Games between provinces were played spasmodically from January 1860 when Auckland beat Wellington by four wickets. Otago against Canterbury was the most frequent 19th-century contest.
Establishing regular competition
The founding of the New Zealand Cricket Council gave provincial cricket a surer footing. In 1906 it established the Plunket Shield competition between the four main provinces (Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago), along with Hawke’s Bay. The shield was named after the New Zealand governor of the time, Lord Plunket. The first game took place in December 1907.
The council also set up the Hawke Cup for minor associations, with the first game in March 1911.
Both competitions were initially on a challenge basis, but in 1921 the Plunket Shield became a regular round-robin format between the four main provinces, excluding Hawke’s Bay. This inspired greater public interest and during the inter-war years crowd attendances were considerable.
For the 1950–51 season Central Districts was added to the Plunket Shield teams. Northern Districts joined in the 1956–57 season.
What’s in a name?
In 1998 the six men’s provincial teams adopted nicknames: Auckland Aces, Northern Knights, Central Stags, Wellington Firebirds, Canterbury Wizards and Otago Volts. In the same year, following a competition, the New Zealand men’s team became the Blackcaps and the women’s team the White Ferns.
The Plunket Shield
For the 1975–76 season the Plunket Shield was replaced by the Shell Trophy. In 2001–2, reflecting a change in sponsor, it became the State Championship. In the 2009–10 season the Plunket Shield was restored.
Between 1921 and 2011, excluding the Second World War years when first-class cricket was suspended, Auckland won this competition 22 times, with particular success in the 1930s and 2000s. Wellington won 20 times, with success in the 1920s and early 1980s. Canterbury won 17 times, most notably in the mid-1990s. Otago won 13 times, especially in the 1970s. Central Districts won eight times, Northern Districts won seven times, and Central and Northern shared the 1991–92 trophy.
Outstanding feats in provincial cricket
- December 1889: Albert Moss playing for Canterbury against Wellington became the only New Zealand bowler to take 10 wickets in an innings. It was also the only time in the world a bowler had achieved the feat on debut.
- January 1936: Bill Carson and Paul Whitelaw set a world first-class record for the third wicket, adding 445 for Auckland against Otago.
- January 1948: Bert Sutcliffe and Don Taylor, opening for Auckland against Canterbury, created a world record of a double-century opening partnership in each innings – 220 and 286.
- January 1963: John Reid hit 15 sixes in his innings of 296 for Wellington against Northern Districts – a first-class world record.
- November 2009: In a game against Central Districts, Peter McGlashan, Northern Districts wicketkeeper, became the first first-class player to take 12 catches in a game.
- April 2010: Playing against Wellington, Otago left-arm fast-medium bowler Neil Wagner became the first first-class bowler to take five wickets in one over.
At 1 September 2014 Mathew Sinclair of Central Districts had scored the most runs in provincial cricket (9,148), while Ewen Chatfield of Wellington had taken the most wickets (403). The highest individual score was Bert Sutcliffe’s 385 for Otago against Canterbury in December 1952 (out of a team score of 500).
Canterbury amassed 777 in the Shell Trophy final in March 1996, the highest team score in New Zealand first-class cricket history.