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New Zealand v West Indies, Twenty20, Auckland

An unfitting farewell

Dylan Cleaver at Eden Park

February 16, 2006

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Chris Cairns: His ground. His evening. His crowd. © AFP
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The invitations were sent out, the table was set. All that was required was for the principal to turn up.

Chris Cairns was there but his presence was made almost superfluous by a shockingly bad game of cricket. That it ended with the drama of a bowl-out was an injustice to the sport, but then again, it was great fun.

Nathan Astle missed the stumps twice and Dwayne Smith obliged too. Jeetan Patel missed twice. So did Chris Gayle. So did Cairns. So did Jerome Taylor. Shane Bond hit once... and twice. Ian Bradshaw didn't. Scott Styris hit and it was over... mercifully so.

Forget the fact this was a tie - New Zealand scored 16 off the final over to get there and Bond hit a four off the final ball - and all the fun of the fair that brings, it still fell well short of what is required in international cricket.

The night was meant to be about Cairns. He took 0 for 24 of his four overs but what will stick in the mind was the West Indies' ineptitude when it came to setting a target, and New Zealand's embarrassing attempt to chase it.

About 180 is considered par for the course in Twenty20, the West Indies stumbled through, with the minimum of urgency, to 126 for 7. There were plenty in the crowd ready to blame Stephen Fleming, who won the toss and inserted the Windies, and although that was a dreadful decision for the crowd his job is to win, not provide entertainment.

Shiv Chanderpaul and Daren Ganga both scored 26, but took far too long getting there. Say what you like about Twenty20 - and, to be frank, much of what is said is by the book stick-in-the-mudism - this form of the game has got people through the gates in New Zealand like no other form of the game has been able to achieve.

Last year it was the novelty of the occasion. During the inaugural domestic Twenty20 series this year it was families unable to commit full days at cricket re-connecting with the sport. This time it was to farewell a champion.

Christopher Lance Cairns, the flawed genius, took his final bow at a ground where he often saved his best. He averaged 43 in Test cricket with the bat on this ground, a full 10 runs better than his overall average. He scored his first Test century here - 120 versus Zimbabwe- and took his first five-wicket bag, against Sri Lanka, on the same ground. He also played his most memorable Test innings, 158 against South Africa, on this quirky ground. So this was his ground. His evening. His crowd.

When he came out to bat New Zealand was 73 for 3 chasing its paltry target. He'd taken 0 for 24 from four well-directed overs. Unfortunately his 2 from 9 deliveries was not so glamorous. Then again, not everybody has the perfect farewell.

When he came out to bat it was mere formality that New Zealand would win. When he left it was questionable.

He deserved better.

Dylan Cleaver is senior sports writer of Herald on Sunday

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