With 9 for 86, Arthur Fisher was the main architect of the victory. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
With 9 for 86, Arthur Fisher was the main architect of the victory. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

March 8, 1907. A day after Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung met for the first time in one of the most crucial encounters in the history of human thought, a representative New Zealand side took on the touring MCC team for the last match of the tour. Arunabha Sengupta recounts the exciting game that started a new era of cricket in New Zealand.

Stirring events in the history of thought and cricket

The previous day had witnessed an immense landmark in the history of thought, mind and the twentieth century.

It had taken place in the European mainland, in the throbbing heart of cultured Vienna. Carl Jung had sent the signed copy of Studies in Word Association to Sigmund Freud the previous year, unaware that the father of psychoanalysis had already read quite a bit of his work. Soon after that, Jung had been the recipient of Freud’s latest published essays which the great man himself posted to Zurich.

In March 1907, Jung enthusiastically travelled all the way to the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to meet the master. The meeting on March 7, 1907, was, as per Jung, nearly interminable. It lasted 13 hours. The relationship that it kick-started lasted six years and changed the course of twentieth-century thought.

The following day, another landmark event took place far away from the centre of European culture. It was in the quaint and distant island of New Zealand, to be precise in Basin Reserve, Wellington. Perhaps the world will not merit the same degree of importance to this cricketing incident as the meeting of the two great minds, but it was almost as crucial in the landscape of the game.

It was the first cricket tour of the MCC to these tiny islands of their dominion. The side was led by the exemplary army man Teddy Wynyard, and had arrived in New Zealand on the Corinthian. And while it included Johnny Douglas and George Simpson-Hayward, men who would go on to play Tests for England, one of the major organisers of the tour was Ronald Fox, the Otago born wicket-keeper batsman who had migrated to the Mother Country a few seasons ago and now played for MCC and the Gentlemen of England.

The fare on the tour consisted of a handful of First-Class matches against Wellington, Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Hawke’s Bay, a clutch of odds matches against regional teams, and was to finally end with two further First-Class matches against a representative New Zealand side.

The showdown

Although the tourists took a while to get over their sea legs, losing to Canterbury in an early match in the process, they soon started routing the home sides as expected of an experienced English outfit.

The visitors had won 5 of the final 6 First-Class matches against the state sides before taking on the New Zealand team. And most of the drawn game had been washed away by rain. The pace of Douglas and the Surrey amateur Percy May had rattled the home batsmen, and they were always at a loss to counter the crafty lobs of Simpson-Hayward.

The first match against the representative New Zealand side at Christchurch also followed the same pattern. May and Douglas skittled them out in the first innings and there was little chance of them coming back into the game. MCC triumphed by 9 wickets.

And on March 8, the two sides met in Basin Reserve for the final game of the tour.

It was perhaps the last opportunity for the New Zealanders to be taken seriously as a cricketing power, and ensure a return of another MCC side anytime soon.

However, fate was on their side as the captains walked out to toss. Simpson-Hayward had injured his bowling hand and had to sit the game out. Given the way the match progressed, he would have been more than handy in the second innings.

It was a fiery wicket on which the hosts batted first and Douglas was immediately making them hop. The balls flew through and only the magnificently named experienced Auckland batsman, Lancelot Gerald Hemus, managed any resistance. Some amateurish running did not help and the hosts were all out for 165. Douglas finished with 7 for 49.

However, in response the Wellington medium pacer Ernest Upham charged in. At the other end was the menace of left-handed Arthur Fisher of Otago. Both were superb bowlers unfortunate to have been born in an era before Test cricket for their island nation.

That afternoon Upham was the main wrecker. Stumps flew, pads were struck with deathly thuds and the ball flew off the edges. MCC limped back at the end of the day at 79 for 5, four of them to Upham, one to Fisher.

The following morning, the Middlesex batsman Charles Page and the handy Nottinghamshire all-rounder Trevor Branston took the total up to 127 and MCC were in front again. But then Upham, who toiled through the innings virtually unchanged, and the persevering Fisher were at it again.

The last five wickets fell for 33, and MCC were bowled out for 160. And much of it was due to a furious 18 scored in just 3 minutes by acting captain Charles de Trafford.

Upham had 6 for 84, Fisher 4 for 25, and after the first exchanges New Zealand led by a thin margin of 5 runs.

But the advantage, negligible as it was, was negated as soon as Douglas ran in again. Openers James Lawrence and Edmund Sale had their stumps uprooted, and the steady assured John Mahoney was caught close in as New Zealand slipped to 33 for 3. But Hemus was once again effective and fellow Auckland batsman Alf Hadden started playing the innings of his life.

Branston got Hemus at the New Zealand score of 81, but another pillar of resistance emerged in the form of veteran wicketkeeper Arnold Williams. Haddon hit superbly all around the wicket, and Williams, the 37-year-old, actually demonstrated the best batting skills in the match. The latter got most of his runs through drives, and although missed at 38, his innings was as near perfection as imaginable in those conditions.

A toiling May got rid of Haddon for 71, but by then the pair had added 107 extremely important runs. As wickets fell, Williams remained steady and there was a barrage of strokes from Fisher. By the end of the day, New Zealand were on 242 for 9, Williams was still there.

The Victory

The innings ended early when the teams returned after the weekend, with Douglas dismissing Upham to claim his 5th wicket. That made it 12 for the match for him. Williams remained unbeaten on 72 and MCC required 255 to win.

There could hardly have been a more disastrous start. Fox was run out for no reason at 3. A run later, opener Peter Johnson had his defence breached by an angling delivery from Fisher. The left-armer got William Harrison soon, reducing MCC to 18 for 3.

It was the stodgy Douglas who fought hard. He added 26 with William Burns for the fourth wicket, 50 for the fifth with Page. But when Fisher accounted for Page and Douglas was trapped leg before for 37, 158 were still required with four wickets in hand.

The tail resisted rigidly. William Curwen slashed them hard and made his way to 30, at No 11, May held out admirably for 19. But the 41 quick runs for the last wicket still left them 56 short.

It was fitting that Fisher held May off his own bowling to end the match. His figures read 5 for 61, giving him nine wickets in the match.

The victory over MCC was achieved. New Zealand would no longer be treated as the surrogate child of world cricket.

The elevation to Test cricket a couple of decades down the line started with this firm step.

Footnote

With the tour over, it was time to unwind. And the MCC side did so by engaging in a football match against a Wellington XI.

The MCC team had several excellent footballers, but somehow most of them happened to be defenders.

Page, Simpson-Hayward and May were Cambridge Blues and all fullbacks. Curwen was a former half-back for Oxford. Branston was yet another fullback for the Charterhouse side. Page, Curwen and May had played for Corinthians. The service of Harrovian WA Humphreys was borrowed, and the MCC umpire John Moss played as goalkeeper. Due to the surfeit of backs, Page had to play forward and May in the midfield.

The line up, as reported in May’s account, stood: “Goal: Moss Backs: Branston, Simpson-Hayward. Halves: Humphreys, Douglas, May. Forwards: Page and Burns (right wing), NC Tufnell (centre), PFC Williams and Harrison (left wing).

This is the account of the match as provided by New Zealand Mail: “It was a fast, strenuous game, and the Wellington men, outmanoeuvred from the start, managed by sheer hard work to stave off the first goal for half an hour. Then Douglas got home with a well-aimed shot from the goal front. This was the only score at halftime. In the second half Fitzgerald, with an injured leg, was displaced by Webster. The Englishmen increased their hold on the game, and in a series of attacks Tufnell, Harrison, Page and Simpson-Hayward added a goal to the score making the final total up to five to nil. The strangest feature of the match was the miss by Moss, the English goalkeeper, who, running up the field to intercept a long shot by Hathaway, let the ball pass under his foot, and it sped away apparently for the goal. Luck, however, favoured the Englishmen, for the ball missed the goalpost and went behind. In the match as a whole Page, Simpson-Hayward, May, Douglas, and Harrison gave a fine exhibition of soccer football as played by the best English teams.”

The tour ended on a successful note, albeit a footnote at that.

Brief Scores:

New Zealand 165 (Johnny Douglas 7 for 49) and 249 (Alf Hadden 71, Arnold Williams 72*; Johnny Douglas 5 for 75) beat MCC 160 (Ernest Upham 6 for 84, Arthur Fisher 4 for 25) and 198 (Arthur Fisher 5 for 61) by 56 runs.

MCC beat Wellington XI 5-0.