Unsung hero

John Davison, who threw caution to the winds and took on the fast bowlers with big, booming strokes, ensured that a major World Cup record was his — the fastest hundred in the competition.-Pic. AP

THE Man in Red had the `Maroons' on the run, left the `Black Caps' with a black eye. He packed a mighty punch all right.

Actually, the West Indians and the Kiwis did not quite know what hit them as John Davison cut loose. He was explosive, he was ruthless, and he was unsung.

The World Cup has the habit of throwing unexpected heroes and Davison was clearly one of the biggest surprises in the 2003 edition. Here was an intrepid opener, who threw caution to the winds and took on the fast men with big, booming strokes. He made the fancied outfits sweat.

Along the way, he ensured that a major World Cup record was his — the fastest hundred in the competition. Indeed, his century at the Centurion will not be forgotten in a hurry.

That was a day when the 32-year-old Davison, with first class experience in Australia's demanding domestic circuit, decided to write his own script. It was a spectacular one too.

In what was a ferocious onslaught on the Caribbean pacemen, Davison raced to 111 off only 76 deliveries, striking six sixes and eight boundaries. Carl Hooper was rattled even as his bowlers ran out of ideas.

Davison took calculated risks, making room to smash the ball between point and cover, and when the bowlers were forced to change their line, swinging and pulling them to the pickets and beyond.

When Davison reached the three-figure mark in just 67 balls, it marked the quickest century in the World Cup. No West Indian paceman was spared, with the dashing opener picking 35 runs off the spearhead Merv Dillon, a fact that tells its own story. Davison finally fell to a spectacular catch at long-on by Vasbert Drakes off Wavell Hinds, and returned to a thunderous ovation. Canada still lost by a mile, however, Davison walked away with the Man of the Match award.

His blitzkrieg at the expense of the New Zealanders at Benoni was equally breathtaking. This time he reached a rollicking half-century off just 25 balls, with strokeplay that was innovative; this was no slogging but clever, clinical hitting. The Kiwis, desperate to boost the net-rate in the event of a three-way tie in Group `B', had met a stumbling block in the form of Davison.

Pacemen Andre Adams and Jacob Oram bore the brunt as Davison launched into them, clearing the ground with effortless ease, striking the ball over the infield. The Canadian threatened to embrace another cracking century when his miscued stroke off Chris Harris was gobbled up in the deep.

His 75 had consumed just 62 deliveries (nine fours, four sixes), yet Davison was not done for the day. In a Canadian move to surprise the Kiwis, he shared the new ball, sending down his off-spin to a nice line and scalping Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns. The Kiwis won, yet, Davison emerged a winner. The underdog who overachieved in Southern Africa.

S. Dinakar