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First-class cricket began in New Zealand in 1906 with the Plunket Shield, named after the governor-general, Lord Plunket. Originally a series of challenges among five regions, from 1921-22 it was a league. Shell Oil took over the sponsorship in 1975-76, and introduced a new prize, the Shell Trophy, for the same competition. Today the first-class competition is known as the State Championship, after its current sponsor, State Insurance.
New Zealand's achievements must be taken in the context of being a country with four million people, and with rugby the dominant sport. It took 40 years to win its first Test series, having debuted in 1929-30 against England, when it finally beat Pakistan 1-0 in 1969-70. There were, however, plenty of draws along the way, while the 1980s kickstarted a charge which saw it win nine series. It had seven victories in the 1990s and, the next decade, claimed another 10 wins. New Zealand has one world title under its belt; the ICC Champions Trophy, won in Kenya in 2000-01 (when it was the ICC Knockout). In 2014, New Zealand had a highly successful season, beating India 4-0 in the ODI series and then won the Test series 1-0.
There are three trophies on offer in New Zealand domestic cricket, and all are contested by the same six teams: Auckland, Canterbury, Central Districts, Northern Districts, Otago and Wellington. Teams play each other home and away in the State Championship, then the top two sides contest the final. The one-day competition is the State Shield, where the second-placed team plays the third-placed one for a spot in the final, against the top side. A Twenty20 Cup was introduced in 2006, with the top two in group stage contesting the final.
When you think of a New Zealand great, the name that springs instantly to mind is Richard Hadlee, the fast-bowling menace who terrorized international oppositions in the 1980s. Hadlee learned to control his lightning-fast deliveries to devastating effect, taking apart England with 10 wickets in a Test in 1978 and, memorably, Australia in 1985-86 when he took 15 wickets in Brisbane. His hard-hitting batting was not to be underestimated, either. He was knighted, and also commemorated when he and his brothers and father gave their name to the Chappell-Hadlee one-day series between Australia and New Zealand.
Women's cricket in New Zealand has always been strong and they played one of the first Tests, against England in 1935, and sent a side to the first Women's World Cup, in England in 1973. New Zealand Cricket was the first men's board to take over the women's game, welcoming it from 1992. The move paid dividends almost immediately: New Zealand was finalists in the World Cup for the first time the following year, while in 2000, it etched its names on the trophy, in front of home crowds. It remains a hugely competitive side, having been runners-up in the 2009 ICC Women's World Cup and the 2009 and 2010 ICC World Twenty20 tournaments. It failed to make it to the semi-final of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014.