It was 40 years ago today that one of New Zealand cricket's most famous test victories was achieved at the Basin Reserve.

Over five days New Zealand's cricketers knocked down a door which had been jammed shut for 48 years. Future New Zealand cricketers should forever owe a debt to this team who showed them what was possible.

Every other test nation had been beaten. Except England.

That all changed and heroes were made.

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At that point, New Zealand had won just nine tests. They had been playing tests since 1929-30; the first win had finally come in 1956, against the West Indies at Eden Park.

There had been subsequent victories over South Africa (twice), the West Indies again, India three times, Australia and Pakistan once each.

"It probably set up for what happened in the 1980s," fast bowler Richard Collinge recalled.

"John Wright and Stephen Boock were playing their first test. They must have thought this test cricket is a piece of piss because one test, one win," he laughed.

Boock, later the president of New Zealand Cricket, remembered the thrill of the occasion.

"It was unexpected and really exciting," he said.

"People who knew you were thrilled for us."

Mark Burgess was captaining New Zealand for the first time. He remembered the goodwill the win engendered for the team, and the game in New Zealand.

"It was a wonderful thing, a great to be part of," he said.

"It was such a significant moment for New Zealand cricket and I do feel very fortunate to have been part of it."

THE LEADUP

In 48 years since making their first appearance as a test nation, against England, New Zealand had not won a single match of the 47 between the countries. 24 had been drawn, 23 lost.

Certainly, there had been close shaves – notably at Trent Bridge and Lord's in 1973 when, respectively, New Zealand fell 38 runs short of what would have been one of the all-time great chases, and but for a dropped catch or two on the final day, would have won at cricket's HQ.

When England arrived at the Basin, it was for the first test of a three-match series, and they were coming off a tour of Pakistan, and without their tour captain Mike Brearley, ruled out after breaking an arm.

That left the captaincy to Geoff Boycott, a self-obsessed, skilled and redoubtable Yorkshireman. Opposing him was Mark Burgess, the Auckland batsman also chosen to lead his country for the first time, as the 14th test skipper.

Burgess was a reluctant skipper. The previous two, Bevan Congdon, who remained in the side, and Glenn Turner, had ruled themselves out.

"It took about four phone calls from (manager) Frank Cameron to persuade me I was the best available of those who remained. I wasn't even captain of Auckland that season either," Burgess recalled.

"I was more serious about what I was doing in my career really than in cricket. The main thing was your occupation and we didn't play that much. I probably had a couple of club games then we assembled."

Mark Burgess remembers the build-up to the test
Mark Burgess remembers the build-up to the test "fondly". Photo / Photosport

Burgess knew it was "a terrific honour; I still look back on it very fondly but it was a testing time for me."

He's sure the captaincy stymied him as a positive, assertive batsman, being conscious of leading by example from a batting discipline perspective.

New Zealand had two new caps, a shaggy-haired, moustachioed opener John Wright, and a tight-fisted left-arm spinner Stephen Boock. Both played important parts in what followed.

The longest-serving players were Congdon and fast bowler Richard Collinge, a big, burly and highly competitive left-armer, who made their debut in the same test and also played their last together later in 1978, fittingly at Lord's.

Preparations for the test were, to put it mildly, rudimentary compared with modern times. The team would assemble two days before a test, have a couple of nets and a dinner the night before.

"I don't ever recall that we had a meeting or discussion before the match,'' said Boock. ''If we did it went in one ear and out the other."

Indeed Boock doesn't recall even being aware New Zealand had never beaten England in a test when it began – "that started to grow as an issue as the game went on'."

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK

By the end of the third day, it was even stevens. New Zealand 228, England 215 and the hosts 12 for none at stumps.

By then Wright had made a real nuisance of himself to the English, taking a little under six hours over 55, but it might just as easily have been a duck. Spectators heard a loud nick as the first ball of the match from tall, mop-haired Bob Willis passed lefthander Wright's bat.

'Not out' said umpire Ralph Gardiner, perhaps being buffeted by the winds at his back, and not seeing a deflection. (The story goes that when Wright was autographing copies of one of his books a few years ago, Gardiner walked up with the mounted ball from that innings and asked him to sign it. Wright gratefully obliged).

Willis was apoplectic. Shortly after Wright's opening partner Robert Anderson got a quick single off Willis to get to the non-strikers' end.

As Anderson told broadcaster and writer Eric Young several years ago: "As I make my way down to the other end Willis stands in front of me and says, 'Jumbo, you f...ing stay down this end. It's the other .... I want'."

The stubbornness which became a hallmark of Wright's batting for the next 15 years in the national team stood him in good stead as he battled the bowling, and the blustery winds to get through the day.

Cans were swept along the concourse surrounding the ground, back and forth with the winds. It was miserable.

England's bowling attack was strong but in the Richards, Hadlee and Collinge, with seamer Dayle Hadlee in support, New Zealand knew what they were about too.

So all square, then going into the fourth day after a rest day. Then things all changed.

THE THUNDERCLAP

New Zealand has serious history for batting collapses. Nothing had changed by 1978.

From 82 for one they lost nine for 41, tumbling to 123 all out in just 44.3 overs, a lead of just 136. In a fashion to match the weather, they were simply blown away, chiefly by Willis.

"I recall being absolutely bloody furious with how it all happened," Burgess said. "I'd batted an hour for six so contributed nothing and I really got stuck into the team, myself included for what had happened.

"There were strong words. I produced my equivalent of an Alex Ferguson teacup throwing," he quipped referring to the legendary Manchester United manager's temper.

But away from Burgess' ears another, more significant, conversation was taking place. Collinge takes up the story.

"'Paddles' (Hadlee) and I had a chat before we went back out, and we said 'well, let's go and give it to them. The track's a bit unpredictable, let's knock them over."

England captain and opening batsman Geoff Boycott is bowled by Richard Collinge for one in the 1978 test at the Basin Reserve. Photo / Herald Archive
England captain and opening batsman Geoff Boycott is bowled by Richard Collinge for one in the 1978 test at the Basin Reserve. Photo / Herald Archive

On their way back onto the field – in those days the players dressing rooms were underneath what is now the cricket museum at midwicket on the terraces, the pitch at a slightly different angle – the spectators gave the players no mercy.

"They were booing us, jeering, saying 'you've wasted an opportunity'. They didn't give us a lot of support," Hadlee remembered years later.

But the afternoon turned into one of the unforgettable sessions in New Zealand test history.

Collinge, charging up into a stiff southerly, got thing started, yorking the redoubtable Boycott for one. It is perhaps still the most celebrated single ball in New Zealand test history.

The crowd erupted. The one true top class batsman in the England side, the player who would set himself to bat his team to victory, had been swept away.

It was a full length, Boycott shaped to play it to the onside and missed it. Collinge had dismissed Boycott in the first innings after a marathon 77, and went on to take his wicket twice more in his other three innings in the series.

"There was always the likelihood he'd dunny door and get them home," Collinge said. "If we could get 'Boycs' there was a chance."

The crowd, sensing the significance of the moment, weighed in from the bank.

Others may have dared to dream, but Burgess wasn't among them. Not yet. He had been down this road several times before, only to see it turn into a dead end.

"I had always been more of a pragmatist than a dreamer. It was a little later when more happened that it started to dawn on me."

Collinge modestly played down any personal significance about that wicket. He says he doesn't really remember it that well.

"I think I was struggling a wee bit coming into the breeze and might have flighted it a bit like (spinner) Boocky," he chuckled.

Collinge's only take on it was the collective rather than personal.

"My thoughts were it was a means to win a test. Any time you can contribute to a win is very satisfying because that's what you're in the game for."

Collinge took the next two wickets before Hadlee took over. Those were his long runup days, starting with the distinctive little sideways shuffle.

"Paddles was bowling really quick. The pitch was up and down by then. It was really difficult (batting) and that's why we had a feeling anything could happen," Boock said.

In those days of eight-ball overs, the Hadlee and Collinge bowled 26 of 27 overs between them.

Men in walk shorts and white towelling hats clanged beer cans together – "Hadlee; Hadlee!" rang round the ground, and he delivered in spades.

Wicketkeeper Warren Lees snapped up a one-handed catch low to his right; Ian Botham miscued a hook to be caught by Boock behind square; Phil Edmonds was caught, after a juggle, by John Parker at slip.

Phil Edmonds hangs his head as he leaves the Basin Reserve after being caught by John Parker from the bowling of Richard Hadlee. Photo / Herald Archive
Phil Edmonds hangs his head as he leaves the Basin Reserve after being caught by John Parker from the bowling of Richard Hadlee. Photo / Herald Archive

Boock made his big contribution, running out Bob Taylor with a direct hit from behind square leg. Hadlee punched the air furiously with each wicket, each step closer to what had seemed the unthinkable an hour earlier.

At stumps England were 53 for eight, and done.

Early morning rain held things up for a time before Hadlee finished the job. All out 64. Hadlee finished with six for 26; Collinge three for 35. A race for souvenirs before champagne in the dressing room.

Watch: Richard Hadlee's 6/26

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Richard Hadlee 6/26 vs England 1977/78 1st test

Of Hadlee, Boycott said: "I thought he was a majestic bowler, the best 'corridor' bowler I've played against, or seen."

Parker was photographed raising a glass of bubbles. The joke was he didn't drink alcohol.

Boycott came in, shaking the New Zealand players' hands.

Richard Hadlee, the hero of the game, leaving the field soon after with Richard Collinge, the other New Zealand bowling star, in the background. Photo / Herald Archive
Richard Hadlee, the hero of the game, leaving the field soon after with Richard Collinge, the other New Zealand bowling star, in the background. Photo / Herald Archive

"We don't want to be bad losers. The better side won," he said.

"He certainly showed great consideration for us and what it meant for New Zealand cricket," Boock said.

There were thoughts for all those players who had gone before this XI, outstanding players like Walter Hadlee and Bert Sutcliffe, who had never enjoyed a moment to match this.

"I only realised afterwards that it was such a watershed moment," Boock said.

"It wasn't just a win for the 12 players (including 12th man Ewen Chatfield); it was a win for New Zealand and on the back of our team were scores of other players who had played before, some of them great players and never experienced what we were. That makes you feel quite humble."

There have been a couple of reunions, after 20 and 30 years, and in Christchurch at the end of next month most of them are gathering for a day at the second test against England.

WHAT FOLLOWED

Well, not much immediately. New Zealand went to England four months later full of optimism after burying that particular bogey.

Performance didn't match hopes and England won the series 3-0.

But in 1983 New Zealand won a test in England for the first time; the following summer England were shot out in less than two days for 82 and 93 at Lancaster Park; in 1986 New Zealand won the series in England 1-0. Fresh territory conquered.

Australia had been beaten away, then home a season earlier and New Zealand establish a fabulous record throughout the decade.

It's not unreasonable to suggest events at the Basin Reserve laid the foundation for what followed. Confidence and self-belief grew to a point future New Zealand teams knew they could match their more celebrated opponents. For that they should be grateful to the XI from the Basin who had demonstrated what was possible.

THE FINAL WORD

Collinge moved to Sydney 24 years ago. One day a chap tapped him on his shoulder.

"I know you," the stranger said.

"Do you remember the streaker at the Basin Reserve test?"

"I said I did and he said 'it was me'," Collinge recalled. "He lives down my way and we had a catchup. We'd knocked over Boycott and Miller and he said to his mates 'if Collinge gets another wicket I'll streak'."

Derek Randall came and went. Cue naked man hurdling the fence at the northern end.

"He ran across the field, out the southern gate, turned left, went round the side of the Basin where his mates threw his clothes over the top of the fence. He got dressed and went back in the northern end gate. They said 'where's your ticket?' He said he'd misplaced it, and they let him back in."

Which goes to show even the gatekeepers were caught up in the exhilaration of one of New Zealand cricket's most famous days.

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