David Leggat: Recalling our glory days

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It was a good day to be at the Basin Reserve yesterday.

Fine weather, competitive cricket, a big crowd in the sun at one of the game's most distinctive grounds with its vehicular cacophony of sirens, horns and steady rumble of traffic surrounding it - and a chance to remember some of New Zealand's glory days.

That came in two parts.

First, was the arrival of players from yesteryear, the surviving members of the 1969 team which toured England, India and Pakistan - and think about that for an itinerary for a moment, nine tests and a stack of first-class matches stretching over almost five months - who deserve their place in New Zealand's cricket pantheon.

Then, there was the induction of the country's greatest player, Sir Richard Hadlee, into the International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame.

Wellington has developed a fine tradition of arranging reunions for teams of 30, 40, even 50 years ago to coincide with its major test of each summer.

So why were the 1969 team so deserving of a weekend get-together?

When they beat India by 167 runs at Nagpur in October of that year, it was New Zealand's first win in India and only the country's sixth win ever. Consider that New Zealand have won just once more in that most passionate of cricket nations and you get an idea of the scale of their achievement.

Sadly, one of the key figures in that win, left-arm spinner Hedley Howarth, who took nine for 100 in the match, was not there. He died last November. Neither were other notable players, Dick Motz, Bob Cunis and Ken Wadsworth, who have also passed away.

A few weeks after Nagpur, this group won for the first time in Pakistan, beating their hosts by five wickets at Lahore. When they defiantly drew the final test on a dramatic last day at Dacca, it was New Zealand's first series victory overseas.

Over the weekend, the tales will be retold, some players should earn temporary nicknames of Pinocchio as the yarns no doubt grow with each recalling and they will enjoy one another's company, just as they did on that tour where they grew into a tough, resilient bunch, as you needed to be to succeed in those countries back then.

Several of them, men like Mark Burgess, Bevan Congdon, Glenn Turner, Dayle Hadlee and Richard Collinge, were also at the Basin Reserve seven years later when India were rolled for 81 in the second innings. Chief architect? R.J. Hadlee: 8.3-0-23-7.

Two years later, Hadlee was at it again, taking six for 26 as England were cleaned out for 64, giving New Zealand their first win over that country.

In 12 tests at the Basin, Hadlee took 53 wickets at 20.28 apiece. That was part of a fabulous record of 431 wickets in 86 tests at 22.29 each.

He held the world record when he took his 374th wicket in India in 1988. For a decade he was the dominant figure in a strong New Zealand team.

At a time when New Zealand fans are clamouring for a return by Shane Bond it's worth remembering just how good Hadlee was in his pomp.

He's the only New Zealander inducted into the ICC hall. There are a few others who might find their way in, in years to come. But once again, as with so many of his accomplishments down the years, Hadlee did it first.

- NZ Herald

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