While the Ashes and Indo-Pak rivalries are raved about, Australia and New Zealand have a rivalry of their own that has resulted in some of the most thrilling duels between the two sides.
By Bilal Ahsan Dar
Australia and New Zealand are sports-loving nations participating in a range of sporting competitions. The sports relationship between the two countries dates back to 1901 of the colonial era. The two nations share an interest in sports law and the governing rules of different sports leagues.
A poor cricketing incident in 1981 embittered the relationship between the two nations, thus giving birth to trans-Tasman rivalry. It was in the 1981 cricket series between the two countries when the controversial underarm bowling incident took place. Since then the rivalry of the two countries exist across many sports, most prominently cricket and rugby.
The Bledisloe Cup is a rugby union competition which is particularly known for sparking the trans-Tasman rivalry.
While we talk a lot about the Ashes or the indo-Pak rivalry in cricket, not much is talked about Australia-New Zealand rivalry. The trans-Tasman competitiveness is often referred to as ‘sibling rivalry’ as the two nations get along well when it comes to trade and culture. It’s the sports that brings out the competitive nature between the neighbours and the players and fans love to engage in a banter.
There have been several historic sporting moments in the trans-Tasman rivalry. The first of these moments is, of course, the infamous underarm delivery incident at MCG.
New Zealand’s Brian McKechnie had to hit a six of the last ball to tie an ODI match at MCG, but Australian skipper Greg Chappell took no chance. He ordered his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery. Though Chappell’s decision was well within the rules at that time, it was not in the true spirit of the game.
The underarm incident brought condemnation from many, including prime ministers of both the countries and Ian Chappell, the oldest of the Chappell brothers. New Zealand PM described it as the most disgusting incident on a cricket field.
In 1982, Kiwis avenged the underarm incident, winning a match at Eden Park by 46 runs, despite a Greg Chappell century, that witnessed around 43000-strong crowd jeering at the Aussies.
In 1987 at MCG, Aussie no.11, Mike Whitney stood defiantly against the legendary Richard Hadlee to secure a thrilling draw in the Boxing Day Test. Hadlee took five wickets in each innings of the Test match, but couldn’t get past Whitney, who blocked out the final over of the match before celebrating wildly.
In the 1992 World Cup opener, when the defending champions Australia, led by Allan Border, were expected to easily walk over the Kiwis, a Martin Crowe hundred and Gavin Larsen 3-wicket haul shocked the Kangaroos who looked underprepared and overconfident.
In the 1996 World Cup game at Chennai, New Zealand looked strong enough to defeat Australia in the quarter finals. Powered by a Chris Harris century, Kiwis posted 286 on the board which was a huge score back in the day. However, Mark Waugh, who scored a scintillating hundred, steered his side over the line with 13 balls to spare.
In 2007, Kiwis registered a record run chase at Hamilton. Craig McMillan scored a blistering ton and Brendon McCullum 86, and the Kiwis chased down a massive target of 346, winning the Chappell-Hadlee trophy.
In the previous game, Kiwis had successfully chased 330 runs set by Australia.
In 2015, Australia claimed the world Cup at MCG. A record crowd erupted when Mitchell Starc rattled Brendon McCullum’s stumps in the opening over of the final. Australia never looked back, despite some resistance by Grant Elliot (83) and Ross Taylor (40). New Zealand posted a well below par 183 which the Aussies comfortably surmounted to claim the world cup.
In 2015, history was made when the trans-Tasman cousins embarked on the first ever Test match under lights with pink ball. Australia won it by three wickets.
Apart from these historic duels, there are several individual performances that are a part of the trans-Tasman cricketing folklore. Who can forget Shane Bond’s scorching yorkers swinging in at well over 150ks! Or when the legendary Shane Warne fell one short of his maiden Test hundred picking out Mark Richardson in the deep of the bowling of Daniel Vettori and the replays showed Vettori had overstepped. The famous Brett lee beamer to McCullum in 2005 is also etched forever in the memories of cricket lovers.
While Australia have ruled the world cricket for a long time, New Zealand have always been seen as the perennial underdogs. Though, over the last few years, that tag is wearing off. However, the recently concluded Chappell-Hadlee Trophy turned out to be a one-sided show. Australia led by Aaron Finch, clinched the series 3-0 against Kane Williamson’s men.
Former Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin expressed his disappointment over the New Zealand performance. “I don’t think New Zealand feel they can compete with Australia,” he said.
Similarly, former Australian spinner Kerry O’Keefe lashed out at New Zealand saying they failed to hold on to crunch moments despite having good chances to win games across three ODIs. “Against Australia, if you get in a winning position, you got to win,” said O’Keefe.
In the first and second ODI, Kiwi bowlers pegged the Australia top-order down to 44-5 and 54-5 respectively, but failed to translate it into a win.
As of now, Australia vs New Zealand head to head matches have taken place on 196 occasions across formats. Australia has won 139 matches while the Black caps have managed to win only 57.
Bilal Ahsan Dar is a blogger and cricket buff.