Mark BurgessMark Burgess, born July 17, 1944, was one of New Zealand’s able batsmen, who featured in the side when it made a transition from being an amateurish to a professional unit. Karthik Parimal looks back at the career of this former captain from Auckland.

Not often does a top-order batsman, with no centuries to boast of in First-Class cricket, get drafted into a national side with just potential to show for as USP. The fact that Mark Burgess was the son of former cricketer Gordon Burgess, who was a member of the New Zealand Council and the chairman of the Auckland Cricket Association at the time, perhaps added weight to his resume, but any uncertainty about his deftness was soon blown away when, on his debut series for New Zealand against the touring Indians in the February of 1968, he finished as his side’s second highest run-getter.

A decent beginning

With just a handful of First-Class games under his belt, Burgess was put on board for the series against India. He represented New Zealand in the Under-23 XI a few years prior to his debut and bagged noteworthy scores in the Plunket Shield for Auckland, but there were concerns surrounding his sudden thrust to the big stage. However, New Zealand back then weren’t churning out cricketers in bulk, so few could contest his selection.

In the first Test at Dunedin, as the Kiwis slid from 200 for 2 to 246 for 5, Burgess, in his first innings, notched a fifty. Alongside Jack Alabaster, he added 69 for the ninth wicket to propel the score to 350. He knocked a stoic 39 in the second innings, but India nevertheless strolled to victory by 5 wickets.

In the third fixture at Wellington (New Zealand won the second Test but Burgess’ contribution was little), he returned scores of 66 and 60 and batted for three-and-a-half hours to put a halt to the damage caused by India’s prodigious spinners. In the second innings, with Bev Congdon at the other end, he added 86. Wisden described it as New Zealand’s best batting of the series. In the fourth Test, too, he offered resistance despite not scoring many.

With 271 runs at an average of 33.87, inclusive of 3 half-centuries, Burgess became New Zealand’s second-highest run-scorer in the series. Soon, he compiled his first First-Class hundred, thereby duly announcing his arrival in the circuit.

Temporary slump and eventual rise

After the Indians left triumphant, West Indies sailed to New Zealand before the Kiwis flew to England. Of the 6 Tests against these two sturdy teams, Burgess featured in four and could muster just 87 runs. One expected the selectors’ axe to fall on his ropes, but was nevertheless retained to tour India and Pakistan towards the end of 1969. It was on the sub-continental soil that he essayed some of his finest cricketing moments.

In the first Test at Bombay, Burgess scored 10 and 0 in a game where the Kiwis lost by 60 runs. In the next fixture at Nagpur, he hammered 89, a knock that took under 4 hours to etch and inclusive of 13 boundaries. It helped his side post a first-innings score of 319 and eventually led to a massive victory — New Zealand’s first in India. He also bowled 8 overs of off-spin for 3 wickets on that memorable day. Although he scored just 5 runs from two innings in the final match at Hyderabad, he started his tour of Pakistan assertively. His career, it appeared, had turned a corner there.

In his first outing at Karachi, he walked in to bat when New Zealand slumped to 11 for 3 on the final day chasing 230 and held one end to steer towards a draw. It was a performance he would soon have to replicate, this time with higher stakes attached. In the second Test at Lahore, he scored an unbeaten 29 in the second innings, again when his side was in a definite spot of bother at 29 for 3 chasing 82, and ensured a rare 5-wicket victory over the hosts. All New Zealand had to do in the final fixture at Dacca was to settle for at least a draw in order to register their first overseas series victory, against any opponent.

At the Dacca Stadium, it appeared from the outset that the Kiwis had aimed to secure only a draw. Their first innings total of 273 took 166.3 overs to compile. Burgess, though, showed intent in the middle-order, as 36 of his 59 runs came in boundaries. Pakistan declared on 290 for 7, riding on Asif Iqbal’s 92 and Shafqat Rana’s 65.

The declaration was made in an attempt to blow the New Zealand batsmen out quickly before chasing down a paltry total and, at 25 for 4, the Pakistani bowlers looked as though they had get the job done nonchalantly. Nevertheless, the pitch at Dacca offered less assistance to the spinners than the ones at Karachi and Lahore, and Burgess, realising this fact, cashed in on the surface.

Alongside No. 10 batsman Bob Cunis, Burgess began the process of recuperation. The duo added 96 runs for the ninth wicket to take New Zealand to 200, Burgess contributing 119 of them. His century included just 12 boundaries and took over 4 hours to script in the sweltering Dacca heat, but the effort was worth it as Pakistan had to chase 184 in just under two-and-a-half hours, and Cunis’ quick four-for pushed that target further out of reach. It eventually brought up New Zealand’s first series victory overseas.

Form worries, brush with captaincy and retirement

After his momentous ton against Pakistan, Burgess scored 2 more centuries, one against England and the other against West Indies, thereby achieving the rare feat of hundreds in 3 consecutive Tests. It is worth noting that these 3 Tests were spaced over two-and-a-half years and reflected New Zealand’s standing in the international arena at the time. However, it was uphill from there for the unit and Burgess was an integral part of it.

In 1973, he batted himself onto the Lord’s honour board, slamming 105 to take New Zealand to their then highest Test total of 551 for 9. “Burgess’s second century against England included many fine drives and cuts,” noted Wisden. Although he got tantalisingly close to the three-figure mark twice more in the next three years, his next (and final) ton came against Pakistan on Lahore’s dusty track in 1976. His 111 there, though, was in vain, for the hosts romped to victory by 6 wickets.

Thereafter, his form travelled down a slippery slope. In his next 12 Test innings since February 1977, Burgess managed just 209 runs. Nevertheless, a significant event was recorded during the course of this slump. He captained New Zealand and, against England at Wellington, led his side to a victory, the first in what was the 48th Test (in 48 years) between the two countries. Unfortunately, it was the only win he could pocket in his 10 Tests as captain. He steered New Zealand to the semi-finals of the 1979 World Cup, though, which added further weight to his already impressive portfolio.

Post 1979, his form further deteriorated and, for the 1980 series against Australia, relinquished his post as captain to Geoff Howarth. In that tour, he scored 122 runs from 6 innings at an average of 24.40 before deciding to call it quits from the longer version of the game. He played in ODIs for one more year, although he could score no hundreds or fifties in that format.

Career statistics:

Format Matches Runs 100s 50s Average
Tests 50 2684 5 14 31.20
ODI 26 336 0 0 16.80

Post retirement, Burgess served as one of the appointees to the New Zealand Soccer council. His love for the sport was no less than that for cricket. He made one appearance in the national soccer side, in 1967 at Auckland, against Manchester United, a game in which the hosts were duly thrashed 8-1. After playing a few more games for Eden in the early ’70s, he stuck with cricket, a sport in which, it’s safe to say, he carved a niche.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at