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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Viv Richards schools Gower's Boys with fastest Test century

 

April 15, 1986 - While England were trying to save the Test and thus the whitewash, it was in the best interest of West Indies to force the issue. An attacking batsman by default, this was the perfect scenario for Richards to go all out.

It was the 5th Test of England's tour of West Indies in 1986. David Gower's men had been white washed by the mighty Caribbeans little over a year ago and they were at the brink of another 'blackwash' as it was called. England had lost the first Test in three days, the second in five, the third in four and the fourth in three.

At Viv Richards' home ground - Antigua Recreation Ground in St John's - West Indies batted first. After it seemed that they would be bowled out for a bit over 300, Malcolm Marshall, Roger Harper and Mikey Holding made half-centuries to pummel West Indies to 474.

England responded well with openers Graham Gooch and Wilf Slack stitching together a 127-run partnership for the first wicket. Gower than played a captain's knock of 90 against a hostile home attack. Despite that, the visitors fell 164 runs short. While England were trying to save the Test and thus the whitewash, it was in the best interest of West Indies to force the issue.

An attacking batsman by default, this was a perfect scenario for Richards to go all out. He had passed 20 in each of his previous five innings in the series without going on to make a hundred. In the first innings as well, he had missed out after getting a decent start of 26. But, the Master Blaster seldom failed twice on his home ground.

Scoring sequence: 3,6,1,2,6,1,4,1,2,1,1,1,4,1,2,1,1,2,2,1,1,1,1,1,6 [53 in 35 balls],2,4,4,4,1,1,2,6,6,4,6,1,2,2,1,4 [103 in 56 balls],6,1

Just before Tea, Richards sauntered onto the Antigua Recreation Ground with his typical swagger and set his focus immediately on the job at hand. By the time Tea arrived, Richards had made 28 not out, including a six each over midwicket off Richard Ellison and John Embury. The stage was set for mayhem.

Over the next 81 minutes, Richards was in complete control of proceedings. He lifted Sir Ian Botham for a breathtaking six over his head that landed on the top tier. To John Embury, he took a particular liking. The West Indian skipper smashed the spinner for a casual one-handed six over long-on and followed it up with another one-handed boundary.

Viv's century - his third from four Tests in his hometown - was the fastest-ever in Tests in terms of balls faced (56), beating Jack Gregory's 67-ball record against South Africa in 1921-22. His second fifty came in just 21 balls. When Viv declared the West Indies innings at 246 for 2, he had scored 110 of the 146 runs that had been made during his stay at the wicket.

"You never really set yourself out to do such a thing but the situation at that particular time did demand that," Richards recalls the inning." Whenever you are going well, you back yourself and I had always believed I could do that. When you are captain you give yourself the licence to throw your bat and be as aggressive as you can be. To have done that before your home crowd is a marvellous achievement and it's something that I think you would remember for quite some time."

The majestic batsman held the record for the fastest Test century (in terms of deliveries) for about three decades when it was broken by another maverick in Brendon McCullum. McCullum, playing his 101st and final Test match, reached the milestone off just 54 balls, two balls quicker than Richards.

The West Indian legend was kind in congratulating the outgoing batsman, "Let me take this opportunity to congratulate McCullum. I have been a fan of yours for many years, so well done on your achievement. If there was going to be an individual who you would have liked to surpass whatever you have achieved in life, certainly it would have been you. You are a great ambassador and make the game beautiful. I have always said that he has an aggressive style and it beautifies the game we all love."

Misbah-ul-Haq also equalled Viv's record when he smashed a century off 56 balls against Australia at Abu Dhabi in 2014-15.

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