Auckland Cricket celebrated 125 years of operation in the 2007/08 season. The following is a brief highlights package of that period.
Trying to reflect on 125 years of achievement is a difficult task. No matter how detailed the investigation events will be omitted, so in an attempt to celebrate the fact of Auckland Cricket turning 125, we've cherry-picked all the best bits to showcase what a fantastic ride it has been.
Last season the Aces did the double in picking up State Shield and Twenty20 trophies. It was undoubtedly a great achievement, but one that comes at the end of a long line of trophy winners in the history of Auckland Cricket. From the first time that Auckland wrested the Plunket Shield off Canterbury in 1907/08 the Association's premier team has a rich history of championship success. That victory was driven by one of the great names of that era in Albert Relf, and the history of the Association is littered with players that have epitomised the success of their era.
The 1920's and 1930's were golden decades for Auckland with seven Plunket Shield victories, and with names such as Nessie Sedden, Jack Mills, Ces Dacre in the 20's and Merv Wallace, Paul Whitelaw, Bill Carson and Jack Cowie in the 30's. Whitelaw and Carson also secured themselves a place in history with a then world record partnership of 445 for the third wicket against Canterbury.
Cricket in this era is packed with remarkable stories, many of which we will probably not hear the like of again. Merv Wallace, one of the all-time legends of Auckland Cricket, took centrestage in one such effort in 1951 as he steered Auckland to a remarkable Plunket Shield victory. Breaking a bone whilst fielding in Canterbury's first innings, Wallace came in at number nine in the batting order and smashed 60 as he proceeded to lead the tail in a remarkable fightback that saw Auckland gain first innings by a mere run. His effort was all the more impressive for the fact that he pulled a calf muscle when on 26 going for a hook shot.
On the last day Auckland needed 264 to win and with 15 minutes to go six runs were needed with six wickets in hand. Wallace, not expecting to bat, was dressed in street clothes, and only had time to pull his whites on over the top as he came to the wicket with Auckland nine down and needing one run to win. He duly hit the single required off the first ball he faced to seal the win, and a place in Auckland Cricket history.
The second half of the century saw two hugely successful eras, the first coming in the 1960's under the astute guidance of John Sparling. His team, and it was "his" team as he captained the side almost exclusively throughout the decade, won two titles and produced cricketers of the likes of Ross Morgan, Terry Jarvis, Hedley Howarth, Bob Cunis and Mark Burgess.
The 1980's brought even greater domination of domestic cricket with three Shell Trophy victories and four Shell Cup triumphs, meaning that Auckland could justly claim to be the dominant force in New Zealand cricket through that decade. This era saw Auckland produce a string of New Zealand representatives including John Reid, Trevor Franklin, Warren Stott, Martin Snedden and Jeff Crowe,
The current decade has already seen three State Championship victories, a State Shield triumph as well as a State Twenty20 title - a proud record even by the high standards of their predecessors.
Throughout its 125 years the home of Auckland Cricket has always been Eden Park. It has changed shape immensely over that time and is about to undergo perhaps the most dramatic transformation of its distinguished life. Both grounds have seen some magnificent performances, from the Plunket Shield victories of the 20's, 30's and 60's on the number one to the golden era of the 1980's played out on the beautiful surrounds of the number two. In recent times it has witnessed numerous State Championship successes for the Aces including a magnificent 190 in the 1995/96 final from Matt Horne.
Of course the main oval at Eden Park has also seen a host of great cricketing moments at international level. Possibly New Zealand's most famous and infamous moments in test cricket have been played out there with the ignominy of being dismissed for 26 by England being followed a year later by New Zealand's first ever test victory in 1956 against the West Indies. It has played host to some of New Zealand's finest one day wins including victories at the 1992 World Cup, wins over England and Australia in the early 80's in the midst of the heyday of one day cricket, and more recently the fantastic 340 run chase in last year's Chappell-Hadlee game.
With the inclusion of the women's game into the ranks of the Association success has come in that sphere as well, with Auckland finally breaking the stranglehold that Canterbury seemed to possess on the women's game in the late 1990's, and continuing that into the current decade as the likes of Emily Drumm and Rebecca Rolls led the side into a new era of success.
The 2007/08 season has provided the opportunity to remember some of the great names and deeds of the last 125 years. An anniversary luncheon provided players from all eras to get together and reminisce about days of yore, with a player from each decade going back to the 1950's kick-starting that process with a short speech on their era.
Anniversaries don't come round very often, so it pays to celebrate them properly when they do. Auckland Cricket has a proud tradition that has kept them at the forefront of the game in New Zealand for 125 years. Whilst we have focussed on the playing front in this piece the Association has been blessed with a vast array of passionate administrators, volunteers and of course supporters that have ensured that cricket has remained the number one summer game in Auckland.