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New Zealand in Somerset: A brief history

Saturday will see County Ground Taunton play host to its first Cricket World Cup match since 1999.

The match will see New Zealand take on Afghanistan and although Afghanistan will be making their debut in Taunton, there is a long history between Somerset and the Black Caps.

Somerset have played against New Zealand on 14 occasions with the first of these dating back to 1927. That initial meeting was a three-day match (as were the following 10 matches between the sides) which took place at Clarence Park in Weston-super-Mare and saw Arthur Wellard make his First Class debut for the County. Unfortunately for Somerset the tourists triumphed by 94 runs in just two days.

New Zealand returned to the region to take on Somerset in 1931 at the Recreation Ground in Bath. Somerset were able to ensure a draw thanks in no small part to Jack Lee’s 98 in the County’s first innings total of 244.

The two sides met for the first time at the County Ground Taunton in 1937. Despite a century from Frank Lee and half centuries for Harold Gimblett and Geoffrey Bennett plus a six-wicket haul for Bill Andrews, the tourists triumphed by seven wickets.

Somerset have yet to taste victory against the Black Caps but there have been some outstanding individual performances in these encounters. In 1973’s draw Peter Denning made an impressive 85 not out whilst Dennis Breakwell took his 150th First Class wicket.  1978 saw another draw, the highlights of which were unbeaten centuries from Peter Roebuck (131*) and Breakwell (100* which remains his highest First Class score). Denning was in the runs again in 1983 as his 99 helped Somerset achieve yet another draw despite the presence of Kiwi legend Richard Hadlee. Although the Tourists won by five wickets in 1990, Somerset fans were treated to big scores from Chris Tavaré (156), Richard Harden (104) and Jimmy Cook (117).

In 1994 a Rob Turner century (104*) and 84 from Andy Hayhurst plus a five-wicket haul for Mushtaq Ahmed forced the Tourists to follow-on but a century from Martin Crowe in their second innings saved a draw for New Zealand.

The first four-day encounter between the sides came in 1999 and Somerset amassed a first innings total of 554 thanks to Greg Kennis (175), Steffan Jones (105) and Adrian Pierson (66). New Zealand were kept in the game by a century from Craig McMillan whilst Geoff Allott and Dion Nash ripped through the Somerset second innings. Nathan Astle (88*) and Chris Cairns (74*) then saw their side over the line to a six-wicket win.

Ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2004, Somerset took on New Zealand at Taunton in a 50-over match. Cairns was again the match winner as he smashed his way to 108 in his side’s total of 275 all out.  Michael Parsons was the pick of the Somerset bowlers with six for 30 from 10 overs. Despite 58 from Keith Parsons, Somerset fell short of their required total as the Black Caps won by 105 runs.

The last time that the two sides met was in a four-day match at Taunton in May 2015. Somerset Captain, Peter Trego won the toss and elected to field. Four wickets from Tim Groenewald helped to ensure that the hosts restricted the tourists to 237 all out. However, Ben Wheeler claimed five for 18 as Somerset were dismissed for 204. Batting for a second time, New Zealand were all out for 310. Mitchell Santner (95) was the pick of the batsmen whilst Groenewald was again the most successful Somerset bowler, claiming five for 65. Chasing 344 for victory, James Hildreth (115), Groenewald (47) and Tom Abell (43) gave the hosts hope but Mark Craig claimed five for 34 as Somerset were dismissed for 277 as the visitors won by 66 runs.

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