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By Garfield Robinson, USA
Viv Richards once surprised an interviewer by telling him that he thought his best innings was the 61 he made in 1983 against India at Sabina Park. I was there. And I can tell you that there is no innings that stands out more in my memory than the one he played that day.
Considering the many great innings that he played, why was that innings of little over a half-century so special to him? I don’t know the answer to that; I can’t recall if he gave one. I can tell you, however, why it was special to me.
It was my first time at a Test match. My friend and I decided to cut afternoon classes in order to watch the final session, despite everyone telling us we were in for an evening of boredom. Though I am yet to understand how an evening spent watching the likes of Holding and Roberts and Marshall and Garner could ever be called boring—whatever the state of the game.
The West Indies had replied to India’s 251 in the first innings by scoring 254. The entire fourth day had been lost due to rain, and the game seemed heading for a tame draw at tea on the last day with India 168 for 6. Andy Roberts thought otherwise. His rousing spell after tea, liberally sprinkled with short balls threatening rib cage and throat proved too much for the Indians and they quickly succumbed, leaving the West Indies with 172 to make and about 28 overs to make them.
Greenidge and Haynes added 46 before Haynes got out going hard for runs. His 34, it turns out, was made off just 21 balls and it was clear that he understood the urgency of the situation. Greenidge, on the other hand, was batting much too slowly for our liking, and we let him know. He had scored a painstaking 70 in the first innings and it appeared, to us at least, that he had set out to play in similar manner.
We thought assault and battery was what was required and so we were not disappointed when he was out for 42, scored without a single boundary. Lloyd, in the meantime, had decided to come in at 3 when we were expecting the Master Blaster himself. He didn’t very last long, scoring only 3, and so it was now Viv’s turn.
He strode to the wicket like he owned Sabina Park and immediately set about the bowling. His first scoring stroke was a huge 6 and the onslaught had begun. Strokes to all parts of Sabina Park served to whip the crowd into a frenzy. At one point it seemed that every fielder was manning the boundary ropes, yet Richards was still able to beat them.
One straight hit landed in our section of the crowd and my friend went berserk. He so lost control of himself that he strayed onto the playing area, and only returned to his senses after being barked at by an angry guard dog that almost escaped his handler in striving to reach him.
What an evening it turned out to be! Viv’s 61 came off only 36 balls* with five fours and four sixes, and everyone there knew that they had witnessed something truly special. He returned to the pavilion at 156 for 5 with 16 needed for an unbelievable victory. Without his awesome innings West Indies would surely not have won, and victory was still only achieved in the very last over, with Dujon hitting a full toss for six, in fast fading light. Next day at school we made sure everyone knew that we had been there.
Dedicated to Elaine Hanson, 1949-2012. She loved sports.
*This blog originally said Richards' 61 came off 31 balls. It has been corrected
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