Bowlers are always key members in a team and almost always the reason for the victory in test cricket. Whereas the ’90s and 2000s were the era of spinners with Murali, Warne, and Kumble in the top of their form, ’70s and ’80s were the witness of those big mean fast bowlers to rule the test cricket.
There was obviously the pace battery for West Indies with Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Croft, Garner, and others. There were Lillee and Thomson for Australia, Botham, and Willis for England and even India and Pakistan had Kapil Dev and Imran Khan respectively. And then there was Sir Richard Hadlee from New Zealand.
He tirelessly carried the New Zealand bowling and their hopes for the better part of 16 years. He was instrumental for them in their first test win and first test series win in England. His 9 for 52 in Brisbane also gave them a memorable victory over their neighbours Australia. Richar Hadlee is considered as the greatest proponent with the new ball by many experts. The bowling all round took 431 wickets in his 86 test appearances which was a world record at that time.
He became the first bowler in the history of test cricket to add 400 wickets to his name with an average of 22.29. His batting stints were modest enough and he scored 3124 test runs at an average of 27.16 with two centuries and 15 fifties. Sir Hadlee is one of the four players to have taken 400 Test wickets and scored over 3,000 runs. He was the first to achieve this feat followed by Kapil Dev, Shaun Pollock, and Shane Warne. He is considered to be one of the finest four all-rounders of all time, the other being Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham. Hadlee had the best bowling average of these four.
Sir Hadlee has the third most five and ten-wicket hauls in test cricket in the list of fast bowlers. The toppers are Muralitharan and Shane Warne. He played 43 Tests and took 201 wickets at an average of 22.96 in the home. But his records are better for away matches as he took 230 wickets at an average of 21.72 in 43 Tests. In overseas games, he took 21 five-wicket hauls, the most by any fast bowler with only Muttiah Muralitharan leading with 22.
Hadlee debuted in test in 1973. But he was an inconsistent performer for several years. He couldn’t prove himself at test level until he got the first breakthrough against India in 1976. He took 11 wickets to seal the win for his side along with his position in the team.
Hadlee’s 400 wicket feat was also achieved against India. In a home series against India in 1989-90 New Zealand was playing the first test at Hadlee’s home ground I Christchurch. A group of old boys from his school was chanting his school song. O the third day, February 4, 1990, he dismissed Sanjay Manjrekar in the second innings and became the first test bowler to take 400 wickets by dismissing in the history of test cricket. He took seven wickets in the match and Danny Morrison took six. John Wright took nine long hours to craft 185 that eventually gave New Zealand a comfortable ten-wicket victory.
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Sir Hadlee stands as the second fastest test bowler to reach 400 wickets milestone. Muttiah Muralitharan is ahead of him as he took 72 test matches to take 400 wickets and Hadlee took 80 matches. The other three in the top five list are the joint holder of the second position with Hadlee, Dale Steyn (80th match v Bangladesh), Herath (84th match v Pakistan) and Anil Kumble (85th match v Australia). Interestingly only two closest contemporaries of Haldee in the list are Courtney Walsh at 13th rank (107th match v Australia) and 14th rank (115th match v Australia).