Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, he represented New Zealand in 41 Tests, and achieved an average of 44.64, including seven centuries. He went to O.B.H.S. (Otago Boys' High School). He would have appeared for his country much more, however, had he not elected to be unavailable for several seasons after falling out with administrators. Instead, Turner made his mark on the first-class cricket scene, particularly with Worcestershire in the English county championship. In all, he played 455 first-class matches, amassing 34,346 runs at 49.70, including 103 centuries—making him one of a select few to score a "century of centuries", one of only four non-English cricketers to do so (the others being Donald Bradman, Zaheer Abbas and Viv Richards). Turner also coached the New Zealand side twice—once in the mid-1980s, when he presided over the team's first and (to date) only series victory in Australia, and again a decade later.
Turner is one of only two players (the other being Graeme Hickin 1988 also for Worcestershire) since the Second World War to have scored 1000 first-class runs in England before the end of May, a feat he achieved in 1973. Among the eight batsmen who have done this, only Turner and Donald Bradman did it while playing for a touring team. He also holds the record of highest percentage of runs scored in any completed innings 83.43% after he scored 141* out of Worcestershire's 169 against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1977. The remaining batsmen scored 27, highest 7 and there was one extra. On 29 May, 1982, Turner became the first batsman in 33 years to score 300 runs in a single day in England. He was 311 not out when Worcestershire declared at 501-1 against Warwickshire.