When he was selected as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year in 2000, it was stated that: “Cairns had a claim to be considered the game’s pre-eminent all-rounder.” Experts in New Zealand were undecided whether he was, in fact, superior to Richard Hadlee. However a check through the career records of both cricketers would indicate that Hadlee was a far better bowler, whilst Cairns was a somewhat better batsman.
Be that as it may, Cairns has a brilliant record as a Test all-rounder with over 3,000 runs @ 3.00 and 200 wickets @ 29.40; in addition Cairns has more than 4,000 ODI runs to his name plus 170 wickets.
Cairns joined Nottinghamshire on a youth scholarship in 1988 at the age of 18. He played in three Notts first-class matches that summer. This preceded his first-class debut in New Zealand, which occurred in the 1988-89 season for Northern Districts. Cairns returned to Trent Bridge for 1989; again, his efforts were mainly confined to Second XI matches.
Regarded in New Zealand as a cricketer of immense potential, he made his Test debut in 1989-90 v Australia, even though he had only played in a handful of first-class games in New Zealand. By the time he returned to Notts as the county’s principal overseas player in 1992, he was a seasoned Test cricketer, though still only 21.
Notts considered him mainly as an opening seam bowler, but in the event, though batting at no.7 or no.6, he averaged 41.00 and only just missed 1,000 runs by 16. In addition he was Notts leading wicket-taker, but his 56 wickets cost 35.25 runs each.
Coming to Notts for a second full season in 1993, Cairns proved himself to be the outstanding all-rounder in County cricket that summer. His batting average rose to 43, but more impressively his wickets cost 23.43 runs each. In 1994 New Zealand toured England. Cairns, in need of a break, declined to play for Notts in the period when his country had no matches.
The County had however secured his services for 1995. This time he reached the 1,000 run target, batting with both style and consistency; Cairns also topped the Notts bowling table by a large margin; it was a handicap that the other principal seam bowlers were off frequently with injury and Cairns was rather over-bowled.
He found the grind of the county circuit very tiring the following year and had a moderate first-class return, though in One-day games he put in some impressive performances. Injury prevented Cairns from playing for Notts in 1997. He returned in 2003 as one-day captain, and made his professional swansong for three C & G Trophy matches in 2006 before retiring.
He came out of retirement to play for the Notts Outlaws in the 2008 Twenty20 Cup scoring 153 runs in 9 matches.
Christopher Lance Cairns was born in Picton, New Zealand on 13 June 1970. His father was Lance Cairns, the well-known New Zealand Test bowler. Since his final game with Notts, his career has been largely confined to New Zealand international games. Perhaps the peak of his career was in 1999 when due in no little way to Cairns all-round skills, New Zealand beat England in England. He was also the star of New Zealand in that year’s World Cup..