two of the tests, to New Zealand’s advantage as was generally admitted by the team especially after his performance in the last test (4-74 and 3-59) where he got both Sutcliffe and Donnelly in the second innings.
There’s no doubt that Hadlee was a formidable captain who continually got the best out of the team, in particular managing its limited bowling resources impressively. Sutcliffe later said of him that he was “the most meticulous and organised person I had known”. In building cameraderie in the team he had the advantage of the month long ship outward ship journey, with its physical training organised by Sutcliffe, talks by Hadlee and Wallace, and the jollity of shipboard games -deck golf, deck croquet, etc, and then nearly another month before the first real match of the tour against Yorkshire. These were benefits that with today’s air travel and ultra-crowded schedules could never occur again, belonging to that other country of the now more than seventy years distant past.
Hadlee’s meticulous pre-planning for the tour is well known, mapping expectations for the team and the individual players, five to get 1000 runs, five to get 50 wickets, the batsmen to get 30 hundreds,no more than 10 run outs to occur, etc. These predictions proved very prescient, eight scoring 1000 runs, five getting 50 or more wickets (including Burtt’s 114), and only 11 run outs. As Sir Richard Hadlee notes in his introduction, the captain’s thinking was influenced by the pre-war success of H.F.Wade’s 1935 South Africans in England , a team that narrowly won its series of five three day tests (1-0, with 4 draws), showing great application and stamina on a tour programme even more strenuous than the New Zealanders’ – winning 17 of 31 first class games, losing 2, also playing 2 one day and 8 two day games.
A major difference, of course, from our video era was that the Forty-Niners, like other teams of the day, lacked the detailed knowledge of their opponents and foreign conditions that today is taken for granted. In the case of the Forty – Niners, twelve years had passed since the last UK tour, with just the quartet of Hadlee, Donnelly, Wallace and Cowie having the experience of the 1937 tour. The only other tests played in the years preceding the tour were the 1946 debacle against Australia and a single home test against England in 1947, a rain-ruined game in which New Zealand held their own , to which a fourth day was unavailingly added, and which gave seven of the eventual tour party limited test experience against English players. By contrast the 1935 South African team that made such an impression on Hadlee, had predecessors in England in 1924 and 1929 and four large-scale MCC tours of South Africa between 1922-23 and 1930-31. Part of Hadlee’s interest in Wade’s team was without doubt that its success led to the next South African tourists of 1947 being granted four day rather than three day tests. That he read and digested the summary of Wade’s team’s tour in the 1936 Wisden is clear if you read that piece, which stressed that -‘…not one member of the party could be held to have failed. In the first class games, eight players scored over a thousand runs, and five bowlers took over fifty wickets’.
The Dominion Monarch’s stopover in Durban gave Hadlee the opportunity to collect useful knowledge from a friendly Dudley Nourse, the South African captain in the recent 1948-49 MCC tour of South Africa. Nourse gave him information about likely opponents, Hutton, Washbrook, Compton, Watkins, Wright, Jenkins, and others, which Hadlee noted assiduously,e.g. ‘Cyril Washbrook: gets out either behind backward square leg about ten yards from the bat or near the fence halfway between mid-wicket and deep fine leg. Bowl a short one to feed this shot’, ‘Denis Compton: Great player. Rushes up the track. Found bowling bouncers and over his head stopped him’.
While fourteen players travelled on the ship, the fifteenth member of the team, Martin Donnelly, waiting to greet them on arrival in England, had through his considerable achievements playing for Oxford and then Warwickshire, valuable recent knowledge of English conditions and English players which the team was eager to draw on.
Acclaimed by the English press as a notable captain, Hadlee was from the beginning aware of the imbalance in the team between its batting strength and bowling, so that on field his primary contribution was his handling of an attack that apart from the injury prone Cowie and the indefatigably persistent Burtt was lacking in penetration, with the other candidates after Hayes’ injury, for opening the bowling, Cave and Cresswell, nowhere near fast. Some interesting passages in the diary are about team selection on the eve of the tests, with the captain’s meditations largely on juggling the limited bowling resources, further weakened from before mid tour by the injury to Hayes about which Hadlee seemed at times unfairly sceptical at least in his private thoughts, no doubt created by frustration at the ever- present danger of over-bowling Cowie. Certainly, at the time of the first test Hayes was close enough to being picked to be asked to bowl at full pace on a strip adjacent to the Headingley test wicket the day before the game to see if it was fast enough to demand playing him. Hadlee wrote of planning to have Cowie and Hayes as a fast bowling combination in the later tests, but this was not to be. With such relatively slim bowling resources, from the beginning of the tour he emphasised the great importance of fielding back up, as entries from the earliest games reflect. During the first game of the tour against Yorkshire, he lectured the team on their fielding not being good enough, recording some particulars, e.g. ‘ Infielders must learn to field closer and watch the batsman’s feet, including gulley, especially when he plays forward – stay lower to the ground – when he plays back, move in’. After the win in the second game at Worcester, he criticised Cresswell, Hayes and Burtt for wandering out of position and Smith’s and Sutcliffe’s hand positions when dropping catches. The eventual result was that the team, by the standards of the time, became celebrated for its exceptional fielding.
Sutcliffe in praising the captain’s powers of analysis , related how Hadlee persuaded him both to open the batting and to field at legslip neither of which he had done before. When Hadlee told him he wanted him to field at leg slip, Sutcliffe’s protest that he had never fielded behind the wicket before was met with three precise reasons – “You can stand fine of the stumps because you have a strong left hand. Verdun Scott is going to field at leg gully and he has a long reach with his right hand—your left hand and his right hand will fill a large gap and we will be able to cover more territory”. Sutcliffe added that he fielded there for the rest of the tour.
There were some difficult moments, as will happen with even the best-adjusted teams. Brun Smith had had an excellent first test with 96 and 54 not out , followed by 23 in his only innings in the big NZ score at Lord’s, though his returns diminished in the games that immediately followed. John Reid, the ‘baby’ of the team, however, was in increasingly good form, and clearly a player beginning to realise his great batting potential (he had just made107* and 72 against Northants). For the third test Hadlee and his co-selectors looked to ‘blood’ Reid on both form and potential, hard as it was on Smith to be dropped when averaging 86.50 in the first half of the series. Hadlee showed a great deal of sensitivity in talking to both together about the selection.’We go into the question of playing both, and omitting Harry Cave, whose direction has been bad, but after a long consideration of this situation we feel that although Reid, Smith and Sutclffe could bowl, we would not have a great chance of keeping the runs down if England are going for the win’.(Reid’s bowling was at an embryonic stage in the tour). On both counts, Reid’s burgeoning promise and not taking the risk of substantially weakening the already suspect bowling, Hadlee was right in his very tough decision. Smith, understandably was depressed as Hadlee noted, ‘Brun, while very disappointed, is accepting of our tough decision’. Later,though, Hadlee complained about Smith’s disappointment persisting. ‘Brun is very bitter about his cricket just now – he is obviously still disappointed about being dropped from the test team. He is thinking of giving the game up and so on. I have to talk to him and ask him to act like a man. I think he will respond’. If the manning up tone here might be thought a bit insensitive, that’ s the last thing that could be said of speaking to both him and Reid together rather than separately, or just announcing the decision.
More complex were the difficulties with the left arm spinner Tom Burtt with whom he had a close mentor/ pupil relationship that was clearly very real but which at certain times Burtt might have found a bit oppressive. After the MCC dinner on 23 May Douglas Jardine invited the two of them to a private dinner which suggests he saw them as very close. Tom was one of the jokers of the team – it was he whose telephone falsetto lured an unsuspecting Verdun Scott to a glamorous-sounding false rendezvous with a young woman supposedly admiring of his physique at the Dominion Monarch’s swimming pool, watched by the team in hiding. But he upset the captain by being what he saw as pushy and grabby over the various perks available to the tourists. ‘Executive meeting: JHP, Merv, J.Cowie and I go through comparative gripes and issues during the last tour. Discuss Burtt’s moods and Cresswell’s absence’ [from a team meeting].
A longish entry during the sole loss of the tour to Oxford University reads, ‘Tom Burtt. At my request, Tom came to have a chat before breakfast. Briefly I had to tell him that his attitude to some things such as photos which he mentioned was paltry.[ The reference is obscure] Moreover his success at Lord’s [ 6-98 off 59.5 overs against the MCC] , which pleased me greatly after the years of study and work I had put in with him, has in some degree affected his outlook, and he has lost the happy ,nonchalant disposition we are accustomed to, when things are not going his way. I think he is inclined to put too much emphasis on his own success rather than the team’s success. Again,his commercial outlook and blatant, tactless manner of his approach to some things has been embarrassing for Jack Phillipps and myself which includes asking for MCC ties, enquiring about gates which is confidential and asking questions at awkward moments on purpose’ . And again,’All the players are enjoying their “freebies” (gifts) especially Tom Burtt who is spending a lot of time trying to get a few extra things for nothing. This is causing concern among some of the players and I will need to address this. I must not let this affect his focus on cricket or team morale’. Burtt, who had his own career commercial interests might have slightly resented Hadlee’s use of his position and reputation as an accountant for commercial ends. Tensions came to a head on the field when Burtt complained about being made to field too (dangerously) close to the batsman at short leg and Hadlee disagreed. ‘I asked JHP to speak to Tom who is obviously nursing a grievance about having to speak to him about his fielding at Southampton…and although I feel I have been fair and helpful to Tom, it is clear that he resents being told. What concerns me is that his attitude, borne out of his remark “Nobody pays me £20 a week to field here, will adversely affect the morale of the team’s fieldsmen…Tom has been inclined to suggest to others on the field that it is madness fielding so close to the batsman. I disagree’. Sympathising as this writer does with all unwilling fielders pushed into that boot hill position, one remembers, as no doubt Burtt did, that only the previous year England’s Dick Pollard, batting, had badly injured the Australian Sid Barnes fielding semi-suicidally close to the bat at silly short leg. After a talk with Tom which Hadlee feels didn’t get very far, he bemoaned a situation felt in personal terms, ‘Would you believe it? Tom of all people – the one I built up and helped to construct…’ Here he is referring to his nurturing of Burtt’s bowling talent as captain of the Canterbury side. In a passage written during the drawn match v Surrey, where Surrey made the largest score made against the tourists (645-9), he noted, ‘Today he got 0/103 and will never bowl well when under this sort of grievance’. Clearly, though, differences of attitude and temperament were happily repaired. Burtt’s comments on the tour included as an appendix along with some other players’ comments, make it clear that their intimate relationship continued.’He took me under his wing and helped me in my early days when I was in the Canterbury team. It was the continuation of a lifelong friendship and Wal nursed me along – we were almost like brothers’.
The captain’s disciplinary tendencies are evident elsewhere. At a shipboard team meeting not long after leaving New Zealand, ‘Jack Phillipps and I cover the following points:1.Dress for official luncheons (Fen Cresswell has been to functions without a tie).2 Introduction to people. Ces Burke has been smoking a cigarette when introduced. This has to stop. It is a bad look for the team’. On the voyage to England he welcomed a change in the seating at his table so that he could keep an eye on the younger players who he felt tended to overeat. Though, as these entries reveal, Hadlee could be something of a martinet (a characteristic that increased in his long reign as administrator), it should be remembered that codes of manners were stricter in those days, and that in a still imperial era Hadlee was conscious of the team not just being seen as a group of New Zealanders but as representatives of New Zealand itself, embodying the Dominion’s ‘better Britons’.
It should be stressed, though, that the team regarded their captain with great affection and respect and in retrospect unstintingly praised his leadership. Almost the only criticism made of him as an on field tactician was by John Reid, himself, of course, one of New Zealand’s great captains, when he later suggested that Hadlee took some of his preplanning to inflexible extremes. ‘He would tell the players who was going to bowl before lunch and how many overs they would bowl irrespective of the match situation’. An exemplary instance of his man management was his encouragement of Bert Sutcliffe after the great left hander’s disappointing beginning to the tour- only 295 runs at an average of 27, forgotten now after his magnificent aggregate of 2627 at 59.
Finding Bert alone during the Somerset game after another low score, Hadlee relates saying to him “Funny thing, only this morning I posted a letter to Endel Wanklyn (the NZCC Chairman) in Christchurch, saying that although Bert made a slow start, he would make over 2000 runs on this tour”. When Sutcliffe asked him if he had really done that, Hadlee said yes, and diagnosed the batsman’s temporary problem as playing across the line at balls on the leg stump. Hadlee ended the story with ‘ I never wrote or posted a letter but tried to use some psychology on Bert to help him and the team’.
Reminiscing on the dvd, Sutcliffe noted that “Wal was a crafty bugger”. His less obvious off the field man management abilities are evident, reading between the lines, in the diary’s offhand references to walks, bus journeys or visits undertaken with members of the team outside the senior selectorial circle of Donnelly, Wallace, and Cowie. It’s suggested in Sir Richard’s introductory writing, where he is doubtless relaying what his father told him, that Hadlee’s experience of the 1937 team splitting into cliques on his earlier tour made it a priority with him to avoid similar situations. It’s difficult to find evidence of what actually happened on the earlier tour, though indubitable that Hadlee registered it strongly. Hence the pattern throughout the later tour of him casually meeting up with individual players , e.g. on 12 August when he went to Southend on Sea pier and promenade with ‘Geoff’ (Rabone). On 12 May, he recorded, ‘Fen Cresswell and I take the bus to 62 New Broad St, London. I jump out at New Zealand House to deliver tickets to Trev Campbell on the way and back onto the same bus’. Hadlee also used his professional knowledge to help Fen Cresswell’s plans for his return to New Zealand, noting on 1 October on the return voyage that he was working on plans for Cresswell’s home, and loans through the Building Society in the afternoon.
A few times the impeccable politeness gives way; little rants about autograph hunters are not a very sympathetic trait to this writer who collected autographs seriously as a boy. They can be put down to the tiredness that often caught up with the captain during the tour. At another time he noted without comment that he’d just signed 150 autographs, perhaps as a penance. More notable was an episode in Sydney on the way to England where the team attended Bradman’s penultimate first class game the Kippax – Oldfield Testimonial in Sydney where, as Hadlee recorded it, Bradman behaved insultingly towards the New Zealand visitors, not attending a lunch where he was meant to be seated beside Hadlee, and making no attempt to meet the New Zealand players when they went to the dressing room to meet him where ‘he lay naked on the massage table and simply turned his head to meet each one of us’, and ‘later stayed under the shower when I was talking to him. He did not shake hands when I offered him congratulations on his knighthood’. One is left groping for an explanation. Was a bored underestimation of New Zealand cricket – based on the disastrous batting performance by NZ in the 1946 test against Australia in which Bradman didn’t play – the major factor, alongside any mood that might have affected Bradman’s civility that day? One can see how it would have registered very badly with Hadlee and the team, especially when they had been welcomed by the president of the New South Wales Association and had met with Arthur Mailey, Jack Ryder, Stan McCabe, and Vic Richardson.
Relations with the English cricket press were generally very warm. At the beginning of the tour the team were guests at a formal dinner given by the Cricket Writers Club at Simpson’s in the Strand – ‘ A very impressive and jovial evening’. Among cricket writers Hadlee recorded being there were the playwright Ben Travers (also author of Ninety Four Declared), E.W. Swanton, Bruce Harris, John Arlott, Rex Alston. Denzil Batchelor, Brian Sellers, Peter West Reg Hayter, R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, and Arthur Mailey. Hadlee became friendly with both those antithetical personalities Arlott and Swanson, was, along with Martin Donnelly and his girl friend, entertained for dinner at the Batchelors, and had numerous contacts – some to do with broadcasts – with Rex Alston, who he noted at the end of the tour ‘has been very good to us’. The highly appreciative UK press covering of the team, however, had an odd bump in the road, in great part due, Hadlee felt, to Crawford White’s ‘splenetic’ writing in the News Chronicle, accusing the New Zealanders of defensive play on the grounds of their slow scoring on the first day of the Manchester test when they scored only 276-8 after being put in, which was slow going compared with most of the series. ‘He has become rather poisonous in his writings and said that the profit of £10,000 would likely not eventuate because the last shreds of interest on [sic] the tour would depart due to NZ’s slow scoring on the first day’. On the first day of the last test Hadlee wrote ‘ Certain writers have discussed our ‘defensive’ tactics. Poor stuff by Frank Rostron, Crawford White (News Chronicle),Fred Root (Pictures) and Alex Bannister (Daily Mail)’. Hadlee was clearly riled by these writings, citing against them ‘E.W.Swanton’s refutation in the Daily Telegraph that we have been slow or defensive in our fielding tactics’. The captain followed this with a number of statistics showing ‘beyond all reasonable doubt our overs per day are more than reasonable compared with England’ , evidence that is convincing, both teams bowling at around 20 overs an hour, an extraordinary figure by today’s standards. The English batting did outpace New Zealand over the series by the calculation of runs per 100 balls, 55 to 49, but the NZ scoring rate was still higher than any of England’s opponents between 1946 and 1949 except the West Indies in 1947-48 and Australia in 1946-47, and higher than the Australians in 1948 (though of course New Zealand’s tests were three day affairs where one would expect quicker scoring rather than over the four or five days played by the other countries). An unfair claim is still circulated by some cricket writers that the team went into the series and played throughout it with the sole intention of not being beaten, but this is a distortion of the dominant situation in the tests of two strong batting but weaker bowling sides unable to force victory, in very favorable batting conditions. England’s powerful top order, with Hutton, Compton,Simpson, Washbrook, and others registered seven centuries to New Zealand’s two, but the New Zealand middle order outscored England with fourteen 50s to seven.
Studying the scorecards and reports of the test matches, one probably agrees with Alan Mitchell’s verdict that ‘If Tests could be decided by a points system when all matches were drawn, England would in all probability have been awarded the 1949 series. Even so, with all the imponderables associated with cricket, it is impossible to say what might have been the result of the games if there had been a fourth day….’. Both teams had chances to press home advantages that they were unable to take, given the three day format and the continued excellence of the pitches during the second innings. At Lord’s England were 171 behind on the first innings but had little difficulty in the second, while at the Oval New Zealand, 137 behind in the first innings, had a relatively untroubled second innings. On paper the English bowling attack was stronger, though weakened, as the New Zealanders recognised, by Bedser not being at his best and only playing two of the tests. In the last two tests England packed their team with bowlers in an attempt to break through the opposition’s batting, but failed. Hollies (leg spin) and Bailey ( fast medium) were the most successful in the series with 10 wickets at 38 and 16 at 37, while for New Zealand Cowie with 14 at 32 and Burtt with 17 at 33 dominated. Cave, Rabone, and in the last test Cresswell gave valuable persistent support which somehow managed to keep in check the English batting.
The enduring legacy of the Forty-Niners, apart from their definitively putting an end to three day test matches, was not immediately obvious. New Zealand cricket fell away in the following home seasons, narrowly escaping defeat in the one unofficial test against a strong second string 1950 Australian side (the first stringers were in South Africa), losing heavily to the West Indies in 1952, then to South Africa in 1953. The sustained improvement in test cricket that might have been expected after 1949 did not happen, for several reasons. Many of the team retired shortly after the tour, Donnelly and Cowie immediately, Hadlee in 1951, others a little later, leaving Sutcliffe and Reid as the only remaining world class players, to shore up highly inexperienced teams, which lacked consistent international experience until the advent of a more extensive test match programme, and the era of one day internationals which gave New Zealand cricketers more of the experience of playing regular international cricket which they previously lacked, and led to professional contracts. But as Rod Edmond in his evocative piece writes, in the bad days that immediately followed (that catastrophic 26 all out versus England in 1955, the embarrassing 1958 tour, only alleviated by a first ever test match win against the West Indies in 1956), memories of the Forty-Niners, stirred through reading Mitchell’s Cricket Companions’ affectionate account of better days, kept his hopes going, as the legend of the Forty-Niners did for New Zealand cricket in general.
The team left England on 23 September, ‘a big and emotional day’, as the ship sailed after the singing of ‘Now is the Hour’. The captain, whose entries usually kept a tight rein on emotion, wrote feelingly , ‘Everybody seems upset at the partings and I cannot keep the tears back and the heart coming to my throat when I say goodbye to Martin ‘Squib’ Donnelly. All I can say is “Thanks for a great job” and I feel quite a fool…….I see Martin has to use his handkerchief too and Merv and I feel the same way at lunch- we are very miserable about leaving behind our good friend of 1937 and 1949 and we think about all our days together on this tour, when we have always been so close to one another’.
And, here, reminiscing years later as seen on the dvd. I only saw him bat once in a festival game in Auckland in 1961 when he came out of retirement in Australia not having played for 12 years, and scratched around inelegantly for a very few runs Nevertheless even to see him do that was a privilege.
The dvd accompanying the book notably contains some precious newsreel fragments of the tests, in particular glimpses of Sutcliffe and Donnelly batting, views of the crowds at Lord’s and Old Trafford, and the team being introduced to Royalty at Lord’s, but most centrally some of the team many years later, grown elderly, remembering the tour – Martin Donnelly, Bert Sutcliffe, Merv Wallace, Johnny Hayes, John Reid and of course Hadlee himself, those heroes of my youth with their mixture of unpretentiousness, forthrightness, modesty, and good humour reminding me nostalgically of the best aspects of the long ago New Zealand I grew up in, of male friends of the family I looked up to, and even a little of John Mulgan’s cautiously admiring view, recorded in his war memoir, Report on Experience, of New Zealand soldiers in the North African and Greek campaigns – ‘Everything that was good from that small, remote country had gone into them- sunshine and strength. good sense, the versatility of practical men’ , though aged now, with Bert Sutcliffe at times struggling with the emphysema that killed him. The humour sometimes rough, as in Sutcliffe’s account of the run chase he and Donnelly made to win the game against Lancashire, scoring 153-1 in 26 overs. The young left arm spinner Malcolm Hilton, known as ‘the boy who bowled Bradman’, for dismissing Bradman twice when the 1948 Australians played Lancashire, unfortunately grated against Bert’s egalitarian instincts by his apparently pretentious behaviour “as if his faeces didn’t smell”, so that taking him apart (0-60) in the successful run chase was a democratic pleasure.
Most of a lifetime on from the tour Hadlee recorded in his diary, one looks back on many later remarkable on field feats with greater rewards in terms of victories – remembering that Sutcliffe in the 42 tests in which he played, averaging 40, never was in a test match winning team – the batting of Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe and Kane Williamson, the bowling of Richard Hadlee, Daniel Vettori, and very recently, Kyle Jamieson, several test and series wins over England, the rare test and the only series win over Australia, the desperate unforgettable ODI World Cup Final of 2019, and the extraordinary defeat of the mighty Indians in the World Test Championship of a month ago. Yet on my personal field of dreams it is most often that fabled summer of 1949, of which I saw only a mostly forgotten fragment, with a lissome Bert Sutcliffe and diminutive Martin Donnelly at the crease, in the middle of one of many brilliant batting displays, like the 109 scored in less than twelve overs to beat Hampshire, or stocky Tom Burtt bowling unflagging over after over of left arm orthodox to Hutton and Compton as they try to thread the brilliant cover fielders Donnelly, Wallace and Reid, with Hadlee relating that as they walked off the field at lunch on the second day at Manchester Hutton said to him in tribute to the fielding “It seemed like you had 13 players out there and I don’t mean ‘oompires’ helping you!” The latter one of many anecdotes that decorate the book.