Chris Pringle, born on January 26, 1968, was New Zealand’s medium-pacer in the early 1990s who featured mainly in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at his career.
Some players have an intriguing story. Fate presented them with a chance to rise to the highest level and they grabbed it with both hands to push aside the doubts and live the dream. Chris Pringle, the New Zealand pace bowler will go down in history as the chosen one, as if he was destined to don the colours for his country, for he first represented them when it was least expected. Yet, his international career stretched over five years and culminated in 14 Tests and 64 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Who would have thought it was possible when he was called out of wilderness on one fine day at Headingly in 1990?
Born in Auckland on January 26, 1968, Pringle first made an impression in representative cricket in December 1987 when he turned up for the Auckland under-20s against the Northern District under-20s and took a six-wicket haul in a victory for his side. In only his third game, he picked up a total of 13 wickets for his side, which included a nine-wicket haul in the first innings. That saw him being promoted to the Auckland second XIs from the age groups. Pringle then played for the New Zealand Young Cricketers in 1988 alongside Chris Cairns and Lee Germon.
It was during the 1989-90 season that Pringle made his First-Class and List A debut for Auckland. In six First-Class games, he picked 23 wickets at an average of 24.56. That year, during the English summer, he was in the Old Blighty and stumbled to greet the New Zealand team at Headingley as they readied themselves for an ODI against the hosts. New Zealand had a few injury problems and immediately asked their countryman to join forces in a foreign land.
On debut, he opened the bowling alongside Sir Richard Hadlee in a 55-over game and as England sped away to 295, which was a huge score in those days, Pringle finished with impressive figures of two for 45. Graham Gooch and Jack Russell were his victims on the day. New Zealand won that game by four wickets. In the next ODI, he addded one more wicket to his tally as England were the victors then. Pringle had nevertheless made an impression and stayed on with the team as a result. He played the matches against the counties, but did not make his Test debut then.
Pringle then donned the whites later in the year when New Zealand toured Pakistan. Making his debut at Karachi, he recorded figures of 1 for 68, taking the wicket of Saleem Malik. In the second Test at Lahore, he picked a lone scalp and was expensive. It was during the third Test at Faisalabad that he created ripples. In a 16-over burst, he bundled Pakistan out for 102 with seven for 52. He had taken five out of the top seven that day. In reply, New Zealand could only make 217 and Pakistan hit back 357 thanks to Shoaib Mohammad’s ton. Pringle recorded figures of four for 10 in the second innings. However, New Zealand ended up losing the Test by 65 runs.
Pringle was more of a one-day bowler and that was his lone success in Tests. He only picked up three wickets in a Test innings only twice after that spell. He appeared in only 14 Tests, playing his last against Sri Lanka in 1995, and also shocked people when he hinted at ball-tampering during the Test at Faisalabad, as ESPNcricinfo noted.
But, one look at Pringle’s stats in ODIs would tell you how useful he was. In 64 matches, he picked up as many as 103 wickets at an average of 23.87 and a strike-rate of 32.1, which is remarkable for a fast-bowler. All in all, his economy rate is 4.45 in ODIs. One of his most memorable moments came in 1990 itself when he helped New Zealand miraculously defend a total of 194. Going into the final over, Australia needed two runs to win and the last pair were batting. Pringle bowled a maiden over and helped his team steal it by a solitary run. Ultimately, he finished with figures of one for 34.
The tall frame and an open-chested action served him well in ODIs as he was quite regular until his last appearance in 1995 against Sri Lanka. There were quite a few highlights in the years that followed. During the World Series in Australia in 1993-94, he picked a total of 16 wickets in only seven matches at a remarkable average of 13.68. That average matched that of Shane Warne for the tournament, who led the charts with 22 wickets. Against England at Birmingham in 1994, he recorded his best figures of five for 45. Even in the Nelson Mandela Trophy in 1994, he took nine wickets in six matches to lead the charts for his side.
After 1995, he played a bit of domestic cricket before heading to Netherlands to play club cricket there. He also appeared for the Netherlands in one game against Surrey. He played his last game in New Zealand domestic cricket in 1998, but continued to feature for the Netherlands till 2001.
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