In the list of the greatest innings played in One-day cricket, several stands to the name of one I.V.A. Richards. When this man was in top gear, all that the bowlers could do was to turn their arms over with a prayer on their lips. And any fielder within 30 yards of the bat yearned to be lolling on the boundary - in the manner of a tennis ball-boy - in order to pick up the ball which was being hit ferociously with unfailing regularity.
The Sri Lankans must have felt exactly so, as Vivian Richards went berserk and gave them the hammering of their lives. Richards came in to bat with Ravi Ratnayeke on a hat-trick, having disposed of Carlisle Best and Richie Richardson with the score on 45. The Lankan euphoria gave way to despondency very quickly as they realised that the king was in the terrific nick, and in no mood to be pushed around by the pretenders.
He had the experienced Desmond Haynes at the other end, and in their partnership of 182, the opener almost kept pace with his captain. They simply took the game away from the Sri Lankans. When Haynes departed at 227, it was the perfect launching pad for Richards to make a charge in the last phase of the innings.
But even the greatest optimist, rubbing his hands in glee in anticipation of a run-feast, could not have foreseen the deluge. Richards simply transcended the limits imposed by technique, the length, and direction of the delivery, or the positioning of fielders. He would improvise in the manner of a champion batsman that he was. He would step out cheekily or make room to smash the ball and find gaps with such precision that it made the fielders redundant for the most part. Gus Logie, at the other end, could only watch in admiration, his own role in the partnership being minimal.
It took two minutes under the hour to put on 116 runs. The scoring-rate was an incredible two runs a minute. By then Richards had hit 16 fours and 7 sixes, and broken Kapil Dev's record as he sped his way to a stupendous 181 off a mere 125 balls. That would translate to nearly 8.7 runs per over, a superb rate by any standard. When he was caught brilliantly at point by Roshan Mahanama, speeding in and diving full length, the West Indies had already reached 343 for four. This was Richards' 10th century in One-day Internationals. His side eventually finished at a record score of 360 for four at the end of 50 overs.
The Lankans were so demoralised by this onslaught that they managed just 169 in their 50 overs though they lost only four wickets. Well before the match had reached the half-way stage, Richards had ensured that it would be hopelessly one-sided.
Those fortunate enough to have seen these innings were a privileged lot. Vivian Richards was simply magnificent. He destroyed the bowling in a way few have been capable of. That is why he was described as the best batsman of his generation, the original master blaster.
West Indies 360 for 4 wickets (50 overs), Sri Lanka 169 for 4 wickets (50 overs) (CWC 1987)