July 11, 2003

Cairns joins select group of bowlers in New Zealand history

Chris Cairns's return to the bowling crease for his English county Nottinghamshire in their most recent game, against Kent at Maidstone, saw him join a select band of New Zealand cricketers.

When his New Zealand team-mate Daniel Vettori caught Ed Smith for 113 from Cairns's bowling, it wasn't only a cause for celebration after the towelling Vettori had been getting from the batsmen. It represented the end of a long wait by Cairns for his 600th first-class wicket.

Plagued by knee injuries in recent seasons, Cairns had moved to 599 when taking 2 for 10 in Canterbury's opening game of the State Championship last season - and didn't take any wickets in his only other bowl in the domestic summer. This is his first appearance at the bowling crease in a first-class match since then. It didn't look too promising for him in the first innings, when his three overs cost 29. But things were much better yesterday as he bowled 12 overs for 1 for 43.

Only six other New Zealanders have achieved the feat of 600 first-class wickets and only four of them are home-grown products. Richard Hadlee heads the list with 1490 wickets (average 18.11), and after him are: Clarrie Grimmett 1424 (22.28), Syd Smith 955 (18.08), Tom Pritchard 818 (23.03), Dipak Patel 654 (33.23) and Stephen Boock 640 (22.36). Cairns's average is 27.60.

Of the group, only Boock achieved the feat largely because of his play for, and in, New Zealand. Hadlee took 622 wickets for Notts at 14.51, Grimmett took all but 22 of his wickets for, or in, Australia. Those first 22 came in New Zealand before he moved to Australia.

Smith, whose career started in the West Indies but which flourished in England, took 502 of his wickets for Northamptonshire at 17.42. He later moved to New Zealand. Pritchard, formerly of Wellington, joined Warwickshire after the Second World War and ended his county career with 706 wickets at 23.58. Included in that haul are four games for Kent. Patel started out with Worcestershire and took 357 wickets for them at 36.66 before emigrating to New Zealand.

The closest active players to Cairns on the New Zealand bowling list at the moment are: Paul Wiseman 312 wickets at 32.94, Vettori 263 at 31.01, Andrew Penn 239 at 22.97, Warren Wisneski 219 at 26.89, Heath Davis 212 at 31.27, and Matthew Hart 208 at 35.01.