Episode 33: New Zealand cricket’s long journey to success

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Charles Darwin watched a cricket match in New Zealand in 1835 10 minutes – but the country had to wait a long time for international recognition and even longer for its first Test match victories. Things began to change in the 1970s, and David Leggat explains the reasons for its climb, and not only the one named Richard Hadlee. Formerly the chief cricket writer of the New Zealand Herald who has reported and toured with many New Zealand teams, he is the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller on their latest cricket-themed podcast.

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David profiles the latest addition to New Zealand’s formidable pace attack – Kyle Jamieson (roughly the height of Joel Garner).1-3 minutes He pays tribute to the leadership and exceptional dedication of Kane Williamson. 6-7 minutes New Zealand’s best teams, he suggests, have been built on a few world-class performers supported by hard-working players who “get on with the job and do their bit” – in line with the country’s national character. 8-9 minutes

He suggests reasons why rugby union took off so much more quickly than cricket in New Zealand. He reveals that the legend of the invincible All-Blacks began with a misprint in newspaper copy. 26-28 minutes

Historically, he argues that distant England did more to support New Zealand cricket than neighbouring Australia, who played one (retrospective) Test match against them in 1946 and then no more until 1973. 10-12 minutes There is enduring gratitude to England’s pioneering tourists in the nineteenth century – notwithstanding the betting scandal in 1877 (the first in international cricket) by the English wicketkeeper Ted Pooley. 12-13 minutes England later established the practice of tacking on a short Test tour of New Zealand after Ashes tours to Australia. In one of these, Walter Hammond struck what was then the record Test match score. He pays tribute to an early great New Zealand bowler, Jack Cowie – who needed just one over to dismiss Don Bradman in front of a packed Adelaide Oval. 15-20 minutes

He traces New Zealand’s generally friendly relationship with Pakistan cricket – and gives a striking first-hand portrait of Imran Khan on and off the field. 21-24 minutes David’s father, Gordon Leggat, played for New Zealand on their pioneering tour of Pakistan in the 1950s, and, as a barrister, was called on to perform most of the team’s many speaking duties. He was later a national selector, tour manager and chair of the New  Zealand Cricket Council, and David traces his influence on making New Zealand stronger international competitors. 33-38 minutes

For years, New Zealand’s best cricketers were amateurs, with just a small allowance for overseas tours. Some of the best, such as Bert Sutcliffe, had to leave the game for long periods to earn a living. David assesses the impact of access to English county cricket for New Zealand players in the 1970s such as Glenn Turner, John Parker, Geoff Howarth, and of course Richard Hadlee – who became the first New Zealand player to have his name chanted by crowds. They gave inspiration to others to apply themselves professionally. 29-33, 36 minutes Three highly significant Test wins in the 1970s, and success in ODIs, put New Zealand’s cricket on an upward trajectory which brought them to number 2 in the international Test rankings. ­40-41 minutes

Finally, he reveals the team’s pain at the manner of their defeat in last year’s World Cup beneath the public display of good sportsmanship which won them so much admiration. 42-45 minutes.

Get in contact with the podcast by emailing obornehellercricket@outlook.com, we’d love to hear from you!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Next episode – Episode 34: “To take us to tea – and beyond”: the incomparable Henry Blofeld

Previous Episode – Episode 32: The thrill returns of Ted Dexter at the crease

Listen to all episodes – Oborne & Heller on Cricket


Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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