Jared Savage was the only journalist to sit through every day of the Chris Cairns trial in London. Here, he summarises what the court was told.

There was always hope for fans when cricketer Chris Cairns strode to the wicket with bat in hand, or the captain threw him the ball.

He was a genuine all-rounder, a proven match-winner, a player with the talent and necessary arrogance to take on the best in the world. Whenever "Cairnsy" was playing for New Zealand in his 17-year career, there was still a chance of victory.

And when Cairns walked into the Southwark Crown Court on October 5, 2015, wearing a dark blue suit and tie, he was just as determined to win.

Chris Cairns on one of his lone walks to Southwark Crown Court during his perjury trial. Photo / Chris Gorman
Chris Cairns on one of his lone walks to Southwark Crown Court during his perjury trial. Photo / Chris Gorman

It was a lonely walk he repeated nearly every morning for more than eight weeks. Talking from a video screen on the wall, Mel Cairns told the court her heart broke each time she saw her husband on the news, walking the gauntlet alone.

The court sits at the end of a cul-de-sac on the southern bank of the River Thames; an imposing, depressingly drab fortress built of brown bricks. Looming in the background is The Shard tower of glass, across the muddy water is the Tower of London. Moored outside is the HMS Belfast, a WWII cruiser turned into a floating museum.

Waiting for Cairns each day on the dead-end street were members of the press. The pack was strong at the start, hungry to hear the scandalous accusations against the man who starred for New Zealand and Nottinghamshire.

Their number dwindled as the trial dragged on for weeks, as the days grew shorter and the breeze off the Thames grew colder.

Cairns was polite. He always paused to let the cameramen get their shot, always nodded to say "morning" to the reporters who sat day after day taking notes and tapping furiously on keyboards.

Waiting for Cairns inside Courtroom 1 was the dock, stark and sterile. It's a large rectangular glass box with a door, a bubble where Cairns and co-accused Andrew Fitch-Holland sat listening, staring, scribbling, sighing.

The friends were floating in a fish tank, while all around them the machinations of a criminal trial played out.

Behind them, curious cricket fans peered from the public gallery.

Chris Cairns is a free man. The 45-year-old was acquitted of perjury late last night by a jury that had considered verdicts for 10 hours and 17 minutes following a marathon trial lasting eight weeks. The New Zealand cricket legend and his friend Andrew Fitch-Holland were also acquitted of perverting the course of justice.

Attendance waxed and waned depending on the witness. New Zealanders queued at the door in the days before the Rugby World Cup final, only to be disappointed when Cairns did not take the witness stand as expected.

Some were shabbily dressed for court, wearing hoodies and trackpants. One even wore jandals. He was told to keep his feet off the seat.

There was a trio of elderly English gentlemen who between them came nearly every single day, cricket train-spotters with nothing better to do. One was particularly hard of hearing, earning the ire of those around him by talking loudly at inopportune moments.

Sitting at benches in front of Cairns and Fitch-Holland were three of the finest Queen's Counsel in London, and their learned juniors.

For the Crown, Sasha Wass QC, famous for her verbal knifing of "sinister pervert" Rolf Harris, leather boots, intense stares over the top of her glasses and dreadful scorn in her questions.
Beside her, as tall and broad as Wass is wispish, sat Orlando Pownall, QC. Leading the defence for Cairns, Pownall had a delightfully British turn of phrase.

If Pownall was passively aggressive in court, Fitch-Holland's barrister was just aggressive. Jonathan Laidlaw, QC took pleasure in picking holes in the Crown case and, in one withering exchange, told Wass to "spare me the faces".

Trying to keep everyone playing by the rules was Justice Nigel Sweeney. Following hundreds of years of legal tradition, his authority was identified by a red robe trimmed with white fur and black ribbon. Topped with a wig, Justice Sweeney was a wise Santa who did not suffer fools.

To his left sat the jury of five men and seven women, who could have been forgiven for at times wondering just what the case was about.

Professional cricket players from New Zealand. An apparently dodgy tournament in India. A High Court libel case in London. All being litigated in a windowless courtroom beside the Thames.

The charges were serious: perjury and perverting the course of justice. The case was about allegations of corruption in cricket. The evidence which unfolded changed New Zealand sport forever.

'Golden Boy'

In her opening address to the jury, Sasha Wass outlined Cairns' glittering career and described him as a hero, an idol, a legend - the "golden boy" of international cricket.

The same arrogance which made him a world-class player also led Cairns to believe he would never be caught match-fixing, the Queen's Counsel told the jury. That's why, she argued, he sued Lalit Modi over a tweet that claimed Cairns was not involved in the Indian Premier League because of match-fixing, even though he knew the allegation was true.

"In this case, [Cairns] has been caught," said Ms Wass. "The cricketing term is caught at the boundary."

The jury in London last night delivered a verdict that showed they rejected that argument. But how did they reach that point?

The Crown case relied on three key witnesses: Lou Vincent, current Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum and Vincent's ex-wife Ellie Riley.

Former Black Cap Lou Vincent arrives at court during the Chris Cairns trial. Photo / Chris Gorman
Former Black Cap Lou Vincent arrives at court during the Chris Cairns trial. Photo / Chris Gorman

Vincent was up first. He walked into court hand-in-hand with wife Susie, quipping to waiting reporters: "First in to bat. Hope it's a green one."

By that, he meant he hoped to be out early. What followed was three days of questioning where his life was dissected for the world to see.

Vincent claimed Cairns lured him into the murky world of match-fixing. All lies, said Cairns; Vincent gave authorities a "big name" to escape punishment.

A talented opening batsman, Vincent was just 23 when he scored a test century on debut against Australia at the WACA in Perth in November 2001. At that time, only five other New Zealand players had achieved the feat.

In 2005, he scored 172 against Zimbabwe, breaking Glenn Turner's 30-year-old record for the highest ODI innings by a New Zealander.

Two years later, his international career was over. For every high, there was a low, his fluctuating form linked to his battles with mental health.

"When everything was good, his cricket was amazing. He was funny, happy and consistent," close friend and former international teammate Andre Adams said in evidence.

"When things went badly, his cricket went badly ... he got into a vicious circle and needed time to get rid of the demons."

By the time Vincent was dropped from the New Zealand side in December 2007, the "demons" were so strong he couldn't get out of bed some days.

Not knowing what to do, then-wife Ellie turned to Stephen Pearson for help. Pearson also suffers from depression and took Vincent out of the family home for a week, to "give him some fresh air" working on a building site by the sea.

Then, an opportunity to resurrect his career arose, the court was told.

Vincent was excited to sign a US$350,000 contract with the Chandigarh Lions in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2008, alongside Cairns and another former New Zealand international Daryl Tuffey.

The rebel tournament was unsanctioned by the International Cricket Council and players who signed were ineligible to represent their countries or play domestically.

Asked about Vincent's state of mind, Pearson told the court his friend was in a "bad space".

"He was looking at it as a fresh start. Mentally he was really struggling, he was looking at people for direction ... [when depression is like that] everything is foggy, nothing is clear."

Pearson told the jury that, in hindsight, his friend was vulnerable when he joined the ICL and was a "prime candidate" to be recruited into match-fixing.

Within days of landing in India, there was the now infamous "sponsorship deal" offer to Vincent from bookie Varun Gandhi.

When Vincent turned up to Gandhi's hotel room, there was no cricket gear to inspect. There was a "half-naked" woman sitting on the end of the bed and the offer of a "big wad of cash".

His agent Leanne McGoldrick was having a drink downstairs in the hotel lobby with Shane Bond, the New Zealand fast bowler also plying his trade in the ICL.

They both recalled a distressed Vincent telling them about the fixing approach.

"I asked whether he touched the money, he said no," said McGoldrick. "I asked whether he touched the woman, he said no."

That was one of a "pack of lies" he confessed during the trial, yet another humiliation in the harsh glare of the courtroom which brought him close to tears.

The court heard Vincent also told Tony Greig, the ICL chairman, which McGoldrick confirmed to be true.

Known to cricket fans around the world as a leading commentator in Australia, Greig died in December 2012.

Then, said Vincent, he told Cairns, his team captain. That conversation never happened, Cairns told the jury.

Vincent claimed Cairns paused and then told him: "You work for me now". The invitation gave Vincent a strange sense of belonging, he told the court.

"I felt like I'm part of the gang, I'm involved in something which is obviously out there ... I'm under Chris' wing and I'll never have to worry about money again."

The rest of Vincent's evidence in the Southwark Crown Court will never be forgotten. His analysis of the "art of underperforming" when fixing, a free holiday to Dubai, Cairns' fury when he "stuffed up" a fix by mistakenly hitting a six and a four, the latter denied by Cairns.

Varun Gandhi had approached him for a second time during the tournament. It was obvious, Gandhi told Vincent, the Chandigarh Lions were cheating. He just wanted to be tipped off to which games were fixed, in order to clean up with the bookies, the court heard.

Once the tournament was over, Vincent flew to England to join Ellie and find a new contract to tide him over until the third edition of the ICL started in October 2008. Waiting for him was £40,000. Varun Gandhi had his hooks into him.

Vincent told the jury he picked up a contract with county side Lancashire and claimed Cairns wanted him to fix a match against Durham in June.

In order to regain Cairns' trust after a bungled fix, Vincent said Cairns wanted him to recruit Mal Loye. All rubbish, said Cairns.

Vincent and Loye were the opening batsmen for Manchester-based Lancashire and had played together for the Auckland Aces.

"I laughed it off," said Loye, when Vincent offered him £10,000 pounds to score less than 10 runs. "How did he know anyone in the Manchester underworld?"

He went quiet when he realised Vincent was serious.

The bribe was later doubled to £20,000 but Loye refused - although he did not want to "grass" on Vincent because he feared he would take his own life.

There was an awkward meeting on the pitch, where Vincent said he was going to get out in the following over.

Vincent was out for 1, caught off a Shaun Pollock delivery.

From Loye's perspective at the other end of the wicket, Vincent guided the ball to the fielder in a deception which was "very, very convincing".

What made Loye really angry, he said, was Vincent's gesture to his teammates that it was an unplayable delivery.

Terrified he'd be dismissed cheaply after being offered money to underperform, Loye went on to score 53 runs.

The court heard that over the coming years, Vincent attempted to approach other cricketers including Adams, playing for the Kolkata Tigers, before the third edition of the ICL.

Like Loye, Adams said he did not report Vincent because he was vulnerable.

"I did not want to put him over the edge by committing suicide or something stupid."

A few years later and playing for another English country, Sussex, Vincent was introduced to Nazeem Gulzar, a Pakistani fixer, by teammate Naved Arif. Together, they agreed to cheat and Vincent tried to recruit a third player, Murray Goodwin, who refused.

In a game against Kent in August 2011, Vincent scored 1 off 7 balls while Arif made 11 off 29.

They were paid £40,000, of which the New Zealander kept £25,000, he said.

The following year, he tried to recruit Auckland Aces teammate Azhar Mahmood to fix in the Champions League T20 competition in South Africa, he said.

It was at that tournament that Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand captain now coaching Chennai, cornered Vincent in a bar and called him "dirty".

"It didn't make me feel good, I just wanted to run and hide," Vincent told the court.

Mahmood reported Vincent, who concocted a story about a mysterious bookie called "Nikhil Gupta" when interviewed by International Cricket Council investigator John Rhodes.

But the walls were closing in. Investigators from the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) kept digging and obtained sworn statements from Loye and Goodwin.

Vincent told a "pack of lies" in an interview with ECB investigators, desperate to avoid sanction in order to return home to New Zealand.

In giving evidence in Cairns' trial, he described the struggle to untangle himself from the "evil world" of match-fixing.

"You always feel you like you could be subject to blackmail. Once you've taken money from someone illegally, at any point they could hang you out to dry," Vincent said.

"They've always got one over you."

Eventually, he came clean to Heath Mills, the head of the New Zealand Players Association, in August 2013.

"I was ashamed of who I was, I didn't like the man I saw in the mirror. I had led a double life. It was greed initially and then desperation.

"I met a wonderful woman whom I loved ... and she gave me the strength to do the right thing."

That triggered the series of events which led to Cairns being charged with perjury.

If he was lying about Cairns, the Crown asked, why would Vincent confess to his wife and friends years before?

It was because Vincent was manipulative and cunning, asserted Cairns' lawyer Orlando Pownall, laying a trail of evidence to falsely implicate Cairns as a "big scalp" as an insurance policy if he was caught.

Vincent did largely escape punishment, bar a life ban from cricket at the end of his career.

He was not investigated, let alone charged, by police in the UK, despite admitting taking £120,000 pounds in bribes and attempting to recruit at least four other cricket players.
Seeking to press his point, Mr Pownall asserted Vincent was "no wallflower, no shrinking violet".

Vincent paused before replying: "I suppose you could say I was a 'yes man'."

Current New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum was a key witness for the crown against Chris Cairns. Photo / Chris Gorman.
Current New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum was a key witness for the crown against Chris Cairns. Photo / Chris Gorman.

hottest ticket in town

If Vincent was vulnerable, then Brendon McCullum was not. Even Mr Pownall said the only thing the two key Crown witnesses had in common was cricket.

McCullum and Cairns are kindred spirits. Aggressive, confident cricketers who never take a backwards step.

In the week leading to the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France in Cardiff, McCullum's scheduled appearance meant the hottest ticket in town for New Zealand sport fans was a rectangular, yellow piece of paper stamped "HM Courts & Tribunals Service" which guaranteed the holder a seat in the courtroom.

There were queues to see 'Baz' v 'Cairnsey' and people were turned away at the door.
"Are you the captain of the New Zealand cricket team?" asked Crown prosecutor Sasha Wass.

McCullum: "Yes".

How long had he known the defendant?

"Growing up watching New Zealand cricket, Chris Cairns was very much a superstar of that team and certainly one of my idols."

McCullum, explained Cairns, 11 years older, took him under his wing as a younger player.

As he became more established in the national team alongside Cairns, they became friends and their young families grew up to together in the "smallish" community of Christchurch.

So there was nothing strange about Cairns ringing to catch up a few days before McCullum debuted for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural Indian Premier League in April 2008.

They met alone in Cairns' hotel suite and shared a bottle of red wine, then ordered a curry.

There was a bit of small talk about the IPL tournament then McCullum said Cairns asked if he knew anything about spot-fixing, the court heard.

"I said no. He said he would explain it to me."

McCullum told the court that Cairns pulled out a piece of paper and pen to explain how spot-fixing worked.

"I was shocked. I sort of thought he may have been joking. But it quickly became aware he wasn't joking ... when he kept talking in quite a relaxed nature about it," he said.

"He said all the big boys were doing it, that I was the sort of player and personality who would take it on. He said he couldn't ask Dan Vettori and Jake Oram, [they] didn't have the balls to do it."

Cairns said Vincent and Tuffey were working for him, McCullum said.

McCullum did not report what happened and met Cairns a few months later in Worcester, in central England, where he was asked if had changed his mind.

Again he did not report Cairns, the court heard. Over the coming months, McCullum told his agent Leanne McGoldrick and teammates Vettori, then New Zealand captain, and Kyle Mills.

McGoldrick could not believe it. Mills was gobsmacked. Vettori was shocked then angry, the jury was told.

But the court heard Cairns was still welcome in the Black Caps environment, even partying with them in India - where a number of unnamed players were "entertained" by women - in 2010.

Vettori and McCullum played a round of golf with Cairns at a prestigious course in Dubai.

Then, in February 2011, McCullum made a statement to John Rhodes, a field officer from the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.

According to McCullum, he finally realised he could be in trouble for failing to report a fixing approach and regretted the delay.

Mr Pownall suggested McCullum waited so long because he was unsure what happened. An innocent conversation was misconstrued and evolved over time, said the Queen's Counsel, in order for McCullum to escape a playing ban, a particular concern with the Cricket a World Cup in New Zealand and Australia looming.

"I'm very certain about what happened on those two occasions Chris Cairns asked me to spot-fix," McCullum replied.

"I was scared to come forward to say a guy I looked up to, idolised in my time in the New Zealand cricket team, had asked me to fix a match.

"There's no reason for me to be here other than to tell the truth. There's no benefit [to me]."

One final question. Sasha Wass asked McCullum whether it was easy to accuse his former friend.


With that, McCullum walked out as he came in - looking straight ahead. Cairns' gaze followed him.

Lou Vincent's ex-wife Eleanor Riley. Photo / Chris Gorman
Lou Vincent's ex-wife Eleanor Riley. Photo / Chris Gorman

Effect of alcohol

Next in to bat for the Crown was Ellie Riley.

She had little time for former husband Vincent. The couple divorced in 2012 and she has since remarried. Asked whether they had parted on good terms, she said: "No, not at all."

Riley confirmed a key plank of Cairns' defence: Vincent would give evidence against Cairns in order to escape punishment.

"He told me that in exchange for letting the ICC know the big name, and all the other names, then he would come clean as long as they wrote a letter to stop him from going to jail."

She was adamant about her recollection of a drunken night out in Manchester, in June 2008.

Vincent had earlier confessed to match-fixing and told his wife that Cairns was in charge.

At the Manhattan Bar & Grill, Riley said she spoke to Cairns, concerned they would get caught cheating because too many players were involved. Her husband also had a "tendency to talk to anyone who listened".

Cairns assured her that "everyone was doing it in India" and they would not be discovered, Riley told the jury. "He was very confident about that."

When Mr Pownall suggested Riley was "infected" by the intoxicating effect of alcohol, she retorted: "When I've had a large meal it doesn't matter how much I drink, I'm as clear as a bell."

Asked if she had any reason to fabricate her story, Riley said "I certainly wouldn't come to a perjury trial to lie."

Did she have any reason to support her ex-husband? "None at all."

To convict Cairns of perjury, Justice Sweeney said the jury must be sure at least two of McCullum, Vincent and Riley were truthful. To believe only one was not enough under English law. The burden of proof, beyond reasonable doubt, was on the Crown - Cairns had to prove nothing.

For nearly a month, the cricketing great sat inside the dock and watched his accusers come and go.

Now it was his turn. He stood up and walked to the witness stand. Dressed smartly in jeans and a jacket, but no tie, Cairns seemed uncomfortable before a question was even asked.

Although his playing days are behind him, the 45-year-old still has a powerful frame and the seat in front of Justice Sweeney was too small.

Cairns said he was not involved in match-fixing, nor ever contemplated it. They were similar words to those he used in the 2012 libel trial against Lalit Modi; words the Crown alleged amounted to perjury.

Born in Picton, in June 1970, Cairns loved sport and ended up playing men's-grade cricket as a young teenager because "he was tall for his age" and obviously talented.

He went on to play for New Zealand and Nottinghamshire, like his father Lance, and had a glittering international career from 1989 until 2006.

Renowned for his match-winning exploits, Cairns was one of New Zealand's few world-class players.

In those last few years playing for New Zealand, Cairns had retired from tests and was playing only one-day internationals. His New Zealand Cricket contract was about $75,000 and he earned a further $25,000-$40,000 from speaking engagements and media commitments.

"Once your star starts to wane, there are not the same opportunities."

In 2006, he met the wealthy Shah family who were involved in the diamond trade.

The patriarch, Vijay Shah, paid a "significant sum" at a charity auction for a coaching clinic with Cairns, which the cricketer arranged to be held at Lord's, the home of cricket in London.

Cairns was looking for opportunities outside cricket and started working for Vijay Dimon, the Shahs' diamond trading company, first moving to Antwerp and later Dubai.

He also explained how he met Andrew Fitch-Holland, who was the manager of the Lashings Cricket Club, described as the "Harlem Globetrotters" of cricket, retired players who travelled to play exhibition matches at different clubs.

Was Fitch-Holland a cricketer? "Certainly not," said Cairns, to chuckles from the public gallery.

Cairns was asked about his relationships with various people mentioned during the course of the trial. None had a reason to bear animosity towards him.

Brendon McCullum? A "special talent".

Ricky Ponting? They don't send Christmas cards to each other. "We had the odd verbal stoush on the field. He was competitive, I was competitive, we played the game hard."

Stephen Fleming? His honesty was "beyond reproach" and Cairns recalled how the former New Zealand captain reported a match-fixing approach in 1999.

Cairns said the position around match-fixing approaches was clear for players. Report to the authorities, or "you were in trouble".

After earning so little in his final years playing for New Zealand, Cairns said he was "very" excited to be paid US$170,000 to play for the Chandigarh Lions in the Indian Cricket League in 2007.

The team lost in the final to Chennai - the favourite for the title - and he signed a new contract to be paid more than US$1 million over the next three years.

At the beginning of 2008, Cairns met Mel Croser at a beach cricket competition in Australia and the pair became "fond" of each other. He confirmed their relationship started while he was still married to Carin. They later separated and Cairns married Mel.

Cairns' evidence then turned to Vincent, a former Black Cap teammate who joined the Chandigarh Lions in 2008.

Vincent was not "in the friend category", said Cairns, and not someone he would share a secret with.

"There's a misconception around how sports people are close. You see the euphoria, the hugs. But it's a workplace environment."

He flatly denied recruiting Vincent, a "cat on a hot tin roof", to match-fix.

In giving evidence, Vincent had described how Cairns was livid with him during one game he agreed to fix for mistakenly hitting a six, then a four, instead of getting out.

Television highlights of the game were played to the jury and Cairns commentated on the footage.

He disagreed with Vincent's assessment of the six as a "fluke".

"I think he came down and gave himself room ... it was a good shot timed very, very well."

Vincent described the four off the next ball as an edge. Cairns said it was a late cut and Vincent was not trying to be dismissed: "A tough shot which came off the face of the bat. That came off the face of the bat, no edge."

Cairns agreed he was livid - not because Vincent had ruined the fix, but because he had jeopardised the chances of victory.

"I finished up man of the match, won us the game."

The conversation with Ellie Riley did not happen, Cairns said.

While dismissing Vincent's version of events entirely, Cairns agreed he met Brendon McCullum shortly before the first Indian Premier League started.

Players often met in hotels, to avoid the attention of the cricket-mad population, and Cairns said while he could not recall using the words "business proposition" there were often opportunities to earn money outside the game.

"It wasn't an overly memorable meeting with an old mate."

Match-fixing was topical at the time but the pair spent "minimal" time discussing it, said Cairns.

He agreed he may have explained to McCullum how spread betting worked by using a pen and paper, but described the New Zealand captain as an "adept poker player" who liked a flutter on the horses.

"Brendon was not a shrinking violet. He's not the sort of person you have to explain the ins and outs of gambling [to]."

Cairns denied telling McCullum he was involved in match-fixing with Vincent and Tuffey.

"He would have reported it. Players were very well-informed about any approach - report it."

They met again in England a few months later and Cairns denied a second fixing approach.

How would McCullum react, asked Pownall, if Cairns had approached him again after being rebuffed the first time?

"Along the lines of 'you're having a laugh'. Brendon is a forthright character, doesn't take a backwards step and would have made it very, very clear he would not be involved in match-fixing."

He described his "horror" at Lalit Modi's tweet in 2010 which accused him of match-fixing - a "death sentence" in the cricket world. Cairns only wanted an apology to "right the wrong", but eventually won £90,000 in damages following a trial in the High Court in London in 2012.

He believed that victory was the end of the rumours until his name resurfaced in connection to an ICC investigation in December 2013.

A commentator for Sky Television at the time, Cairns was in Dunedin for a test match between New Zealand and the West Indies.

The New Zealand Herald broke the news of the official probe but did not name the three ex-players under scrutiny. Cairns wondered who they could be.

He told the court he walked on to the field and asked Sky colleague Simon Doull, another former New Zealand player, if he knew the identities of the trio.

"He said 'it's you, Lou and Daryl'," Cairns said.

"My head started spinning."

There was only one point during his evidence where Cairns showed the strain. He choked up at the thought of his wife and children.

With his client struggling to regain his composure, Orlando Pownall tried to "lighten the mood" by asking about the fudge company Cairns founded with his father.

With a rueful smile, Cairns agreed the confectionary venture was not a success.

Queen's Counsel Sasha Wass pictured outside Southwark Crown Court. Photo / Chris Gorman
Queen's Counsel Sasha Wass pictured outside Southwark Crown Court. Photo / Chris Gorman

Played a straight bat

There were no friendly questions from Sasha Wass.

As far as opening deliveries go, her first question was a bouncer.

Did Chris Cairns agree he was a "most unfortunate individual" to have former teammates and acquaintances accuse him of match-fixing?

The Queen's Counsel leaned in over the folders stacked at her table, and pressed her point when Cairns failed to answer.

"Because if you're telling the truth, you've been accused of match-fixing not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions. Do you think it's unlucky to be accused on three separate occasions of something you haven't done?"

Cairns played a straight bat, saying he was not in the witness box to give his opinion, but to give his evidence and answer questions.

Pushed further about his conversations with McCullum, Cairns replied: "Are you referring to his first, second or third statement?," referring to discrepancies in McCullum's accounts.

Why would McCullum stitch him up? "Brendon is doing what is best for Brendon," replied Cairns, refusing to elaborate on what Wass described as a "conspiracy theory".

The feisty exchanges carried on; they even sparred over whether the video-link, used in court for a number of overseas-based witnesses to give evidence, was of sufficient quality.

The theatre was gripping. The relentless cross-examination went on. In the end, the judge rebuked both of them.

Then, in closing the Crown case, the infamous comparison between Cairns and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

But Cairns proved time after time on the cricket pitch that he was a winner. And his fighting spirit helped him notch up another victory last night, in a very different environment.

The jury heard from Vincent, McCullum and Riley. They were unconvinced. Cairns was cleared, vindicated. His determination carried him through once more.