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; his efforts in that summer 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 versus 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 7 or 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. In that season he won the The Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English First-Class Cricket. This was despite the handicap that, with the other principal seam bowlers off frequently with injury, 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 nine 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 for New Zealand in that year’s World Cup.

Cairns played 62 Tests, more than his father, and outstripped Lance's figures, taking more wickets (218 compared with 130) and scoring more runs (3,320; 928).  In First-Class cricket overall, he made 10,702 runs at 35.32 with a top score of 158, made against South Africa, and 647 wickets at 28.31, with 8-47 against Sussex his best return.

Cairns retired from the New Zealand Test team in 2004 and from limited-overs international two seasons later. In the 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honours, he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to cricket.

In 2021 Chris suffered the first of some serious health issues when a life-threatening aortic dissection and paraplegia and a spinal stroke left him in a wheelchair.  He was later diagnosed with bowel cancer and underwent six months of chemotherapy.  He faced these challenges with the same determination and resolve that had served him so well as a player and continues the slow process of treatment and recovery.


November 2023

Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 507

See Chris Cairns's career stats here