This is a much anticipated New Zealand cricket season. All the Overlords are involved; England is here in November, India in February, and in the meantime there is the small matter of a tour to Australia in peak time.
We get a Boxing Day test for the first time in 32 years, the first ever Sydney New Year’s Test ever, and a visit to the shiny new stadium out west.
This is all good, yet the entrée has been overlooked a bit. And this starts tomorrow; a month to the day since a certain World Cup Final in London.
And, historically, it’s the toughest of the lot.
Last home series win v England. Last year.
Last series win in Australia. 1985.
Last home series win v India. 2014.
Last series win in Sri Lanka? Before all of those. 1984. New Zealand’s only test series win in Sri Lanka, and they had only been playing test cricket for a couple of years at the time.
Since then there has been the complete range of series. From terrorism (twice), the beginning of the end for a coach, Murali, one of New Zealand’s best test innings, and an alleged internal mutiny; it’s been a wild ride.
1987 was meant to be a three test series. They got through the first test; Brendan Korrupu got a double century on debut. JJ Crowe and Sir Paddles replied with centuries of their own. First the rain, and then the bombs ended the series.
There were more bombs in 1992 and some players, as well as coach Wally Lees, returned home. It is widely understood that this had a part in the termination of Lees’s contract soon afterwards despite the fact that he was considered a genius earlier in the year during the World Cup. Never fall out with the CEO.
The next tour started well with a win in the first test with Paul Wiseman taking a 5 wicket bag in the fourth innings on debut. But after that Murali, with 19 wickets at under 20, took over and the hosts came from behind to win the series.
The following series in 2003 contained a couple of draws, but will be best remembered for one of the greatest test innings by a New Zealander. Stephen Fleming faced 476 balls in stifling heat against Murali and co to score 274* before declaring. He added 69* in the second for good measure.
In 2009 it was all about Thilan Samaraweera, returning after the terrorist attack in Pakistan in which he was critically injured to score almost 350 runs across two tests. The good news is that he’s involved in this series as part of the New Zealand coaching team.
And then to 2012, and New Zealand’s first test win in the island nation for 14 years and the series was shared. And proof that quick bowlers could do the damage too.
But that tour will always be remembered for what happened afterwards. The captaincy change that launched theories like nothing else. Who knew that 100,000 New Zealanders were crammed into one hotel room in Colombo?
Bring it on.