The period during the ‘90s was compelling. Australia were on the road to world domination. South Africa had returned from the wilderness. Teams from the subcontinent were making their presence felt. Amidst all this, there was one outfit constantly punching above its weight – especially in ODI cricket. New Zealand.

The Black Caps were yet to savour glory at an ICC event. In fact, they hadn’t reached even one final. All that, though, would change.

The new millennium featured the ICC KnockOut in Kenya (played in October 2000) and New Zealand made their maiden appearance in a final of a global event. Their opponents, India, were brimming with confidence having comprehensively beaten Australia and South Africa en route.

At the time, Chris Cairns – playing his 125th ODI – was behind only Sir Richard Hadlee as New Zealand’s highest impact player, and all-rounder, of all time (min. 60 ODIs played). Cairns, though, was the better ‘big match’ player of the two, having registered 3 series-defining performances ( SD ) – including one in his debut series.

Put in to bat, India rode on skipper Saurav Ganguly’s century and set a challenging target of 265. Cairns bowled his ten overs on the trot despite a dodgy right knee and, although he went wicketless, he was instrumental in plugging the flow of runs. In reply, New Zealand were immediately under pressure losing Craig Spearman in the second over. While they kept up with the asking rate, the Kiwis lost wickets at regular intervals and, close to the halfway mark, were teetering at 132 for 5.

Cairns had Chris Harris for company, and the pair went about the chase in methodical fashion. By the time Harris was dismissed, their 122-run stand for the sixth wicket (in a little over 25 overs) had taken the ‘perennial dark horses’ to within striking distance. With 11 runs still to get off nine balls, Cairns and Adam Parore applied the finishing touches – with two balls to spare – to take New Zealand to, what remains, their biggest title. Cairns was unbeaten on 102.

6.73 wheeled away in celebration.

Following a frugal effort with the ball (he had the highest Economy Impact for his team), Chris Cairns finished the match having scored almost 39% of the target. The time he spent at the crease proved very crucial as he not only absorbed pressure, but also constructed a match-winning partnership, thereby having high Pressure Impact and Partnership Building Impact. That he remained unbeaten at the end of the successful chase also gave him high Chasing Impact . Poetically, it was he who struck the winning runs.

It was a Tournament Defining effort no less, Cairns’ fourth, and the Kiwis – following years of ‘hey, we’re here too’ showings – finally took flight as they hoisted their first (and till date, only) piece of ICC silverware.

This was the twelfth-highest impact performance of Cairns’ ODI career in a match context. When seen in a tournament context, however, this happens to be the highest impact performance in New Zealand’s ODI history.

Chris Cairns would go on to deliver one more SD before calling it a day. As of today, he is New Zealand’s second-highest impact player (and all-rounder) ever – only behind Sir Richard Hadlee.

Mired in controversy, Chris Cairns has recently made the news for all reasons wrong. But on that eventful Sunday evening, Cairns and the Black Caps basked in their finest hour. New Zealand’s biggest series winner (as on that day) had stood up, and performed, with his team in dire need.

 

 

Karthik Swaminathan

 NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.