Dick Motz, the first Kiwi to take 100 Test wickets

It may not be a big deal today to take 100 wickets in the heavyweight division of cricket. But there was a time when it was considered a special, if not rare, achievement. And it certainly was a rare feat when Dick Motz became the first New Zealander to take 100 wickets in Test cricket. Motz’s much celebrated achievement came in an era when New Zealand was called a Cinderella team as it had been struggling both for credibility and identity in world cricket. But even in that eternally less powerful New Zealand team Motz was a mercurial player. If anything, Motz had dismissed Geoffrey Boycott – that most obdurate of batsmen who always placed a prize on his wicket – half-a-dozen times. But he had also a dubious distinction of becoming, in 1968, the first ever Test bowler to be banned from bowling for running on the pitch. Often hailed as a bear of a man because of his powerful physique, Motz was an immensely gifted fast bowler and attacking batsman down the order. A colourful character, Motz commanded a large fan following because of his flamboyant batting, ferocious hitting and ability to hit sixes on demand. He had the ability to bowl hours on end and, in spite of his size, he would show tremendous stamina and enthusiasm and come back for more. He had an economical runup and an intense desire to be in the thick of the action. He had an uncomplicated approach to bowling. He bowled at a lively pace and usually moved the ball off the pitch. He had baffled many batsmen with his effective out-swinger. Graham Dowling once remarked that Motz in his pomp reminded him of Freddie Trueman. “They were similar in style and action. They were broad-shouldered and tough. They both had big bums. Trueman moved the ball away from the right-handers a bit more frequently than Motz, although the latter bowled out-swingers with the new ball occasionally when the conditions suited him,” said the former New Zealand captain. Richard Charles Motz was born (on January 12, 1940) and bred in Christchurch. He was a member of a family prominent in harnessracing. His father, an occasional Sunday cricketer, was one of the firsts to notice Motz’s innate skills for cricket and tennis and encouraged his son to seriously pursue the willow game. One night Motz came home crying with exhaustion and his father ordered him to choose between cricket and tennis. It was a decision that guaranteed him a place in the sun but no immunity from the harsher realities of life that an amateur cricketer like him had to face after his retirement. But he always played sport with a vengeance. Right-hander Motz’s talents for pace bowling and big hitting truly blossomed at North New Brighton primary school, where he was voted the best allrounder in each of his last four years. At 13, he played for Christchurch Suburban Association’s third grade representative team. Then his allround performances at Linwood High School brought him into national reckoning. He captained the school’s first XI in his final two years and scored 3 centuries and 76 not out in his last four innings. He then joined Riccarton Club and continued to impress. At 17, he began playing for Canterbury in the annual Under-20 inter-provincial tournament. Motz had been busy playing in Auckland when Tony MacGibbon, who spearheaded New Zealand’s attack in the 1950s, withdrew from Canterbury’s team, which was about to meet Northern Districts in the Plunket Shield competition in Christchurch in 1957-58. An SOS was sent and the teen-aged Motz was flown to Christchurch. Bowling within hours of his arrival, he took 1 wicket in his second over, 2 in his third and finished with 4 for 40 on his dramatic first-class debut. He then added 67 runs for the ninth wicket with Sammy Guillen. Motz played that season in an inter-island match and in a final trial before the New Zealand team was chosen for the 1958 tour of England. However, he was considered “too immature” for international cricket, though he won a place in an unofficial “Test” against Australia a year later. But Motz had maturity thrust upon him when, in 1959-60, he saved Canterbury from the jaws of defeat against Auckland. On a pitch where the ball was turning prodigiously and lifting awkwardly, Canterbury collapsed on the last afternoon and was 40 for 8 when Motz joined wicketkeeper John Ward. They demonstrated incredible sangfroid, put a dead bat to everything for 40 minutes under trying circumstances and eventually dashed Auckland’s hopes. In 1960-61, Motz took 7 for 48 versus Wellington. He hit 65 in 52 minutes with 6 sixes, including four off Don Wilson, for Canterbury against DRW Silk’s MCC side. In the first unofficial “Test” between New Zealand and MCC, he scored breezy 36 and 60, including 3 sixes in one David Allen over. He claimed 5 for 34 in the second unofficial “Test”. Motz was declared New Zealand’s Cricketer of the Year in 1961 and was an automatic choice for the tour to South Africa in 1961-62. He was one of five Kiwis and seven Proteas to make their Test debut in the 1st match at Durban. He took 81 wickets at 17.7 on the tour and headed first-class averages. He played a pivotal role in New Zealand’s most successful Test series with 19 wickets at 26.57 and virtually never looked back. In England in 1965, he spearheaded New Zealand’s attack and topped aggregates and averages with 54 wickets at 22.98, including 11 in the three-Test series. He also played a disciplined innings of 95 against Worcestershire. In 1966, Wisden named Motz as one of its Five Cricketers of the Year. The almanac described Motz as “the cricketer of a schoolboy’s dreams – a fast bowler who hits sixes”. He took 8 for 61 against Wellington in 1966-67, his best ever bowling figures in an innings. He ran through the Australian second innings at Lancaster Park in 1967 and helped Canterbury register its first ever win against the Aussies. His seven victims included Norman O’Neill, Brian Booth, Paul Sheahan and Peter Burge. A few months later, he scored 103 not out in 53 minutes with 7 sixes and 8 fours against Otago. It was his highest first-class score. Motz captured 15 wickets at 28.86 in four Tests against India. In the second Test at Christchurch, he claimed 6 for 63 in the first essay and helped New Zealand to its maiden triumph over Indians, although the latter went on to win their first ever series abroad. He completed a century of Test wickets on the tour of England in 1969 when he trapped Phil Sharpe leg-before wicket at The Oval. Unfortunately, he had to retire exactly on 100 Test wickets after the tour as it was discovered that he had been bowling with a displaced vertebra for 18 months. He was only 29. In 32 Tests, he took 100 wickets at 31.48. He scored 3 half-centuries – all against England. In 142 first-class matches, Motz claimed 518 wickets at 22.71 and scored 3494 runs at 17.22, including 1 century and 13 fifties. Motz was troubled by knee and back pains almost throughout his career because of the considerable duress he put his large frame under. When he played Test cricket, he weighed 92 kilograms. His weight ballooned dangerously in later years and caused him serious health concerns. He was weighing around 140 kg when found dead (on April 29, 1997) by Dowling. Motz, who wasn’t much educated, was employed in a sports goods shop during his playing days. He then became a liquor salesman, had an unsuccessful stint as a publican at Queen’s Hotel in Timaru and kept working in an around hotels and restaurants for years. He ended up driving cabs in Christchurch. He didn’t have a happy personal life either. His first marriage with Loretta Todd, a right-arm fast bowler and a hard-hitting batswoman for Canterbury whose illness cost her a place in the New Zealand women’s team, ended in divorce. He remarried but separated from his wife a few years before his death. In October 1989, his 22-year-old son Wayne was water-blasting Christchurch’s Cathedral Square when a stranger shot him dead. The gunman shot himself after being released from Paparua Prison. Motz was inducted to the New Zealand Sporting Hall of Fame in 1997.

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