Hadlee's greatest hits

Little brother trounces big brother: New Zealand's historic triumph in Brisbane 30 years ago, starring Paddles, Mo and Crowe

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi  |  

Hadlee took 9 for 52 and 6 for 71 in the innings win

Hadlee took 9 for 52 and 6 for 71 in the innings win © Getty Images

The first time New Zealand beat England in England in a Test was in 1983 at Headingley, after a 52-year wait. But their win at the Gabba in 1985-86 would become even more memorable: their first Test triumph in Australia, in their seventh attempt.

Australia hadn't played their neighbours between 1946 and 1973, and the New Zealand players in this series were to feel cold-shouldered again after they got to Australia, when Fred Bennett, the Australian Cricket Board chairman, seemingly more preoccupied with matters to do with arresting the flow of Australian players to the rebel tour of South Africa, ignored the visitors at the pre-series luncheon on the eve of the first Test.

New Zealand had their revenge with an innings-and-41-run win against Allan Border's Australians. The man responsible was Richard Hadlee. His 9 for 52 in the first innings was the fourth best performance in Test cricket at the time and his 15 wickets in the match had only been bettered by Jim Laker, Syd Barnes and Bob Massie.

It has been 30 years since Hadlee and New Zealand stubbed out the Australians, but those who played in the match still have vivid recollections of the historic feat.

Australia had lost the Ashes in England that year. Border was a reluctant leader of a side that had lost many players to the rebel tour.

Greg Matthews, Australia offspinner Clearly when you have lost the greats, like Lillee, [Greg] Chappell and then 16 players had left to play the rebel tour in South Africa, that is 18, 19 players that left the game. Having said that, we had a pretty good side, led by Allan Border. But AB wasn't all keen on leadership, so it was difficult, as you didn't really know what was going on.

In contrast New Zealand had a good build-up going into the series.

Jeremy Coney, New Zealand captain That was one of the better prepared sides going to Australia. We had four lead-up matches, including a four-day warm-up match at the Gabba itself, before the first Test. That helped us see the pitch and get acquainted with both the conditions and the ground.

"You know how Australia play: slips, gully, leave cover open. But that afternoon, nine fielders were spread around the Gabba. It was marvellous to look at that sight" Jeremy Coney

Matthews New Zealand had a very well-oiled unit. They had two world-class players in Martin Crowe and Hadlee. Hadlee, in particular. He not only carried a team, he carried a nation - with the ball and the bat.

But Hadlee was 34 and he had cut down his run-up.

Coney In the warm-up match before the first Test, Richard wanted to rest initially. I remember Glenn Turner [the coach] and I sitting down with Richard to convince him that we needed him to have the work before going into the Test. He took that on board and bowled 40-odd overs, which was good enough and not excessive.

Richard Hadlee The positioning of a rubbish bin in place of an umpire, six feet behind the stumps, at practice was one of the most significant changes in my career. Glenn Turner noticed I was bowling mid-crease in practice matches and angling the ball into the batsmen too much. He tried to get me closer, to bowl wicket to wicket. If my line and length was right, they'd play at me with the ball moving away, or the stumps could go if it nipped back and they left it.

The umpire's positioning was forcing me wider, so we scratched a line, and Glenn stood in that spot. It allowed me to get in close, with my bowling arm almost touching him. Once he was positioned right, it didn't interfere with my technique. Glenn had to go, so he placed a rubbish bin in that place. I asked all umpires to stand at that line for the last five years of my career. I was far more effective.

Hadlee was ready to utilise the helpful conditions at the Gabba when Coney won the toss on what seemed like a helpful pitch.

Matthews The surface was a little bit moist and [there was] grass on it. It was humid and overcast.

Hadlee struck in the first over when opener Andrew Hilditch hooked his fourth ball to Ewen Chatfield in the deep. David Boon was caught at second slip by Coney. First ball after lunch, Border hit a wide legcutter to Bruce Edgar at cover.

Allan Border There was no way of knowing, when we were 1 for 70, the dimension of the disaster which was to follow. We had lost Andrew Hilditch without scoring but Kep Wessels and David Boon retrieved the situation and even at 4 for 146 at stumps we were anticipating a "safe" total, somewhere in the 300s. Hadlee had taken all four wicket to that stage and obviously he was going to be the danger. Dangerous? He was devastating as he whipped through our middle and lower order. It was a great display of intelligent fast bowling.

Play was truncated on the first day by bad light and rain. On day two, Hadlee returned.

John Reid:

John Reid: "Martin [Crowe] was sublime, really. Watching from the other end I was constantly amazed at the time he had to play his shots" © Getty Images

Hadlee [Wayne] Phillips didn't move his feet, trying to drive through cover. Matthews got hit in the nuts first ball and the second one got his middle stump. It was a classic dismissal through the gate.

Matthews It was a jaffa. The headlines next day were: "Matthews must go." I'm thinking: "Wow, I'm batting seven, I get a jaffa, and I'm the one to fall. There you go."

Australia were all out for 179. At one point, Hadlee took a catch off the bowling of debutant offspinner Vaughan Brown, thus, it turned out, losing the chance to get a perfect ten in the innings. Brown returned the favour by catching last man Bob Holland off Hadlee.

Hadlee It was all about getting the next one. Vaughan Brown came on. Geoff Lawson swept into the air and I ran around and took a simple catch. Brown got his first Test wicket and my sequence [of eight] was broken. I got the nine-for, but was still on the scorecard ten times.

John Reid, New Zealand batsman I fielded at gully for most of that innings. For every wicket he took, he must have beaten the bat four or five or six times. It was an absolute masterclass, in terms of line and length, hitting the seam, just that little bit of movement in the air.

Matthews A great bowler. He took advantage of ideal conditions and bowled brilliantly.

"There are very few on this earth that I truly respect and admire and love more than Allan Border. Here I am playing in my fourth Test. It just blew me away every time at the change of the overs when he would say to me: 'What do you think now?'" Greg Matthews

John Wright remained solid in top-order partnerships with Edgar and then Reid, who went on to add a record 224 with Martin Crowe for the third wicket.

Reid After bowling Australia out we recognised the extreme need to consolidate Hadlee's outstanding performance with good batting, which would allow us to dominate the match. We were conscious that the pitch was doing a little bit and was reasonably lively still.

People who watch the highlights of that match say there were lot of shots down the ground. And the cuts and hooks off the shorter deliveries. But we didn't get the bat on to a 45-degree angle, which you often do on lower-bouncing pitches, where you can guide the ball to third man and fine leg with angled bats. In Australia you tend to get in trouble if you did that. So we talked about very straight bats or perfectly horizontal bats.

Reid got to his sixth hundred in 14 Tests before getting out on 108, caught excellently by a diving Border at second slip.

Reid It was special for me because most of my previous hundreds had come against bowling attacks dominated by spin bowling. The ability to score a hundred against Australia in Australia certainly gave confidence and a great deal of satisfaction.

Coney John Reid was a good player of spin. Didn't bring the pads into play, and had good concentration. Here was a challenge on a bouncy pitch at the Gabba. So he had to battle things out. It wasn't as smooth as Martin's innings but very, very effective. He worked the ball around so that the strike changed constantly.

Crowe's 188, his third Test century, contained 26 fours. It was the same score as the one he had made against West Indies in Guyana that year.

Border battled for an unbeaten 152 for five hours in the second innings

Border battled for an unbeaten 152 for five hours in the second innings © Getty Images

Reid Martin was sublime, really. Watching from the other end I was constantly amazed at the time he had to play his shots. When they pitched the ball up, he drove it well. When they pitched it short he cut, hooked and pulled the ball. He dominated their attack to an extent I could not emulate. I was actually consciously feeding him the strike to ensure that his ability to dominate the attack could be utilised to better the chances of winning.

At tea Coney told the remaining batsmen that New Zealand could not take the foot off the pedal now.

Coney I said: "Fellas, we are going to accelerate the scoring without doing anything mad. If the umpires offer light, we stay on till Australia complete the 90 overs." The umpires offered us the light, but we batted on. Australia might have thought we would walk out and rest our bones, but we carried on. I remember Richard, who was hitting the ball beautifully, asking the lights in the Members Pavilion to be turned off behind the bowler's arm.

Matthews was the solitary Australian bowler with decent returns - three wickets.

Matthews First wicket: Wright lbw, playing back and across. Thank you, Murray Bennett, my New South Wales spin friend, who taught me how to bowl a delivery called a skidder. Second one was Jeff Crowe. I bowled a slower ball, pitched short of the crease, he came down, didn't get to the pitch of the ball and Holland took the catch running in from deep mid-on. Third one was of Martin Crowe. I got him with an arm ball. He stepped away, giving himself a bit of a room. The ball drifted a bit away and Crowe tugged it on to his stumps.

Hadlee joined Brown when New Zealand were 471 for 6. The pair added a rapid 78, with Hadlee hitting an aggressive 54 that included seven boundaries. None of the Australian bowlers managed to find the control exercised by Hadlee and Chatfield. New Zealand ended up making their highest Test total at the time: 553 for 7.

Matthews The surface dried out by the time New Zealand came out to bat, and New Zealand took advantage of that. Did we bowl too short? Perhaps. But again, there was a lot of insecurity in the squad. There was a lot of doubt, purely and simply because we didn't have the guidance.

"I got the nine-for, but was still on the scorecard ten times" Richard Hadlee

Reid Certainly the Australians were full of aggression and felt they had to bowl us out quickly to get back in the match. Rather than adopting the Hadlee-Chatfield model, they perpetually resorted to a barrage of short bowling, which they felt would be effective. That allowed us to let the ball go a lot and get ourselves in and let the pitch become more batsman-friendly over time. They wasted the new ball and the conditions at the time.

Coney You know how Australia play: slips, gully, leave cover open. But that afternoon, no one stood close. I got no slips. No gullies. No one saving one on the off side. No one saving one on the leg side. Nine fielders were spread around the Gabba. For us who had chased a lot of leather in the past, it was marvellous to look at that sight.

Australia fell to 16 for 3 in the second innings, with Chatfield getting the better of Kepler Wessels and Boon, and Hilditch falling to the hook.

Coney I remember Richard getting us together in the second innings and saying, "We are all going to think 'short ball' and we are going to think 'Hilditch hook.' We are all going to think 'Chats catch.' And sure enough, the very next ball Richard delivered a bouncer on the mark and Hilditch played the hook and Chatfield took the catch.

Reid Ewen Chatfield bowled very, very effectively and actually beat the bat a lot by bowling on a length, just like Hadlee. He took two crucial top-order wickets in the second innings.

Soon Australia were 67 for 5, trailing by 307 runs. Matthews joined Border at the crease.

Matthews No pressure. Really good surface. Looking forward to the opportunity. Looking forward to the challenge. I was nothing more than a working-class player, and here was an opportunity for a working-class man.

Matthews made his first Test century but was disappointed that he didn't stay unbeaten through to stumps on the fourth day

Matthews made his first Test century but was disappointed that he didn't stay unbeaten through to stumps on the fourth day © Getty Images

Al really struggled with me. But there are very few on this earth that I truly respect and admire and love more than Allan Border. He is a very pure man. Here I am playing in my fourth Test. It just blew me away every time we walked to catch up for a chat at the change of the overs, when he would say to me: "What do you think now?" I was thinking: "Gee, mate. You are the Australian cricket captain. You have played nigh on 80 Tests. I'm more interested in what you've got to say." But the one thing I said to him was, "I will see you at the end of the over, mate."

When I was in the late 50s I top-edged one off Brown, but the fielder at deep backward square didn't get a hand on it. I had my heart in my mouth, but apart from that one ball, I was seeing the ball like a watermelon.

Then I was 97 and Brown was bowling again. I was getting a bit jittery. I said to myself, "Stuff it. I'm going to get the hundred this over." It was a really dumb, stupid thought. First ball, down the deck, I nailed one straight back and he dived to his left and stopped it. Bummer!

Then, off the fifth or sixth ball, he tossed one wide outside off stump. I was back in the crease and slogged it over cow corner. As soon as it left the bat, I knew it was a four. I left my bat on the ground without seeing where the ball went. My girlfriend was at deep-backward square leg and I took off running for her. I was about halfway towards the fence and she stood up and waved for me to stop and go back, because I was going to jump the fence and put one on her. I then drew an imaginary "M" for my mum to let her know I was thinking of her. Someone told me after Ken Barrington, I was next to reach a maiden Test hundred with a six. Phil Hughes was the third.

Border, too, reached the landmark, his 15th century, but Hadlee returned with the second new ball to force a nick off Matthews, which went straight to Coney late on the fourth evening.

Border Had [Matthews] kept his wicket intact until stumps, we might (just might) have got a start again on the final day and pulled off a most unlikely draw. He didn't, and we didn't. But you could take nothing at all away from Greg's innings. I think we had all regarded him as a bowler who fielded energetically and could bat a bit. We'd misjudged him, and that century put the true allrounder stamp on him.

Matthews I remember doing an interview at the end of the day with Richie Benaud and he said, "You must be pleased with your first Test hundred, young man?" I said: "Sure, Rich, but actually I blew it." There was a moment where I could have made a real difference to the team. If I was there at the end of the day, that could have put pressure on New Zealand. It was an enormously disappointing moment to get out. Sure, I was happy but nowhere near as happy as I would have been if I had been out there at the end of the day to give the team the opportunity to draw the game.

The next morning Hadlee dismissed three of the four remaining batsmen to become only the ninth bowler to take 15 or more wickets in a Test. Border remained undefeated on 152, but his five-hour fight could not save Australia the embarrassment: it was their third consecutive innings defeat in 1985. For New Zealand it was one of the proudest moments in their cricket history.

Coney The first one is often the largest leap to get over. And to do it in such a convincing way. It was a significant victory. Their side might not have been the strongest but we still had to beat them away in their conditions.

Reid To beat Australia in Australia was always a dream for New Zealanders. And it was the first time. The satisfaction of the win in the first Test was compounded by the fact that we could win a series. Winning the series was the culmination of very strong era in New Zealand cricket in the 1980s. We were unbeaten at home a lot, but now we had started to win abroad as well.

Hadlee You strive for excellence and performance. Sometimes you never get there but that was the closest I came. I had bowled just as well in other games without anywhere near the statistical rewards, but it was a day when everything worked. The rhythm, timing and technique were there to control the ball and commit the batsmen into errors.

Greg Matthews works for Macquarie Radio's Summer of Cricket. Richard Hadlee quotes taken with permission from a recent interview with the New Zealand Herald. Allan Border quotes from Allan Border: An Autobiography(Methuen).

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo