If the appointment of Brendon McCullum as England’s Test head coach is a case of cribbing the New Zealand way, then the hosts for this second Test, Nottinghamshire, could be forgiven for wondering what took them so long.
From the day Richard Hadlee first cruised into Trent Bridge 44 years ago, the New Zealand lineage at Notts has been plentiful and its influence inarguable. Their last four County Championship titles, in 1981, 1987, 2005 and 2010, were driven by the excellence of New Zealanders – Hadlee, Stephen Fleming and Andre Adams playing central roles – and there has been a healthy knock-on effect for England.
Hadlee is clearly primus inter pares, his 10 years at the club returning the first two of those titles, plus the NatWest Trophy in 1987. In 148 first-class matches he took 622 victims at a staggering average of 14 and in 1984 he did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. With his batting straight from the pages of Alexandre Dumas and swishing 5,854 first-class runs at 38, it was something of a formality when supporters voted him Nottinghamshire’s all-time greatest player in 2020.
“He was simply inspirational,” says Mick Newell, a teammate of Hadlee and then head coach/team director as an influx of Kiwi cricketers at Trent Bridge followed. “We had him and Clive Rice [the South African all-rounder] and they just spurred each other on. The rest of us strived for a new level and just wanted their blessing and respect to be in their team. And it was their team, as far as I was concerned.
“I remember my debut at Lord’s in 1984, we were 17 for four. Hadlee says Rice told him to score a double hundred, so he did. Because he could. When he did the runs/wickets double, his coffin had a piece of paper taped to it that mapped out exactly how he was going to do it too – 400 runs and 60 wickets at Trent Bridge, 600/40 away. Franklyn Stephenson then did it for us in 1988, unplanned, and I doubt it will be achieved again.
“We should have done the treble in ’87 too. Rice and Hadlee were away playing for the Rest of the World against MCC but on the rest day came back for a Sunday League match. We lost to Gloucestershire and Hadlee went ballistic at us, saying we would cost him trophies if we played like that. His drive was just so great for the team.”
From the meticulous perfection of Hadlee we bounce to another all-rounder in Chris Cairns, arriving in 1988 aged 17 to play for Blidworth Colliery but then breaking into the Notts first team before his debut back home. An on-off, 10-year association did not translate directly into silverware, but 4,954 first-class runs biffed at 37 and 241 wickets at 30 – plus brilliance in limited-overs cricket – made him a “shining light” for Newell.
“He was a strong presence in the dressing room too,” says Newell. “I remember a young Kevin Pietersen making a quite brilliant century in a total of 190 against Kent, being last man out and, after taking off his pads, declaring: ‘I won’t be fielding with that lot, they’re shit.’ Cairns took him into my office, put him up against a wall and by the time they came out, KP was fielding.”
After two world-class all-rounders came one of the finest Test captains of his generation, Newell persuading Fleming to join promoted Notts for the giddy summer of 2005 and seeing it instantly return a first title in 18 years. Fleming averaged 63 that season – and he made 10 centuries including two doubles in three seasons – but his understated leadership and tactical brilliance left a legacy.
“Jason Gallian had just captained us to promotion and I had to tell him he was being replaced,” says Newell. “I felt if we signed Stephen Fleming but didn’t make him captain, I’d only be getting 75% of him. He had a lot on with New Zealand, so we made it so he didn’t have anything to do other than take 11 on to the field. No selection, no committee meetings. He loved his life off the field.
“Tactically, he was just on the money and a banker for runs alongside David Hussey in the middle order. He was very calm – I only him heard swear once in three years – and just stood next to Chris Read at slip running the show. I don’t think Graeme Swann plays for England if Fleming hadn’t come in and told him to stop wasting his time being a clown.
“He was also key to signing Andre Adams in 2007. We were short, Andre was almost ready to pack up but he was so desperate to impress Flem, he came over.”
Adams was Fleming’s parting gift. Though unfulfilled with New Zealand, during seven seasons at Notts the right-armer was lethal, his subtle manipulation of the ball through a near-perfect wrist (and thus seam position) finessing 344 first-class wickets at 24. Adams topped the charts with 68 in 2010 and fittingly claimed the wicket of Lancashire’s Shivnarine Chanderpaul to seal the title on the final day of the season.
“He’s the closest we’ve had to Hadlee,” says Newell. “He was a genius. He didn’t take the new ball, waited for the shine to come off, and then just seamed and swung it both ways. And so miserly. He was a very strong character and so honest, telling players exactly how it was. They might not have always appreciated it, but I bet a few are grateful in hindsight.”
Among them is Stuart Broad, who credits a “sublime bowler” in Adams for helping him shake off the enforcer tag that was confusing his role with England in 2011. More recently, in 2018 and to take us back to the start, Broad turned to Hadlee for advice about his run-up and received a reply as detailed as the blueprint of a space shuttle.
Along the way, Nathan Astle, Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor, Ian Butler and Ish Sodhi have also had spells at Trent Bridge, the latter a T20 Blast winner in 2017. England have injected some Kiwi influence in McCullum, but at Nottinghamshire it is nothing new.