On this day in 1973 – New Zealand legend Richard Hadlee makes his debut

February 2, 1973, was the day when the legendary Richard Hadlee set his foot on the cricket field for an international game for the very first time. Widely regarded as the greatest cricketer from New Zealand, Hadlee made his debut in international cricket two years after making his debut in first-class cricket in 1971/72 season.

Hadlee played his first international game against Pakistan in Wellington. He did not really set the stage on fire on his debut and must have left many doubting his credentials. Hadlee was welcomed in international cricket with a boundary off his very first ball as he toiled hard in the game. Opening the bowling on his debut, Hadlee could not make a mark with the new ball and eventually finished the innings with two wickets as Pakistan piled up 357.

With the bat, he played a crucial knock of 46 to help New Zealand recover from 221 for 5 and post 325. In the second innings, he conceded 28 runs off his seven overs without taking a wicket as the match eventually ended in a draw. The unpromising debut was a sign of things to come in Hadlee’s early days in international cricket. He struggled for consistency in the first few years.

Hadlee focused more on his pace at the start of his career but it did not bring him much success. He finally tasted a breakthrough in 1978 when he helped New Zealand to a historic first win over England in Wellington. He picked up ten wickets in the game including 6 for 26 in the second innings, bowling the visitors out for 64 chasing a target of 137.

From thereon, there was no looking back as Hadlee went from strength to strength and retired as one of the finest bowlers and all-rounders of all time. For more than a decade, Hadlee carried the fortunes of New Zealand on his own shoulder. Perhaps no other player in the history of the game has decided his team’s fate more than Hadlee and the legendary Kiwi played that role with aplomb.

Career in numbers:

Richard Hadlee played 86 Tests and picked up 431 wickets which was a world record at that time. He was the first-ever bowler to pass 400 wickets in Tests. Hadlee averaged a stunning 22.29 with the ball and picked up a record 36 five-wicket hauls. No other fast-bowler in the history of the game has managed to take more five-wicket hauls than Hadlee. He finished his Test career with 3,124 runs with the help of two centuries and 15 fifties. Hadlee is also one of the four players to have taken 400 Test wickets and scored over 3,000 runs and was the first man to achieve the milestone.