When Cricket Fever Hit New Zealand

By JACK FOX, Patron N Z Radio DX League

In the days when radio was THE mighty voice, DXers played a prominent role in
the community. One such occasion took place during the 1946/1947 series between the MCC and Australia (the first post-war cricket tests in Australia for resumption of the Ashes). This is a story which recalls when Otago DXers performed an important sporting occasion.

Working in conjunction with the local branch of the national Columbus Radio Centre, one of New Zealand’s largest radio firms, the Otago branch of the New Zealand DX Club kept the public up to date with the latest scores and created wide interest.

During the first three tests, the DX Club had two DXers monitoring the ball by ball descriptions (something new at the time) from Radio Australia. Located in city’s suburbs, a DXer would phone the scores every 10 minutes to the Columbus shop in the city centre. A second DXer was on standby in another part of the city in case of unforeseen interference. This proved helpful when on one occasion, the council began work causing interference outside the monitoring operator’s home. Shortwave listeners well know the noise on the bands caused by graders, trucks and other equipment.

In the city shop window of the Radio Centre, a large score board measuring 14 feet long and three feet high displayed full details with bowlers name and fall of wickets.
During the fourth test a new system was adopted successfully. A radio was placed beside the score board and two Otago members kept tuned to Radio Australia and placed the scores up to date, the time delay being cut down to seconds.

Outside the shop in the city’s main street, crowds gathered around the window watching for the latest score. Message boys kept fellow employees informed by rushing along and jotting down the score on pieces of paper to take back to their offices and factories. Men from nearby shops and offices would sneak a few minutes off work to find out how the games were going.

Cheers would go out from the watchers when anyone made a century. Even when an Englishman batted for 95 minutes before opening his account in the fourth test was greeted with loud cheering. At times the city’s Traffic Department patrolmen were kept busy keeping the footpath and roadway clear. Late night shopping on Friday evenings saw shoppers crowded around till stumps were drawn. Nine out of 10 phone calls to Columbus were for the latest cricket score !

At radio stations throughout the country the score was announced every two minutes,
Tobacco stalls and many shops would display the latest score in their windows.

For the members of the Otago branch of the NZ DX Club it was a wonderful achievement that earned them high praise and led to future events in which they were later called to perform and be recognised.