October 16, 2000

Cairns' innings fit to rank among the finest

Chris Cairns' effort in guiding New Zealand home to victory in the ICC KnockOut tournament in Nairobi has to be regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, one-day innings played by a New Zealander.

There have been higher innings played, there have been faster and more belligerent innings played, even by Cairns himself.

But there have been few that rank alongside his 102 not out against India on Sunday.

His effort set up a tournament victory for New Zealand for the first time. That in itself is not necessarily enough to command status as the finest innings played.

What was, however, was the way Cairns went about it.

Realistically, if the toughest selection criteria possible had been applied Cairns would not have been playing in the game.

But sometimes mind over matter can achieve far more than the best intentions of the scientific and medical brigades.

Clearly, there was a determination about playing in this final for Cairns that was not appreciated in many quarters.

In his CricInfo column before the match he said he was determined to play and that attitude was transferred into his performance on the field.

His innings, which began with New Zealand 82/3, was one that required patience and control while leaving enough freedom in his hands and mind to ensure that bad balls were dealt with efficiently.

His straight six out of the ground from leg-spinner Anil Kumble was the clearest example of that.

If some might quibble with the label of greatness attached to the innings, it couldn't be challenged on terms of effectiveness because no one has batted New Zealand home to a tournament victory before.

And when it happens again, it will have to be a very special innings to supplant Cairns' effort.

Ten top one-day innings played by New Zealanders:

1. Chris Cairns v India, Nairobi Gymkhana, 15 October 2000

Bringing New Zealand home from 82/3 to be unbeaten on 102 not out when the side reached its goal of 265, Cairns faced 113 balls and hit two sixes and eight fours. His 124-run sixth wicket partnership with Chris Harris (46) was a New Zealand record against India.

2. Martin Crowe v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland, 22 February 1992

In the first game of the 1992 World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the home team was 13/2 after deciding to bat first when Crowe came to the wicket. Inspiring confidence in those batting with him, he stayed the distance to be 100 not out at the end of 50 overs. New Zealand then bowled Australia out for 211.

3. Chris Harris v Australia, Chidambaram Stadium, Madras, 11 March 1996

Possibly the finest innings which didn't produce a winning result. Harris was promoted in the order and batting in partnership with Lee Germon added 168 runs for the fourth wicket. His century came from 96 balls and his 130 from 132 balls included four sixes and 13 fours. Australia passed New Zealand's 286 off 47.5 overs.

4. Bruce Edgar v Australia, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1 February 1981

In one of the more controversial matches played between the two countries, Edgar beautifully paced his innings so that New Zealand arrived at the last over with a chance for victory. Because Australia resorted to underarm bowling for the last ball to deny New Zealand a tie, this innings has been one of the more forgotten classics.

5. Stephen Fleming v West Indies, Queen's Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 29 March 1996

New Zealand on its third tour of the West Indies hadn't won an international match until this encounter. West Indies scored 238/7 and despite being 71/4, Fleming played out his maiden One-Day International century and helped New Zealand to victory with a ball to spare. He was 106 not out from 108 balls.

6. Richard Hadlee v England, Adelaide Oval, 29 January 1983

New Zealand was involved in a tight three-way series with England and Australia. England set New Zealand a target of 297 to win this game, and at 166/5 when Hadlee joined Jeremy Coney the situation did not look promising. However, Hadlee hit a superb 79 to see New Zealand home to victory while sharing a 121-run stand with Coney. At that time it was easily New Zealand's highest successful chase.

7. Glenn Turner v Australia, Adelaide Oval, 31 January 1983

Someone turned the heat up for this game two days after the previous innings. Turner, batting at No 3, chipped over the heads of Australian fielders all day en route to 84 in one of the toughest innings imaginable. The conditions were sweltering and while New Zealand scored only 200/9, Australia fell 47 runs short.

8. Mark Greatbatch v South Africa, Eden Park, 29 February 1992

The supposed might of South African firepower was set to be unleashed on New Zealanders in this game. But Greatbatch, promoted to open in John Wright's absence, unleashed one of the most superb attacking innings. He hit three sixes and nine fours in his 68 from 60 balls. New Zealand needed only 35.3 overs to polish off South Africa's 190. He and Rod Latham had 103 from 15 overs and scored 114 before parted - this before Sri Lanka ever entertained thoughts about power hitting at the top of the innings.

9. Roger Twose v Australia, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, 20 May 1999

Australia scored only 213 runs batting first but at 49/4 in reply, New Zealand looked well gone. But Cairns joined Twose in a 148-run stand to take a memorable win from the eventual world champions. Twose's 80 not out was scored from 99 balls.

10. Lance Cairns v Australia, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 13 February 1983

Still regarded in cricket folklore in New Zealand as one of the more superb power displays of all-time. He arrived at the crease with New Zealand disastrously placed at 44/6. The perfect situation for his fabled big hitting. Six sixes from bowlers like Dennis Lillee and Rodney Hogg in an innings of 52, while all the batsmen around him couldn't get runs at all made this a memorable effort.