It was in the days of thin bats, no helmets and deadly bouncers, the days when a team would struggle to score over a hundred runs together, the days when scores over 150 were made just four times in the history of the game and the days when Sir Vivian Richards was playing. Hitting a four was considered a skill back then and hitting a six was only possible by the best of the batsmen. It was a ‘bowler’s game’ back then.
This was in 1984 when West Indies toured England. It was a long and painful summer for the Englishmen as the Windies would be brutally defeating them 2-1 in the ODI series and 5-0 in the Test series that followed the ODIs which went on to be remembered in the history as ‘Blackwash’.Embed from Getty Images
In the first match of the ODI series, the West Indies captain Clive Lloyd won the toss and chose to bat. While the Windies team was known to be brutal, the Englishmen were no less. Graeme Fowler, Mike Gatting, Allan Lamb and David Gower were big names, but it was the all-rounder Ian Botham whose tales were being told all around the world.
Batting first, Windies had a bad start. It was already reduced to 11/2 when the dangerous Viv Richards walked in to bat. He seemed carefree, chewing gum with absolutely no concern about anything around him and walking in his trademark swagger, but in his mind, he was ready for a war. He was already crowned the best batsman in limited overs by then.Embed from Getty Images
He stood firmly on one side hitting his trademark boundaries while the batsmen at the other end were succumbing to the English bowlers. Richardson, Gomes, Lloyd and even Dujon was gone. Windies was at 102/7 by the 26th over. Picking the remaining wickets wouldn’t be half as difficult as the first few wickets, at least, that’s what the English bowlers would have been thinking.
The instruction given to the new batsman, Eldine Baptiste, by Viv Richards was clear.
“Let me bat!”
,was all he said. Richards was at 65 then. And all the other batsmen were out scoring in single digits.
And you don’t set a tiger free on the ground, do you? With nothing to lose, Richards started smacking the ball everywhere he could. Baptiste gave every little support he could to Richards. But then, in a dramatic twist Baptiste was out for 26 after a 59-run partnership with Richards and the next batsman, Joel Garner returned only after 5 more runs were added to the scoreboard. Richards was at 96 at this point.
The last batsman, Michael Holding came to bat, and he was not much of a batsman. Richards hit his friend Ian Botham for a four completing his century in just 112 balls. This was a lighting-fast centuries in those days. A century with a strike-rate close to 90 was a great feat.Embed from Getty Images
What followed then was the most ferocious attack on the bowlers ever in history. There were consecutive fours, huge sixes, powerful cover-drives and sensational strokes. And Holding was calmly watching all this from the other end. Richards was doing the impossible in a sensational display of stroke-play and power-hitting. The sixes were so huge that the spectators were left finding for shelter to save themselves being hit.
Botham, Willis, Pringle or Miller, no bowler was spared from the wrath of Richards. His next 89 runs came off just 58 balls. At the end of the innings, Richards stayed not-out at 189 runs in 170 balls scoring 21 fours and 5 sixes with a whopping strike-rate of 111.17.Embed from Getty Images
Richards and Holding put together 106 for the last wicket with Richards scoring 93 of those runs. West Indies put up an unimaginable target of 273 for England to chase, and Richards scored 69.5% of those runs. At the end of the innings, Richards walked back, again in his carefree manner with a raised collar.
In reply, England scored only 168 runs and yet again, Richards starred by picking 2 wickets in his full quota of overs.
In today’s ODI standards, Richards’ 189* is as good as a 300* and Windies’ 272 is as good as a 450. And looking at Richards’ knock, one would be forced to imagine, ‘What if he played against today’s bowlers?’
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