Canada’s John Davison is one of the the brightest stars that the minnows have ever showcased in the World Cup, despite a dismal performance in 2011. He has to his credit Canada’s top score, only century, highest run-aggregate (until Ashish Bagai went ahead by 3 runs in 2011), most wickets, and most catches for a non-wicketkeeper in the World Cup.
His batting strike-rate of 115.84 was second-best ever in the premier tournament after Lance Klusener among batsmen who had scored at least 300 runs, dropping to third below Kapil Dev after the 2011 tournament. He also figures in the list of the leading all-rounders.
Davison struck the fastest hundred in the World Cup by a long way in just 67 balls in 2003, which was bettered by one delivery by Matthew Hayden in 2007. Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien then blasted a 50-ball century against England in 2011.
Davison also equaled Brian Lara’s 2003 record of fastest fifty off 23 balls in 2007, which was improved upon later and eventually reset by Brendon McCullum. Davison has scored 71 per cent of his runs in boundaries, the best in the World Cup among batsmen who have aggregated at least 300 runs.
This scintillating batsman and off-spinner, who played first-class cricket in Australia, regaled as much as he surprised, standing firm for a team that won just two matches in three World Cups. He was the underdog who snarled and bit.
In his early forays in the World Cup in 2003, Davison was more successful with the ball than his rampaging willow. He took a couple of wickets in the middle against Bangladesh, finishing with two for 15, as Canada made a joyous return to the World Cup after 24 years. Medium-pacer Austin Codrington bowled splendidly to bag five for 27, playing a lead role in a thumping win by 60 runs.
Davison then produced a splendid stint of 10-3-15-3, which stretched Kenya to the 49th over. As the Kenyans were cruising at 99 for one, chasing a modest target of 198, Davison trapped skipper Steve Tikolo leg-before-wicket for 42. Later he dismissed former captain Maurice Odumbe in similar fashion, and soon after removed the plodding Hitesh Modi too.
Kenya were now 154 for five and had to work hard to earn a win. Earlier, Davison had shown glimpses of his batting prowess, hitting 31 off 32 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes.
The match against Sri Lanka was a complete disaster, as Canada slumped to a new World Cup low of 36 all out - even more ignominious than the total of 45 that they were shot out for by England in 1979.
Then out of the blue came this scintillating hundred from Davison at Centurion. He blasted the West Indies attack for the quickest century in World Cup history, obliterating Clive Lloyd’s record going back to the first final in 1975. Suddenly, everyone began asking, “Davison who?”
He was very harsh on the West Indies pacers, hitting Pedro Collins for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries in the fourth over. In the very next over, he slammed Mervyn Dillon for three successive boundaries.
In Dillon’s subsequent over he blasted a four and a six, and when Vasbert Drakes came on for the following over, he rocketed a six and a four, two balls running.
Davison reached his fifty off 30 balls with 6 fours and 3 sixes as the scoreboard read 66 for no loss.
Drakes was given the same treatment in his ensuing over, and this time the boundary came before the lofted shot over the ropes. The opening partnership realized 96 runs off 12 overs, of which Ishwar Maraj contributed 16.
Davison brought up his blistering hundred with a six off the last ball of the 19th over from Dillon. By now he had hit 7 fours and 6 sixes. His second-wicket partnership with Desmond Chumney realized 59 runs.
Davison raced to 111 off 76 balls with 8 fours and 6 sixes.
It was some of the most amazing hitting ever seen on a cricket field. The next highest was Chumney’s 19. In the face of such an assault, Drakes did well to return with figures of five for 44.
When the West Indies batted, Brian Lara sped to the then fastest-ever fifty in the World Cup off 23 balls and Wavell Hinds took just one delivery more, with the team recording the highest strike-rate ever of 10.04 runs per over. West Indies won by 7 wickets but Davison was the natural choice for the man-of-the-match prize.
As if to show that the performance against the West Indies was not a fluke, Davison sizzled one last time in the tournament against New Zealand. He flayed the bowlers all over Willowmoore Park in Benoni, slamming medium-pacer Andre Adams for 16 runs in the fourth over, including 2 fours and a six.
In Adams’ next over he hit two consecutive boundaries, prompting skipper Stephen Fleming to take the hapless bowler off. He had conceded 31 runs in three overs.
That made little difference as Davison blasted two consecutive sixes in Jacob Oram’s second over, zooming to his half-century in 25 balls. In celebration he tonked the last delivery too out of the ground.
He took two boundaries off the 17th over bowled by Scott Styris. Davison fell for 75 off 62 deliveries, out of a score of 98 for four, having smacked 9 fours and 4 sixes.
He went on to bag three wickets for 61 runs, accounting for Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns, as the Kiwis won easily by five wickets. Davison earned his second man-of-the-match award to round off a highly satisfying World Cup from a personal standpoint.
The 2007 tournament was not quite so productive for Davison, though he was now captain. His best came in their third and final Group C match where he took two New Zealand wickets for 67, and then hit another quickfire half-century off 23 balls at the Beausejour Stadium in Gros Islet, St. Lucia.
It was a scorching start, as Davison smacked a six and a four off the last two balls of the first over from Daryl Tuffey. In the fourth over he plundered 22 runs off Michael Mason, who bowled a no-ball in addition, hammering successive boundaries off the first four balls, and then another off the last.
He took three more fours in the next two overs from Mason. The opening partnership with Geoff Barnett was worth 76 runs. Earlier the New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum had taken the record by reaching his fifty in 20 deliveries, which he improved upon later.
Davison’s attitude and heroics are an inspiration to players from the lesser teams who are pitched against seasoned performers at the highest stage. It is not easy for weekend cricketers to hold their own when facing professionals who train day in and day out.
The minnows are capable of springing a surprise or two. After all, this is the game of cricket in which unexpected things do happen sometimes.
But for someone from a minor team to compete on equal terms, and indeed smash records, is a stupendous achievement. Davison can hold his head high. Very high.
The 2011 World Cup was abysmal for Davison, as it was for Steve Tikolo, a poor reflection of their stupendous work earlier. Davison started on the right note though, dismissing the Sri Lankan stars Kumar Sangakkara (92) and Mahela Jayawardene (100) who had put on 179 for the third wicket.
He enticed Sangakkara into hitting back a return catch, and in his next over had Jayawardene caught on the leg-side. Davison finished with two for 56 in his 8 overs.
Then began his woes. He was bowled first ball for a duck and Canada crashed to a 210-run defeat.
He went wicketless against Zimbabwe, and was bowled again for a duck, this time lasting 8 deliveries. Canada now lost by 175 runs.
He missed the Pakistan game in which the Canadian bowlers acquitted themselves honourably. As Kenya were bowled out for 198, Davison bagged one for 26. He came to the crease at No. 7, cracked the only ball that he faced to the boundary, and was at the non-striker’s end as the captain Ashish Bagai brought up the winning runs.
Having bagged the wicket of Jesse Ryder, Davison had a return of one for 30 in 10 overs in a New Zealand total of 358 for six. Continuing to bat at No. 7, he was finding some form with two exquisite cover-driven boundaries, though looked decidedly uncomfortable against the short ball. He then ran himself out inexplicably, having scored 15. Canada were beaten by 97 runs.
In the last league match, Davison opened the batting with Hiral Patel against the express speed of the Australians Shaun Tait and Brett Lee. In the first over he flicked Tait over square-leg where Michael Hussey just failed to hold on, and the ball raced away to the boundary. Patel crashed Lee for 3 fours in the next over, and then smashed Tait over extra-cover for a six.
Davison hit Lee for boundaries on either side of the wicket in the fourth over, but gloved a short delivery to Brad Haddin behind the stumps. The pair had raised 41 runs in 3.5 overs. Davison departed one last time, having scored 14 off 12 balls, the final flicker before the light went out.
Patel racked up 54 off 45 deliveries, comprising 5 fours and 3 sixes. Davison got a revenge of sorts over Haddin, having him caught by wicketkeeper Bagai, and also held the catch that dismissed Ricky Ponting. Australia won by 7 wickets.
In the 2011 World Cup Davison was woefully short on performance but not lacking in effort. Ultimately he finished a few notches below what he might have. But there is no doubt that he provided much of the excitement on behalf of his team.
John Davison’s World Cup record:
Matches 14, Highest Score 111, Runs 340, Average 26.15, Strike-rate 110.38. Hundred 1, Fifties 2, Catches 8
Wickets 17, Average 30.23, Best 3/15, Economy 4.84