“The method was identical,the timing was superb and the spectators at long-on are now an endangered species,” said Channel 9 commentator Frank Tyson, describing New Zealand’s crowd-pleasing Lance Cairns batting heroics against the old foe Australia at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground on a hot February afternoon in 1983. It was the final of the World Series Cup, Lance carried more of a wooden club than a bat, with cutaway shoulders and a massive blade, which became known as ‘Excalibur’ The veteran all-rounder hit six 6’s in ten balls, including a one-handed hit to the longest boundary in one of the world’s biggest sporting stadiums of the legendary Aussie quick Dennis Lillie. NZ may have lost the match and the series but few overseas players ever receive such sustained acclaim for a performance against the home side as Sir Lancelot did that day.
He probably didn’t hear much of it since he has been profoundly deaf since the age of 17, but I’m sure he was aware of the adulation that is still spoken about today. The following month back in NZ he hit the English spinners to all parts of the ground, including a gigantic six at the Basin Reserve in Wellington that cleared the inner-city ground and sailed down the street never to be seen again.
His bowling style was unique-an awkward wrong footed right arm ‘Harvey the helicopter’ delivery action that he thought was orthodox, but it produced big lethal medium quick in-swingers that harvested a lot of wickets. I have captured the just before release in this sketch which was part of a series of the best 11 NZ cricketers I did in 1991 and all signed through the mail for me. I have described the energetic biro technique before as the ‘epileptic expressionism’… more scribble than careful draftsmanship, but as Jackson Pollock said “technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.”