SK Flashback: John Davison's journey from anonymity to World Cup’s fastest century in 2003

Canada's John Davison hooks one for a six on his way to blasting the then fastest hundred in World Cup
Modified 14 May 2019

Records are meant to be broken. Some take longer than others. A few rare ones seem to stay until eternity. This was a magical day at Supersport Park, Centurion, when runs came at lightning speed.

Davison who? This was the obvious refrain after Canada’s John Davison cracked the fastest century in the World Cup off the West Indies attack, putting in the shade the likes of Clive Lloyd, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sunil Gavaskar. That is an exclusive list of some of the finest batsmen ever, and Davison beat their marks by a long way. Right, but who exactly is Davison, everyone wondered. The answer was even more mystifying - a 32-year-old off-spinner who plays first-class cricket for South Australia but does not command a place in their One-day side!

Perhaps aware of the Herculean effort needed to make it to the Australian team, and wish to play for the country of his birth, Davison wrote to the Canadian Cricket Association. It was certainly a more realistic route to international cricket. It is said that the governing body replied after eight years. To their credit, the application was preserved and availed of just when required - for the World Cup.       

In a display that would have done Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist proud, Davison smashed his way to his hundred off 67 balls. He scored 111 in all off 76 deliveries with 6 sixes and 8 fours. None of his teammates scored 20 in a total of 202. He outpaced Clive Lloyd’s century off 82 deliveries in 1975 final. Some reports suggested that Kapil Dev reached his ton against Zimbabwe in 1983 off 72 balls, but the correct figure for that milestone seems to be 100 deliveries. Pakistani Shahid Afridi’s century off 37 balls against Sri Lanka in 1996 was the quickest in all One-day Internationals at the time. 

As left-armer Pedro Collins tried to rattle him in the fourth over with a yorker and a bouncer, Davison hammered 15 runs. While Davison swung his bat merrily, dashing to fifty in 30 balls, Ishwar Maraj scored 16 in an opening partnership of 96, and Desmond Chumney 19 in a stand of 59. A crowd of about 10,000 cheered the underdogs. Davison raised his thunderous hundred with a mighty six over long-on off Mervyn Dillon. 

Fortune did favour the brave Davison on this day as he was dropped on 55 and 76, and miraculously escaped being bowled on 71 as the ball failed to dislodge the bails after rolling on to the stumps. His dismissal was as dramatic as his innings. As he attempted another six, Vasbert Drakes back-pedalled towards the ropes at long-on, reached for the sky, sticking out his right hand, and the ball stuck even as he crashed to the ground.

The pitch was a batsman’s delight as Wavell Hinds smacked the fastest fifty in World Cup history off 24 balls. Lara bettered it by a delivery minutes later, crashing a Barry Seebaran over for 26 runs. West Indies achieved the best-ever run-rate of 10.04 in One-day Internationals. They recorded a runaway win by seven wickets, but it was Davison’s match. His knock, coming only four days after Canada were shot out for the lowest World Cup total of 36 by Sri Lanka, took everyone by surprise. The only parallel in the mega event was David Houghton’s hurricane 142 against New Zealand in 1987, with Zimbabwe still five years away from Test status. Davison seemed more surprised than thrilled as he told the astonished media: “I felt chilled. It sent a shiver down my spine.”

Canada: 202 all out (42.5 overs), West Indies: 206 for 3 wickets (20.3 overs) (CWC 2003)

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Published 13 May 2019
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