John Wright Still Remembers His Test Cricket Debut
'Even After 30 Years John Wright Still Remembers His Test Cricket Debut Like it was only Yesterday…'
Auckland, 11 August: It remains one of the defining moments of New Zealand Test cricket history, and even though it happened 30 years ago, John Wright will never forget the day he made his test debut back in 1978.
Apart from being his introduction to international cricket, the first Test against England back in February 1978 was memorable for one other very significant event - early on the fifth day, New Zealand secured that rare prize - its first ever Test win over England. It had taken 48 years and this was the 48th Test between the two countries.
Wright, who will join nine other team-mates as guests of honour at a Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting luncheon at Sky City in Auckland on Friday August 22, began the book-end of some quite remarkable drama at the Basin Reserve on the opening day back in February 1978. The day had dawned dull and grey, England captain Geoff Boycott won the toss and asked New Zealand to bat. After a delay, Wright and opening partner Robert (Jumbo) Anderson made their way to the wicket.
Glaring at him out of the gloom in the distance as he prepared to face the first ball was the imposing figure of England bowling spearhead, Bob Willis, at the time one of the leading quicks in the game.
Wright recalls Willis “charging in with a howling northerly behind his back and let one go…” A tentative prod from Wright was immediately met by a raucous appeal from bowler and close-in fieldsmen, all convinced Wright had edged the ball through to wicket-keeper Bob Taylor.
The appeal was declined, “luckily” admits Wright, which caused a furious response from Willis. The next ball was a bouncer which cleared everyone and went for four eyes, followed by another. “I think at the end of the first over we had nine on the board without me, officially, laying bat on ball.”
When day one closed six hours later, Wright, much to the chagrin of Willis and the England team, was 50-odd not out. Wright went on to play 82 Tests for New Zealand spanning a period of 15 years, scoring 5,334 runs, leaving him in third place behind Stephen Fleming and Martin Crowe for most runs in Tests by a New Zealander.
But that first day “remains one of my most enduring memories in all the tests I played,” he says. “It was a difficult wicket to bat on and you never felt comfortable. I’m just glad I was able to make a contribution.”
Wright, who had the previous year started his county career with Derbyshire, recalls that after the series finished one-all, and he returned to Derby, he was welcomed back “with a packet of Walker’s crisps hung up on my peg in the dressing room, I guess as a reminder…” Three of his Derby team-mates were Geoff Miller, Mike Hendrick and Bob Taylor, opponents from the just finished series.
The other dramatic event which turned the game New Zealand’s way was the bowling by Richard Hadlee and Richard Collinge in England’s second turn at bat, when they only had to score 127 runs to win.
“That was another great memory, standing in slips for the first time in many Tests and watching Paddles (Hadlee) bowl as only he could, very controlled and quick, well supported by Richard (Collinge) at the other end. Hadlee finished with 6-26 and Collinge 3-35 as New Zealand cleaned England out for a paltry 64 runs in the second to complete the route.
It was, Wright admits, “something you will never forget. A lot of very good players had played a lot of Tests before us against England, and to be part of the team that made history was very special.”
Wright, who coached India for five years and now works for New Zealand Cricket, is looking forward to sharing some of those memories at the luncheon at Sky City on August 22.
The Auckland luncheon is the first of 11 Westpac Celebrity Sporting Functions around the country planned by the Halberg Trust. Other centres hosting Celebrity Sporting Functions include Napier (September 5), New Plymouth (October 9), Nelson (October 15), Dunedin (October 22), Invercargill (October 23), Queenstown (October 24), Hamilton (November 12), Wellington (November 14), Tauranga (November 28) and Christchurch (December 5).
All funds raised at the events will support the work of the Halberg Trust in linking young people with a disability to sport and active leisure.