Cairns seeks a victory to adorn his Test farewell

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The Independent Online

England's series-winning victory at Headingley may have rendered the third Test at Trent Bridge tomorrow something of a non-event, but for Chris Cairns it will last in the memory. After 15 years at the highest level, the New Zealand all-rounder has chosen this moment to draw stumps on his Test career.

England's series-winning victory at Headingley may have rendered the third Test at Trent Bridge tomorrow something of a non-event, but for Chris Cairns it will last in the memory. After 15 years at the highest level, the New Zealand all-rounder has chosen this moment to draw stumps on his Test career.

Cairns will earn the 62nd cap of a career that has so far yielded 3,307 runs and 209 wickets, placing him in the company of Sir Garfield Sobers, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and his countryman, Sir Richard Hadlee, as the only six players to have completed the double of 3,000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket. It is a stunning achievement.

A more extraordinary fact, perhaps, is that injuries have deprived him of almost as many caps as he has won, which makes the feat all the more remarkable.

Sidelined by a back injury immediately after his debut Test in 1989-90, Cairns has battled against one physical breakdown after another. In between his 61 appearances have been 57 Tests for which he was unfit. He has had three knee operations since 1999 alone.

Yesterday, looking out over the ground on which he played county cricket with Nottinghamshire, he explained that juggling a life that now involves business interests and a growing family had prompted his decision to quit but admitted he was also answering a plaintive cry from his body.

"The last two years have been particularly tough because while the mind is willing the body sometimes is not," he said. "I've always been one to play aggressively and take the game on and I have found myself for the first time ever wondering if I can do it.

"If you look at the current series, the difference has been Steve Harmison, who has led the England attack in a way that no Black Cap bowler has been able to lead ours. I have always tried to play that role but it dawned on me during the last game that my body is not quite in the same state that the mind is. I will be 34 on Sunday and while Test match cricket is a huge mental game as a bowler you need to be able to draw on those physical resources.

"When I watched Harmison and Matthew Hoggard on that fourth evening when they ran in and really won the game for England, it was then that it dawned on me that it really was time to call it a day."

In fact, the time and place had already been planned. "I actually wasn't going to tour after the home series against South Africa. I thought going out in New Zealand would be right but after taking time out to reflect and think about the memories this place holds for me it seemed fitting to finish here."

Cairns, who also holds the record - 86 - for sixes hit in Test cricket, will attempt to prolong his career in one-day internationals, but will not be tempted into a Test comeback - even in an injury crisis of the kind currently giving the Kiwi management a headache.

"Test cricket has always been the hardest thing for my body," he said. "All the injuries have been frustrating but I've always tried to play with the hand I have been dealt. Sure I'd have liked to play 100 Tests, but for me to put myself alongside the guys that I joined when I scored 3,000 runs and 200 Test wickets means a lot to me and that is something that can't be taken away."

For his swansong his simple wish is to win, particularly given New Zealand's disappointing series. "I've always felt that individual performances were shallow if they did not come in a victory," he said. "A victory would be the best way to go out. If I manage to have some success as well that would be fantastic."

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