Only Test 1956/57

Australia v New Zealand

King’s College Oval, Adelaide: 18th – 21st February 1957

Test cricket was back on the agenda for Australia for a one off Test against New Zealand, in Adelaide, after five years in the wilderness.

Una Paisley was announced as Australia’s Test cricket captain for the Test, the third player to assume the role. It was of no surprise. Tactically she was head and shoulders above the other state contenders and had been after all, the previous vice-captain.

In keeping with dwindling crowd support and status, the Test would be played at Kings College Oval, rather than the Adelaide Oval. It was the beginning of a permanent move away from the regular Test venues. Given the break from big time cricket, it is surprising there were not more than the seven debutants for Australia and five for New Zealand. (The Kiwis had a little more Test experience, having “recently” toured England for a three Test series in 1954.)

With little Test experience in the Australian ranks, it was still a good cricket outfit, with talent coming from all corners of the continent. Opening the batting would be South Australian run machine, Ruth Dow and NSW player Mary Allitt, who’d toured England in 1951. Queensland’s Kit Raymond would debut at three, while Una would assume what was becoming her customary role as number four. Betty Wilson slotted in at five, although the Kiwis felt less threatened by her this time around.

Former New Zealand Test skipper and Team Manager, Ina Lamason opined, “Betty Wilson is still the best batsman Australia has, although she has put on weight and is not the beautiful outfield we remember.”

Leading the Kiwis was the experienced Rona McKenzie, an allrounder from the small rural community of Takapau on the north island of New Zealand. She’d captained the New Zealanders on the three Test tour of England in 1954, losing one Test and drawing two. The young Kiwi outfit was of no real match for Molly Hide’s experienced England team but did give them a bit of a scare in the first Test at Leeds where they rolled the home side for 154.

Under clear skies on the 18th January 1957, Paisley and McKenzie walked to the middle of the King’s College Oval. The pitch was a good one and Una had no hesitation in batting after she had won the toss, in this historic first Test match between Australia and New Zealand on Australian soil.

Mary Allitt opened the batting with Ruth Dow but went early, caught behind off the bowling of Jean Coulston for one. Kit Raymond also came and went, for 6. Una Paisley came to the wicket and settled into a partnership with Dow, the two largely untroubled as they passed the 100 mark, before Dow fell for a well made 58. The apparently heavy Betty Wilson came in and hit a characteristically quick-fire 47, while Barbara Orchard scored just 4 runs.

All the while Una is slowly clocking up run after run, in her quiet manner, a deft glance here, a forceful cut stroke there, accumulating a score that after 259 minutes, and with no boundaries, a century in her captaincy debut, the first female player to perform such a feat. Finally out for 101 when the score was 252, there was still some fireworks to come from the lower order. Joyce Christ helped herself to dashing 73, while Eileen Massey contributed 32, to give Australia a whopping first innings total of 354. Coulston was the pick of the bowlers, taking 4-94 from 49.1 overs. Special mention also to Brenda Duncan who sent down 44 overs from the other end to give her 1-78. Even the skipper, Rona McKenzie, bowled 22.

If the Kiwis were tired from all that bowling and fielding, they showed it, bundled out for just 98, with McKenzie playing a lone captain’s hand with 27. Two wickets to Eileen Massey on debut, three each for Ruth Dow and Betty Wilson. Keeper Ollie Smith took two smart catches.

Paisley had no hesitation in sending the Kiwis back into bat for the second innings and while the New Zealanders performed better with 168, they failed to make Australia bat again. Both openers were runout through Ollie Smith, who also stumped Mary Speight, the number four batter. Val Slater picked up four wickets.

With a century on debut as captain, Una Paisley had won her first Test match in charge by an innings and 88 runs. It was a comprehensive victory and must have been a thrill for the Aussie skipper, although the quiet Victorian didn’t have much to say. Neither did the newspapers, such was the depth of coverage in the media. A fine and historic victory to the Test team barely got a mention, much less the tremendous feats of the captain.

Australia 9 dec 354 (Paisley 101, Christ 73, Dow 58, Wilson 46, Coulston 4-94) defeated New Zealand 98 (McKenzie 27, Wilson 3-23, Dow 3-26, Massey 2-14) and 168 (Powell 49, Coutts 41, Slater 4-13) by an innings and 88 runs