While the focus was always going to be on the World Test Championship final the series win in England over the last fortnight was yet another feather in the cap of this very strong New Zealand squad. It also put another dent in the But they only do well at home theory.
These series wins in England have coincided with the three strongest eras in New Zealand test cricket; That 80s Team, the Fleming era, and the squad that made it to the WTC Final. And all three squads deserve to be celebrated.
If you put series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to one side, there have been only nine away series wins with a third of them being in England.
The 1986 victory is probably under rated in terms of where it sits in New Zealand cricket folklore. Arguably it was a bigger achievement than the much feted win in Australia at the end of the previous year in that England was the better of the two nations at the time.
This was Richard Hadlee at his peak, and Martin Crowe had cemented himself as a world class player. But with Chatfield unavailable for the first two tests and Lance Cairns recently retired there was not a lot of depth in the bowling with the like of Stirling, Gray and Watson playing. Graham Gooch famously said facing them was “like the World XI at one end, and Ilford Second XI at the other”.
Still, NZ won the second test with Hadlee taking just the 10 wickets in that match, and rain came to the rescue in the final test.
Skip forward to 1999 and the last 4 test series New Zealand got invited to play. This was a really settled squad with nine players appearing in all four tests. England, on the other hand were giving everyone a go with pub trivia names such as Giddins, Read, Irani, Maddy, Habib, Mullaly and Such getting a run at some stage or other.
New Zealand lost the first test, but came back to win tests 2 and 4, and dominated the rain affected test in between.
A series well summarized with this clip.
England were booed off the field at the end of the series. Their best player throughout the series (Caddick) was a New Zealander, the visitors’ poorest performing player (Twose) was English.
Then there was the 2021 team, and a tour like no other with the unusual factors of COVID and a World Test Championship final to follow. These factors combined to mean that a massive squad of 20 was selected.
And if you travel with 20 you flex your muscles and play 17 of them across two tests. This situation came about with a mixture of putting players in cotton wool before the WTC final, and the fact that Boult arrived late and needed a run.
Even with that record number of changes, which included a stand-in captain, New Zealand made pretty easy work of it at a ground where there prior history was woeful. While a two-test series, by nature, is less satisfying, the dominant nature of that second test win given the conditions was a statement.
The debate continues as to which New Zealand team is the strongest, but this series proved that the current squad has the most depth by some distance.