As of the 2008 season, New Zealand had played England in 94 tests, almost twice as often as it had met any other team. England had won 45 of these matches, New Zealand only eight. Formal contact with England began when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) sent a team to New Zealand in the 1906–07 season. Founded in 1787, the MCC is a private members' club and was the original governing body of cricket in England and across the world. Based at Lord's in London, the MCC organised England's cricket teams for the first three-quarters of the 20th century.
Games against the MCC were regarded as unofficial tests, and visits here usually occurred at the end of the more important Ashes tours of Australia. A New Zealand team first went to England in 1927. On this visit no tests were played and 12 of the 38 games were second-class fixtures. New Zealand was not considered good enough to deserve a test. After New Zealand was given test status in the 1929–30 season, it played England in 19 of its first 22 tests over the following 21 years.
Many cricket experts regard the 1949 tour of England as New Zealand's greatest-ever touring performance. All four tests (each of only three days) were high-scoring draws, with Martin Donnelly's 206 at Lord's hailed as one of the finest innings ever seen there. New Zealand's only defeat during the tour occurred on a rain-affected wicket against Oxford University. To put this achievement into perspective, the 1948 Australian team, led by the great Don Bradman, had been the first team to complete a tour of England without defeat.
New Zealand suffered many defeats at English hands before winning a test, at Wellington's Basin Reserve in February 1978. Needing only 137 to win, the English slumped for a total of 64, with Richard Hadlee capturing 6/26. This first victory – at the 48th attempt – was a tribute to perseverance, and it was enthusiastically welcomed as proof that we could at last compete with our former colonial masters. The series was drawn 1–1. Victory remained elusive. The normal pattern resumed when New Zealand toured England later that year; the English completed a 3–0 whitewash.
Beating England in England for the first time, 1983
New Zealand's victory in the second test at Headingley, Leeds, in July-August 1983, was not enough to prevent England winning the series 3–1. The bowling hero was the medium pacer Lance Cairns, who claimed 10 wickets in the match for 144 runs. Rather surprisingly, New Zealand's premier bowler, Richard Hadlee, did not take any wickets, although he did score 75 runs in the first innings.
Winning a series against the English for the first time, 1984
Victory in the second test at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, in February 1984 gave New Zealand a 1–0 series win. Richard Hadlee hit a whirlwind 99 on the first day, on a difficult pitch, to give New Zealand a competitive total of 307. He followed this up with match figures of eight wickets for 44 runs as England was defeated by a massive innings and 132 runs inside three days.
A first series win in England, 1986
An eight-wicket victory in the second test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, in August 1986 gave New Zealand a 1–0 series win. Trent Bridge was effectively Richard Hadlee's second home, as he played county cricket there for Nottinghamshire. He demonstrated his all-round skills with match figures of 10 for 140 and 68 runs in his only turn at batting.
First win at Lord's, 1999
After 13 attempts New Zealand finally tasted success at cricket's most famous ground, in the second test in July 1999. This was only our fifth win in 80 tests against England. Chris Cairns captured 6/77 in the home side's first innings of 186, while Matt Horne was the top scorer with 100 in New Zealand's first innings. New Zealand won the four-test series 2–1.
Oops: lowest score in test history, 1955
New Zealand's darkest day on the cricket pitch was at Eden Park, Auckland, on 28 March 1955. Having scored 200 runs in its first innings, the New Zealand team felt it had put itself back in the match when it dismissed England for 246. Satisfaction was short-lived, and the New Zealanders were dismissed for 26. Opener Bert Sutcliffe was the only one to make it to double figures, with the top score of 11.
New Zealand toured England in 1958 and fared little better, being dismissed for 47 and 74 in the second test.
Near fatality at Eden Park, 1975
The first test of the 1975 series at Eden Park nearly ended in tragedy when debutant Ewen Chatfield was struck on the head by a bouncer from the English bowler Peter Lever. At this stage helmets were not a part of a cricketer's attire. Chatfield suffered a fractured skull, and his heart stopped beating. His life was almost certainly saved by the quick reactions of Bernard Thomas, the English physiotherapist, who administered heart massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Despite the number of games played against England, New Zealand's first official test victory came against the West Indies (the Windies) in the final test at Eden Park in March 1956. The result made no difference to the series as the Windies were already up 3–0, but after 22 defeats – including the horror loss to England on the same ground the previous year – and 22 draws, New Zealand had at last broken its 26-year test-match duck.