Known as the Black Caps, the New Zealand cricket team are consistently ranked as one of the 10 best teams in the world, with most of their best form coming in the last few decades.
Although their neighbors, Australia, began their Test career prior to the 1880s, New Zealand were a little late to the game, playing their first Test match in 1930s. Australia were already into their second golden age by this point, and the team that New Zealand would list as their biggest rivals had the likes of Don Bradman and Archie Jackson, two of the century’s best players, in their squad.
This is one of the reasons it took New Zealand a further 25 years to win their first Test match, which came against the West Indies in Auckland. Of course, cricket had been played in the country for a long time, well before they became an official Test team, so the foundation was there from which to build, and before long they grew into a world class team.
The 1970s was a big decade for the Black Caps, and one in which they finally began to pick-up some consistent wins. This continued for the rest of the century and into the next, with New Zealand finding themselves consistently at the top of the world rankings and with a number of wins against the best in the world.
The 1970s was the era of Richard Hadlee, one of the best pace bowlers to play for New Zealand, and one who helped to turn their fortunes around. It was Hadlee’s bowling that helped New Zealand beat England for the very first time, but definitely not for the last. Martin Crowe, one of the best players to ever swing a bat for New Zealand, also played around this time.
Other big names to make an impact on New Zealand cricket include Ian Smith, who has been labelled as their most natural ball-handler, as well as a very competent batsman. His score of 173 in a Test match against India set a record for being the most runs scored by a number 9, one that remains to this day.
All-round sportsman Jack Cowie, who would later become a cricket umpire and then a goalkeeper for a professional football team, was one of the stars during the early days, whilst John Reid, Martin Donnelly and Bert Sutcliffe, who also played in those early days, are often mentioned in the greatest ever New Zealand line-up as well.
One of the few modern players that gets the same level of respect is Shane Bond, who has been labelled as the best bowler since Richard Hadlee, and one who has been instrumental in their recent success. Injuries and suspensions have reduced that impact somewhat, but it is hard to ignore his record.
Although they have never really been considered to be one of the best teams in the world, New Zealand have always been on the fringes, and when they are at their very best they can and have beaten the very best teams in the game. This included the 1980s West Indies team, which went down in history as one of, if not the best team to ever play the game. New Zealand beat them in a Test match at the turn of the decade, and that would actually become the only Test match that the Windies lost in that decade.
In major events, the Black Caps have put in some very solid performance and always seem to be there or thereabouts come the end of the tournament. In the first two World Cups they finished 4th, making it no further than the semi-finals, a position they bettered in the 1992 tournament when they finished third. This was repeated in 2007, and in 2015, when they hosted the tournament along with Australia, they made it all of the way to the final, only to be beaten by the joint-hosts and New Zealand’s fiercest rivals.
New Zealand’s biggest year was in 2000, when they won the ICC KnockOut Trophy. Although this was a quick format, and one in which they only played 3 games, they still needed to win those games, and considering one was against Pakistan and another was against India, this was an impressive feat and one that earned New Zealand their first major title.
New Zealand also have a bronze medal after finishing 3rd at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. One of their best Test records against a top-ranked team is Bangladesh, who they are undefeated against after playing them 11 times, as of late 2015. They also have a good record against the Windies, with 13 wins and 13 loses, but they have struggled against England, Australia and India.