Dan Reese. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Dan Reese. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

A 21-year old Daniel Reese, entered in the ship s log as a joiner , arrived at Lyttleton, Christchurch, from the British Isles in May 1862 to begin a new life in the Antipodes and to set in motion the narrative of the person who has often been referred to as the Father of New Zealand Cricket.

Daniel Reese Sr was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in October 1841. He later had a very fulfilling life, becoming a politician and a captain of the building industry, among others, apart from being an all-round sportsman, particularly fond of rowing. Daniel married Cecilia Wilson (also born in Lanarkshire, later emigrating to Christchurch) in 1867. The couple, like many others among the early settlers, raised a large family of nine children.

The biography of Reese, written by Fiona Hall and found in Encyclopaedia of New Zealand Biographies states that the seventh child of Daniel Sr and Cecilia was born at Lichfield Street, Christchurch on January 26, 1879. He was called Daniel, Dan to one and all.

Young Dan s father passed away in 1891 when he was barely 12. He attended Christchurch West School till 1894, moving on to begin an apprenticeship at John Anderson s foundry in the same year. Fired by a resolute desire to make something meaningful of his life, Dan attended evening classes at the Christchurch College School of Engineering for a period of five years under Professor Scott.

He shifted base to Melbourne in 1900 and found employment as a draughtsman in an engineering firm, Howard Smith s, from 1900 to 1903. He returned to New Zealand briefly in 1903, later in the same year working his passage to England on the steamer Rimutaka in the capacity of a ship s engineer. He spent three years working as a marine engineer and roaming the world, taking in the Far East, the West Indies, and North, South and Central America on his various voyages, before finally obtaining his Chief Engineer s Certificate in England in 1906.

Well, there was another facet to the persona of Dan Reese the love for cricket. He began his career quite early, playing for Midland Club, Christchurch, and Canterbury while still an apprentice. Together with his brothers John (2 First-Class matches) and Tom (24 First-Class matches, and the author of History of New Zealand Cricket in two volumes), Dan Reese was one of the early pathfinders of Canterbury and New Zealand cricket.

In his autobiography Was It All Cricket?, Reese speaks of a Second XI match for Christchurch Midland against Wellington Midland at Wellington in 1894, when he had played under his Tom, 12 years his senior. After Wellington team had put on 100 for the first wicket, the skipper had thrown the ball to Dan for an over before lunch. In his very first over after lunch, Dan had taken a hat-trick with the wickets of Naughton, RV Blacklock (a New Zealand captain), and Fitzsimmons.

Exuberant celebrations had followed the feat of the baby among the older members of the team, and Dan had picked up 5 wickets in the innings. His team-mates had presented the stripling with a bat for his sterling performance, rather than a hat as was the custom in those days.

The association between Canterbury and cricket is a long and distinguished one. Among all areas of New Zealand where cricket had flourished in the early days, it was perhaps by coincidence that Canterbury seems to have enjoyed the highest proportion of relatively wealthy, well-educated expatriate members of the United Kingdom with ties to the better known Public schools, and with organised cricket.

In his Doctoral thesis entitled Where The Game Was Played By Decent Chaps The Making Of New Zealand Cricket 1832-1914, Greg Ryan refers to an advertisement appearing in the Lyttelton Times of June 21, 1851 that had, for all intents and purposes, proclaimed the birth of cricket in Canterbury. The advertisement had read as follows:

CHRISTCHURCH CRICKET CLUB

President: J.R. Godley, Esq. Committee: W.G. Brittan, Esq., J.C. Boys, Esq., T. Cass, Esq., W. Deans, Esq., R.J.S. Harman, Esq., A.G. Perceval, Esq., J.C.W. Russell, Esq., H. Tancred, Esq., J. Townsend, Esq., and E.R. Ward, Esq. J. Wortley and C.C. Bowen Han. Secretaries.

The Club will hold their first meeting for play on their ground in Hagley Park on Saturday, 4th October.

Gentlemen desirous of becoming members are requested to communicate with the Han. (sic) Secretaries.Annual Sub. 10/6. Entrance fee 10/6.

Hagley Park, Christchurch, then, had been the cradle of organised cricket in Canterbury. Ryan s thesis had later been published as a book entitled The Making of New Zealand Cricket: 1832-1914.

In the book, Ryan has given interesting pen-portraits of some of the leading cricketers of the time. The entry pertaining to Dan Reese reads as follows: Daniel Reese (1879-1953). A left-handed batsman, slow bowler and superb fielder, Reese was undoubtedly the best New Zealand player prior to 1914. He captained Canterbury and New Zealand, played for Essex and WG Grace s London County side, and later served a long tenure as president of the New Zealand Cricket Council. His excellence as fielder has been a recurring theme among Reese s contemporary cricketers.

Reese made his first foray in First-Class cricket when he was picked for the Canterbury team to play against Wellington at Basin Reserve in 1895-96 as a young lad of barely 16. Hosts Wellington won by 6 wickets, despite bowling analyses of 3 for 47 and 3 for 18 by Reese.

Dan Reese had a long career in First-Class career, from 1895-96 to 1920-21, and played 72 matches in all. He scored 3,182 runs as a left-hand batsman at an average of 25.25. His career highest score was 148, one of 4 centuries; he also scored 16 fifties and held 36 catches. His bowling was in left-arm slow-medium mode, and he took 196 wickets. His best bowling effort was 7 for 53 and he averaged 19.86 with the ball. He had 11 five-wicket hauls and took 10 wickets in a match once.

In addition to his First-Class matches, Dan Reese seems to have kept himself busy playing 12 Second-Class games. He represented a Melbourne side in Victoria Premier Cricket League, playing 15 games with distinction.

Reese made his mark in only his second First-Class match, against a visiting New South Wales (NSW) team at Lancaster Park in 1895-96. Although the visiting provincial team from Australia had won the game easily by 6 wickets, Reese had had the satisfaction of taking his first five-wicket haul (5 for 97), opening the bowling, in a NSW total of 194.

He rose fairly rapidly in the Canterbury ranks, displaying his all-round skills in important matches. In 1897-98 Canterbury had disposed of Taranaki by an innings and 43 runs in a single day. Reese had his first 10-wicket haul in First-Class cricket in this game, with figures of 5 for 52 and 6 for 43.

Reese made two separate forays to Australia under New Zealand colours, in 1898-99 and 1913-14. New Zealand played Victoria and NSW in 1898-99. New Zealand lost both matches by huge margins, but Reese shone against Victoria with 88. In the NSW match, Victor Trumper scored 253 in 315 minutes with 31 fours.

Reese led New Zealand on the 1913-14 tour. The tourists won only 1 of their 4 tour games, against Queensland by a slender margin of 12 runs. They were vanquished by NSW (an innings and 247 runs) and Victoria (an innings and 110 runs). The final game of the tour, against South Australia at Adelaide, was drawn, Reese covering himself with glory with scores of 96 and 130* (in 140 minutes, with 12 fours and a six), coming close to the honour of scoring a century in each innings.

In 1902, the New Zealand Cricket Council had made an announcement that a (largely amateur) team of English cricketers would tour the country in 1902-03, deeming the visit to be an important step in the gradual development of cricket in the country.

Accordingly, the first international cricket team to tour New Zealand was the English side under Lord Hawke in the 1902-03. The primary focus of this Australasia tour by Hawke s team had been New Zealand, and the visitors had played 18 games on the New Zealand leg of the tour, of which 7 had been of First-Class status. As it happened, His Lordship was injured and was unable to lead the team in any of the games, Plum Warner carrying out the captaincy duties on the tour. Surprisingly, this tour proved to be a highly profitable enterprise as far as the Englishmen were concerned.

A new chapter unfolded in the annals of Canterbury cricket on February 6, 1903 when the local First-Class team took on their first international adversary in the form of Lord Hawke s XI at Lancaster Park, Christchurch. Warner won the toss and the visitors were dismissed for 352.

Towards the middle of the second day, Arthur Sims (later Sir Arthur Sims) and Reese walked out to open the Canterbury innings. Sims fell at the total of 56. Reese (who played in this match alongside his brother Tom) was seventh out at a total of 194. Out of these 194, he had contributed 111, his maiden First-Class century, with the runs coming against distinguished opposition. The innings folded for 224.

Warner declared the second innings at 159 for 7, taking an overall lead of 287 runs. Set 288 to win, Canterbury were dismissed for 154 to lose the encounter by 133 runs. Reese scored 21 in the second innings, having had to retire hurt very early in the innings.

By now he had stamped his class on local cricket with the bat in no uncertain manner in the process of bringing up a personal milestone. On the last day of the match, AEG Rhodes, President of Canterbury Cricket Association, after making a short congratulatory speech, had handed Reese a purse full of sovereigns that had been very generously contributed by his many admirers.

A landmark was reached in New Zealand cricket on February 27, 1903 at Lancaster Park. For the first time a New Zealand national representative team played a First-Class cricket match against an international team, their opponents being Lord Hawke s XI. The visitors won by 7 wickets.

Sydney-born Charles Richardson had the honour of being the first man to toss the coin on behalf of New Zealand, his opposite number being Warner. Winning the toss, the home side batted first and were dismissed towards the end of the day on 164. The only individual 50 of the innings was scored by Kinder Tucker (50). George Thompson (6 for 38) and Edward Dowson (4 for 27) ensured the relatively modest total.

The Englishmen s first-innings total of 304 was possible principally because of a well-made 124 by Fred Fane. Trailing by 140, New Zealand were all out for 214, Tucker (67) again shining with bat. A first-wicket stand of 64 runs between Warner (33) and Pinky Burnup (32) made it easy for the visitors to win by 7 wickets. Reese did not bowl in the match, but opened batting in both innings and scored 32 and 36.

The teams met again at Wellington for the final match of the short series. New Zealand again won the toss and batted first, and were again dismissed shortly before the close of play on the first day for 274. Opener Reese stood out like a beacon, being eighth dismissed at a team total of 246, his own score being 148. The match notes state that the innings had occupied 215 minutes. This was the first ever century scored for New Zealand.

Lord Hawke s XI replied with a whole-hearted effort of 380, thanks to Warner (125) and the Wellington-born Randall Johnson (88), perhaps the first New Zealand cricketer to play First-Class cricket in England. The lead was a significant 106 runs. New Zealand were then dismissed for only 84. Burnup took 5 for 8, adding to the ignominy of the home side.

The official contact between New Zealand and English cricket began when MCC sent a representative team to tour New Zealand in 1906-07. The 15-member side consisted only of amateurs and was led by Teddy Wynyard of Hampshire.

It was in the game between a representative New Zealand team and MCC played at Lancaster Park that Reese was first given the responsibility of leading a First-Class team. It was not a match that he would have enjoyed, being first man dismissed in the game, for a duck. MCC won by 9 wickets. The game was to be the first of 38 First-Class matches in which Reese was to be seen in the captaincy role.

During 1903, when he was in England, Reese played 3 First-Class games for WG Grace s pet project, the London County team, scoring 82 runs at a batting average of 13.66. Three seasons later he played for Essex, scoring 198 runs at 15.23.

Domestic First-Class cricket in New Zealand owes a debt of gratitude to an Irishman, William Lee Plunket, the 5th Baron Plunket, GCMG, CGVO, KBE, Governor of New Zealand from 1904 to 1910.

The domestic cricket scene in New Zealand was officially organised in 1906 with the generous donation of a Shield by The Baron and was initially played as a series of challenge matches between the five Provincial Cricket Association sides Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago and Hawke s Bay (only twice). Hawke s Bay subsequently lost First-Class status and dropped out in 1921-22. Central Districts entered the fray in 1950-51 and Northern Districts in 1956-57.

Reese was in the thick of things when the Plunket Shield tournament got underway in 1907-08, leading Canterbury in the first ever match of the tournament, against Auckland at Hagley Oval. Alf Hadden was doing the honours for Auckland. Canterbury batted first and were routed for 190. Reese scored 26 at No. 3. Auckland then rubbed the advantage in by amassing a huge total of 539, and Canterbury succumbed for 214, Reese scoring 42.

Reese was to play a total of 13 Plunket Shield matches. His nephew DW Reese, son of Tom, made his Plunket Shield debut in the last of these.

A man of many talents, there was a life away from active cricket for Dan Reese. In 1907 he had formed, along with brother Tom, a Christchurch construction, timber, coal and hardware firm called Reese Brothers. He devoted many years of his life to cricket administration, being a member of the Lancaster Park Board of Control from 1907 to 1921. He was a member of Canterbury Cricket Association from 1907 to 1912, and was their President from 1925 to 1953. He was an Executive with New Zealand Cricket Council from 1908 to 1929, becoming President from 1929 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1936.

Dan Reese was a Member of the Government Railways Board from 1931 to 1934, and Director of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Company. In 1948, he wrote his autobiography, Was It All Cricket? with Warner graciously writing an Introduction for the volume.

On April 2, 1913 the bells of the Methodist Church, St Albans of Christchurch, rang out merrily to announce the wedding of Dan Reese and Esther Nina, daughter of the Rev. William George Parsonson. Reese was 34 at the time.

The man whom Plum Warner had rated as being among the greatest cricketers of all time passed away on June 12, 1953 at his residence at 69, Hackthorne Road, Cashmere Hills, Christchurch, aged about 74. He was laid to rest in the family plot of the Addington Cemetery of Christchurch.