Sir Vivian Richards had the style, swag and a touch of arrogance every time he walked on to the pitch but backed it up with a bucket-load of runs be it in Tests or in ODIs. The legacy he left behind has not just been difficult to overshadow, but it has been a near-impossible task for any player in the world, let alone from West Indies. Having already achieved a lot in international cricket, Richards took it to the next level and smashed the fastest century in Tests – off 56 deliveries – a record that stood for almost two decades.
Misbah-ul-Haq and Adam Gilchrist came agonizingly close to bettering it, but it was Brendon McCullum who in his final Test for New Zealand broke Richards’ record, getting to the milestone off just 54 deliveries. It took batsmen from completely different generations to that of Richards to threaten his record, proving that the West Indies great was not just a trendsetter, but also someone who was well ahead of his time.
There are often debates: ‘If you were to pick a batsman from the earlier era who could have excelled in T20 cricket, who would it be?’ The name of - Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards would be right up there.
England were 4-0 down in the five-match series going into the final match at St John’s, Antigua – Richards’ hometown. He had scored 114, 2 and 178 in his three innings at the venue already and looked in good touch as he had smacked two fifties (51 and 87) in his previous two innings in the series.
The narrative dictates that the series was over even before it began, when Malcolm Marshall broke Mike Gatting’s nose in the first ODI of the tour two months before. The West Indies quicks had already dismissed England for 200 or less on four occasions, led by great fast bowlers like Joel Garner, Patrick Patterson, Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh. David Gower’s side were left huffing and puffing throughout the series and before they knew it, they were staring at a whitewash.
In fact, being whitewashed was nothing new for Gower, whose England side were blanked 0-5 the previous time these two sides met in a Test series in England in 1984. A draw would have seemed like a victory for England at this point.
At 232 for 5, it looked like a good move by England to have won the toss and put West Indies into bat. Just when things were going right for England, the West Indies tail wagged and fifties from Marshall (76), Roger Harper (60) and Holding (73) took West Indies to a formidable 474, which they would have taken given where they were at one stage.
England had their backs against the wall once again, but the opening partnership of 127 between Graham Gooch and Wilf Slack (52) gave them an ideal start. But barring them, it was only Gower who stepped up with a counter-attacking 90 as England were bowled out for 310, conceding a 164-run deficit.
On Day Four, after bowling England out, West Indies were keen on forcing a result and as a result, they went all guns blazing. Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson put on 100 for the opening wicket, which was followed by a 61-run stand for the second wicket between Haynes and Richards.
Richards walked in 28 minutes before tea on the day, and ended the session with 28 runs which included a six each off Richard Ellison and John Emburey.
Offspinner Emburey recalls, “I remember trying to deceive him with a slower one, giving it a little more air as he advanced down the wicket. He failed to reach the pitch of the ball and had to stretch to get to it, but he went through with the stroke anyway, taking the bottom hand off the handle and, with just one hand, hoisted the ball over the midwicket fence and out of the ground!
That was when I threw in the towel. I went up to David and told him that he should get someone else to bowl. My analysis before Viv came out to bat read 9-0-14-1. After the mayhem I ended with 14-0-83-1.”
Richards brought up his fifty off just 35 deliveries and then the next fifty came off just 21 deliveries. Richards went past Jack Gregory’s record of 67 balls in the 1921-22 season by a comfortable 11 deliveries. This was also his third century from four innings in Antigua.
Video Courtesy: robelinda2
Needless to say, West Indies had the match by the scruff of its neck and were set for a declaration. Richards ended with an unbeaten 110 off just 58 balls. He had demolished not only England’s bowling, but also their spirit as his 87-minute cameo consisted of seven fours and seven sixes. England had to chase down 411 to salvage some pride.
It was once again the West Indies bowlers who had the final say as they bundled England out for just 170, who thereby suffered consecutive 0-5 series defeats at the hands of the mighty West Indies.
This was West Indies’ sixth consecutive series win over England. After winning a series over West Indies in 1969, England’s next would eventually come in 2000 at home. Since then, England have gone on to win six series, while West Indies have managed just two – an indication of how the tables have turned over the last couple of decades.
The world might have seen the last of Richards almost three decades ago, but the flamboyance, strokeplay and his brash body language will forever be imprinted in every fan’s memory. His fastest century is just one of many, many other accomplishments he will be remembered for from his 17-year international career.