Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh scored his fastest century in Test cricket during the ongoing third Test of Ashes 2023 at Headingley on Thursday.
Returning to the Test fold after almost four years, Marsh scored a run-a-ball 118, which included 17 boundaries and four sixes. Marsh’s quick-fire runs rescued the visitors after a top-order collapse. A new-looking England pace attack reduced the visitors to 85 for 4.
Marsh and Travis Head then put up a solid partnership of 155 runs to rebuild their innings. Marsh notched up his third Ashes ton in 102 balls when he took a single off Moeen Ali in the 48th over.
Let’s take a look at the five fastest hundreds in the history of Ashes cricket.
#5 Ian Botham (86 balls vs AUS, 1981, Leeds)
The 1981 Ashes is a defining moment for legendary all-rounder Sir Ian Botham. He won three Player of the Match awards in the six-match series which England won by 3-1. His scintillating unbeaten 149 staged a comeback in the second innings of the Headingley Test. The hosts conceded a heavy lead of 227 runs in the first innings and were enforced follow-on after getting bowled out for 174.
Ian Botham showcased one of the best knocks from his willow. He unleashed the blistering strokes against a quality Australian attack comprising of Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman, Geoff Lawson, and Ray Bright. He smashed 27 fours and a solitary six en route to his seventh Test century.
Botham’s blitz handed England a decent lead of 129 runs as they eventually bowled out the Aussies for 111 on the back of a terrific spell by Bob Willis (8 for 43).
#4 Joe Darling (85 balls vs ENG, 1898, Sydney)
Joe Darling scored his century in just 91 minutes against England in March 1898. The final Test of the 1897/98 Ashes at Sydney was reduced to a dead rubber with the hosts entering the game with an unassailable 3-1 lead.
After hitting the first six in the history of Test cricket in Adelaide, Joe Darling went into attacking mode right from the word go in the 275-run chase. He drove a couple of boundaries against Tom Richardson to commence the chase. He later struck four boundaries in an over against the same bowler to complete his fifty in 58 minutes.
Darling continued to toy with the field placements of England even though a couple of wickets fell from the other end. The Australian opener combined with Jack Worrall to put up 197 runs for the third wicket. Darling brought up his century in 85 balls to set the record for the fastest Ashes hundred back then.
He scored 160 before he was caught by Ted Wainwright off Richardson. However, Australia cruised to a six-wicket win in the chase to thump England by a 4-1 margin.
#3 Travis Head (85 balls vs ENG, 2021, Brisbane)
Travis Head was unstoppable on his Test comeback after getting dropped from the last two Tests against India in the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Head showed a circumspect approach to start his innings in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. He soon turned into an aggressor to display a counter-attacking innings of the highest quality after enduring a tough spell from Ollie Robinson.
After smashing three boundaries against Ben Stokes in an over, he launched a fiery attack against the Englishmen. He drove straight down the ground off Chris Woakes to complete his hundred in just 85 deliveries, the third fastest and second quickest by an Australian in an Ashes.
Head made 152 off 148 balls before he was cleaned up by Mark Wood. Australia solidified its position with a lead of 278 runs. The hosts eventually won by nine wickets in Brisbane to take a 1-0 lead.
#2 Gibert Jessop (74 balls vs AUS, 1902, London)
August 13, 1902. The day when Gilbert Jessop tore into the Australian bowling attack when the chips were down. England were tottering at 48 for 5 while chasing 263, before a maverick innings from Jessop changed the complexion of the game.
He blasted 104 off 74 balls in just 77 minutes, scoring 17 boundaries to leave the game poised when he got out at 214 for 8. England eventually by a wicket to register a consolation win.
Jessop still holds the record of fastest Test century by an English batter. The likes of Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, and Ben Duckett have come quite close to beating that in the past 10 months.
#1 Adam Gilchrist (57 balls vs ENG, 2006, Perth
Adam Gilchrist missed the world record for the fastest Test hundred by a single ball. The stylish Australian gloveman notched up his century in 57 balls in the Perth Test of the 2006/07 Ashes. Australia regained the urn, crushing England’s hopes for a miraculous comeback after losing the first two tests.
Centuries from Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke in the second innings had already dented England bowlers’ spirit on the pitch. Gilchrist’s blitzkrieg rubbed salt on English wounds. The southpaw smashed 12 fours and four sixes before Australia declared their innings at 527/5.
An innings that started with a boundary off Flintoff past gully grew into a magical knock. He brought up his half-century in 40 balls. He took another 17 balls to reach the three-figure mark, the fastest by any batter in any Ashes game.
However, when Gilchrist was batting on 96 off 53 balls, he took three more deliveries to accumulate those four runs, missing the opportunity to break Viv Richards’ 56-ball century record. This was later broken by Brendon McCullum in his final Test against Australia in 2016.