On This Day: Viv Richards' 56-ball century lights up Antigua

On this day in 1986, Viv Richards created history by slamming the fastest Test hundred, a record which stood for 30 years.

Viv Richards after slamming a 56-ball hundred against England in Antigua.   -  Hindu Archives

Like a polestar the great Antiguan Vivian Richards guided his team to a clean sweep and in that process created history.

The 56-ball century, the fastest in Test cricket, he took off the hapless English attack before his excited home fans at Antigua showed that the most prolific batsman in recent time has reached the summit. The stamp of his class and grace was very much evident in that hurricane knock. His strokeplay has offered sumptuous entertainment the world over during the last decade or so.

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To evaluate any West Indian cricketer, let alone Richards, in terms of records, will amount to gross injustice. Positive outlook to the game, sustained note of aggression and, above all, commitment to give value for spectators' money have been the qualities of the Caribbean cricketers who, for these reasons alone, are without doubt the crowds' delight.

From Constantine to Worrell, to Sobers to Lloyd.... and now to Viv Richards there has been no change in the attitude of West Indian cricketers though there have been striking contrasts in the personalities involved.

Records hardly matter to Richards. In his book on coaching, Richards, maker of the highest individual score in instant cricket -- 189 not out against England at Manchester in 1984 -- says: the one-day cricket is "nothing but the number game". One is sure when Richards walked out to the middle during the second innings of the final Test, the uppermost thing on his mind must have been to get as many runs as possible, and that too in double quick time, to give his team a fair chance to win. Richards' determination that day bore fruits. Another whitewash, second straight humiliation for England.

In that hurricane knock, Richards tore apart the English attack.   -  Hindu Archives

 

What makes Richards' 20th Test century more than laudable is the fact that he mounted the assault at a time when at least seven men were guarding the fencing. Viv's motto was victory, and the record was incidental.

At the end of the epic knock, Richards' Test tally stood at 6,220 for a staggering average of 54.56! Not many batsmen who have totalled in that vicinity have such an amazing average. Had Richards chosen to retain his position at No. 3 or 4, he would have had a bulge on the record book. But then responsibility of leading his side to victory in as many Tests as possible, a factor that puts West Indies way ahead of all other Test playing countries -- has probably forced the 'master blaster' to ease himself, to an extent, from batting pressures. Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd adopted the same strategy, a strategy which placed their team on a pedestal.

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Richards' move has paid West Indies handsome dividends for, after all, Richie Richardson, Viv's protege, has already assumed the role of his mentor, slamming the opposition right, left and straight.

What a fascinating series it has proved to be for Richards! He completed 6,000 runs in Test cricket, a quick-silver century that was worth its weight in gold and finally, the prime objective — 5-0 drubbing of Gower's Englishmen.

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