Paul Ford January 21, 2009

Slogger’s Paradise

As you can see, Thornton’s gargantuan effort dwarfs the contemporary players’ tonks

Down here in New Zealand, wannabe national heroes can be spotted executing standing barbell curls, lying barbell extensions, reverse curls and dumbbell wrist curls as they strengthen up their arms for next month’s assault on cult hero status.

Why? Because, in an echo of baseball’s homerun derby and golf’s world’s longest driver competition, the quest to find the nation's most monstrous six-hitter is on, via the inaugural Big Hits Competition. New Zealand's longest tonker of a white cricket ball will be found at the final of the domestic cricket Twenty20 competition at the Cake Tin in Wellington on 26 February. Here, qualifiers from each of the six provinces, a nominee from domestic cricket, and one of the New Zealand team will be pitted against each other in an 8-way slog-off.

The domestic player will be found at the official launch event in Auckland early next month where nominees from each of the teams will unleash. My nominees would be: Central Districts (Mathew Sinclair), Northern Districts (Peter McGlashan), Wellington (Graham Napier), Auckland (Chris Martin – surely someone has to take the piss), Canterbury (Peter Fulton) and Otago (Dimitri Mascarenhas).

The challenge could be made harder if the pace of the bowler is not utilised – if it is lobbed then the hitter will have to generate all the horsepower. I was never a Physics maestro but I would rather have someone like Mark Gillespie bowling at me if I was trying to thrash one over the fence, down the road and into tomorrow.

The Hawke’s Bay Today has called for an end to speculation about the biggest six-hitter on the world cricket stage later this year: “If the ICC is prepared to dig deep into its pockets, that question can be answered once all the cricketing protagonists let the dust settle in their respective countries to send their delegates to the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup in England from June 5-21.”

The lustiest blows that I have sighted in the flesh would include a couple by Chris Cairns out of the Basin Reserve into Kent Terrace and onto the roof of the stand at Eden Park respectively, Andre Adams in the nets practising for Auckland at the Outer Oval, and Ricky Ponting bludgeoning one onto the ASB Stand at Eden Park in the moustache/afro/beard/beige-out Twenty20 match.

For the record, the biggest six in the world (according to the Wisden Cricketer) seems to be the one at the end of the arc of Charles “Buns” Thornton's swing while netting at the County Ground at Hove on 25 August 1876: “Thornton is generally considered to have been the longest hitter the game has ever known. He was a well-built six-footer, and though he had small forearms and biceps, he was very strong in the hips, and he jumped in at the ball with a tremendous free swing of the bat…He seldom wore batting gloves, and believed that the absence of impedimenta helped his freedom of movement and the swing of the bat.”

The distance travelled sans impedimenta? Nobody knows for sure, but it was around about a humungous 168 yards or 154 metres.

In terms of more recent numbers bandied about, these are the top efforts according to some late-night research at Beige Brigade HQ and the wisdom of crowds:

Albie Morkel - 124m Yuvraj Singh - 119m Ross Taylor - 112m Misbah Ul-Haq - 111m Shahid Afridi - unconfirmed (WACA)

Honourable mentions: Lance Cairns monstering Geoff Lawson at the MCG Mark Waugh pummelling Daniel Vettori at the WACA

As you can see, Thornton’s gargantuan effort dwarfs the contemporary players’ tonks. Another sad fact is that the winner of the biggest slog competition will probably receive more coverage than the domestic team who win the centrepiece final – the sideshow to a sideshow. Let’s hope not.

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here