SK Elite: When Viv Richards played the greatest ODI innings of all-time
May 31, 1984 - In the history of cricket, especially ODIs, the date may not ring a bell in the memory of the tech-savvy current generation. After all, why should it; there were no World Cups during that year. Yet, in the context of limited-overs cricket, the day stands out as a beacon to those who were privileged enough to be present at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground for a 55-over contest between England and West Indies.
The spectators were treated to a batting masterclass by a certain someone who was way ahead of his time. Even as wickets kept tumbling at one end, a gum-chewing gunslinger kept outdrawing anyone who stumbled onto his path. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, the man whose aura transcended both peers as well as competitors, played the greatest innings of all-time in ODI cricket.
Wondering what the fuss is all about? Read on to relive the events surrounding a monumental knock which perches atop the crown of King Richards' throne.
West Indies' top-order implodes
On a dreary morning in Manchester, an intimidating West Indies outfit kick-started their much-awaited tour of England. The opening ODI of the 3-match series held considerable significance as the Caribbean juggernaut was returning to the United Kingdom following an upset loss at the hands of India during the previous summer.
Clive Lloyd won the toss and surprisingly decided to bat first on a green-tinged surface under overcast skies. After Desmond Haynes ran himself out, the visitors began to unravel spectacularly. The likes of Gordon Greenidge, Richie Richardson, Larry Gomes and Lloyd himself fell one after another, as England's seamers found the conditions to their liking.
Richards walked in at the fall of the second wicket and found himself watching the batting collapse of his much-vaunted team-mates. At 98/6, only the bowlers remained for company.
King Richards reigns supreme
Without any semblance of assistance from the other end, Richards somehow appeared unfazed. Perhaps he was doing an exemplary job of hiding his emotions. Even though they had a pretty good idea of the right-hander's prowess, the unsuspecting hosts would not know what was about to hit them.
Richards gave an early indication of things to come by smashing Ian Botham for a majestic drive on the front foot. Only he could have the sheer gall to play such a shot amidst the chaos. While we are at it, it's pertinent to note that the duo were former flatmates during the Caribbean icon's stint with Somerset CCC.
The right-hander's trademark flick shot off Neil Foster soared past the deep square leg fence. Meanwhile, at the other end, England kept picking up wickets. Apart from Eldine Baptiste, who shared a handy 61-run partnership with Richards, the lower-order did not resist for too long and West Indies soon collapsed to 166/9. By then, the Antigua-born batsman brought up his seventh ODI century.
Michael Holding's ability with the bat was negligible, to say the least. Sensing the delicateness of the situation, Richards hogged most of the strike by cleverly manipulating whatever fields David Gower set for him. Reiterating his stature as the top-ranked ODI batsman with 914 rating points, he found the perfect mix of caution and aggression.
Upon remaining circumspect against the likes of Bob Willis and Geoff Miller, Richards launched an audacious counterattack against the trio of Botham, Foster and Derek Pringle. As with every great batsman, he made the seamers bowl to his strengths by targeting their weaknesses. Utilising the depth of his crease to perfection, the original Master Blaster made room for himself and laid into the England bowlers.
Brutal ambush torments England
At one point, an exasperated Botham expressed his helplessness by flaying his hands in the air. Even as Holding staved off the home team whenever he came on strike, Richards hammered one boundary after another. While those nonchalant pick-up shots engulfed the audience in awe, the dexterous pulls reflected his dominance. This was batting at its zenith.
Richards overtook Kapil Dev's astonishing 175 at Tunbridge Wells and registered the then highest score by an individual in ODIs. His unbeaten 170-ball 189, which contained 21 fours and 5 sixes, propelled West Indies to a formidable total of 272/9 from 55 overs. The lone gunman's dominance could be gleaned from the fact that Holding contributed only 12 runs to the staggering last-wicket partnership of 106.
Battered and bullied into submission by Richards, England were bundled out for 168. The Caribbean outfit's comfortable margin of victory exemplified the miraculous nature of their recovery from a seemingly hopeless position. The imperial knock would later set the stage for West Indies to consign the hosts to an infamous 'Blackwash' in the ensuing Test series.