26 All Out: The Nightmare That Still Haunts New Zealand Cricket

There aren’t many records in cricket that one can’t think of breaking. Often described as New Zealand cricket’s darkest day, the 1955 Test against England when the Kiwis were bundled out for just 26, a record low that still stands today.

The Test cricket landscape at that time was totally different from what it is today.

The Indian team had just recorded their first ever victory three years earlier, Pakistan making their debut two years back and Sri Lanka good 27 years away from getting Test status.

Australia and England were the ultimate champions, with West Indies and New Zealand still looking for their first ever wins.

England, before arriving for two-test series in New Zealand were riding high on confidence with their first Ashes series win in Australia in 22 years.

The class of the two sides was apparent with the visitors winning the first Test with ease. Come the second, England bowlers wreaked havoc with New Zealand only managing 26 runs. Bert Sutcliffe was the only player to reach double digit score.

“Frankly, as a New Zealand fan we’d be grateful for anyone to take this record away from us,” Paul Ford, co-founder of Kiwi cricket supporters’ group The Beige Brigade, told AFP.

“It’s ignominious, it’s shameful. It would be great if someone came along and scored 25 or fewer.”

Five players ended the session with ducks and Sutcliffe lamented: “It seemed hardly fair that we should have been so humiliated after putting up so stout-hearted a performance for two-and-a-half days.”

Then New Zealand skipper Geoff Rabone defended his side through this abominable performance.

“It was many things, that batting display, but it was never disgraceful,” he later wrote.

“Everyone gave their all and we were outgunned on the day. Everyone tried as hard as they could — how could that be seen as disgraceful?”

Soon after that, the Black Caps managed to register their first Test win against the West Indies.

Since 1955, New Zealand’s unwanted record has almost fallen on several occasions.

The most recent was in 2018, between New Zealand and England at Auckland, where the visitors were reduced to 23-8. It was Craig Overton’s innings of unbeaten 33 that saved England from the unwanted record.

“We were watching every ball and hoping that maybe that record could be consigned elsewhere, so it could be a rock under someone else’s towel,” Ford said.

“But it just wasn’t to be.”

“It’s such a fundamental part of New Zealand cricket history that if it wasn’t there the game here would be poorer for it.

“People who follow cricket in New Zealand are generally not there for the winning, they’re there to enjoy the game and sometimes results like that are part of it, painful though that may be.”

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