1990

The 77-run over

When people are asked what is the most number of runs to come off one over, thoughts turn immediately to Tilak Raj and Malcolm Nash who both conceded 36, to Ravi Shastri and Garry Sobers respectively

Martin Williamson

March 12, 2005

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Bert Vance: a footnote in cricket history © The Cricketer
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When people are asked what is the most number of runs to come off one over, thoughts turn immediately to Tilak Raj and Malcolm Nash who both conceded 36, to Ravi Shastri and Garry Sobers respectively. But in February 1990, Bert Vance went for more than twice that number in what ranks as one of first-class cricket's oddest overs.

The incident took place on the final day of Wellington's Shell Trophy match against Canterbury at Christchurch. It was Wellington's last game of the season and they needed to win to ensure that they secured the title. On the final morning they declared their second innings, leaving Canterbury to chase 291 in what turned out to be 59 overs.

Canterbury lost early wickets and, as John Morrison, the former New Zealand batsman and at the time Wellington's coach, remembers, they "put the shutters up very early in a run chase that was very feasible and we just couldn't remove them in the normal way." Although Canterbury had looked like losing when they slumped to 108 for 8, Lee Germon and Roger Ford had stopped the rot and seemed set to hold out for a draw.

Although when the penultimate over started Canterbury were eight wickets down, Germon, their wicketkeeper and no dunce with the bat, was still in and on strike. Morrison and Erve McSweeney, Wellington's captain-wicketkeeper, hatched a plan and Bert Vance, the New Zealand batsman who nearing the end of his career and so had no bowling figures of any note to worry about, agreed to help them.

The idea was to feed Canterbury enough runs so that they would get close enough to the target and then perhaps risk their last two wickets going for glory. They began the over on 196 for 8 with Germon 75 not out.

Vance proceeded to bowl a succession of no balls, and of his first 17 deliveries only one - the second - was legitimate. Full toss after full toss was lobbed down from two or three yards down the track - "Bert overdid it somewhat," recalled Morrison - and each one was cracked to the boundary past disinterested fielders. Germon brought up his hundred off the sixth ball, and in all he took 70 off the over, including eight sixes and five fours. Ford faced two balls midway through the carnage and scored five.

The real problems, however, were in the scorebox where the bewildered scorers and scoreboard operators lost track of what was happening and at one point resorted to consulting with spectators to try to resolve the chaos. Even the umpire was left bewildered, only allowing five legitimate deliveries before calling an end to the carnage.

The situation had not been resolved when Ewan Gray bowled the final over. Unbeknown to both sides, Canterbury had moved to within 18 of victory, and another 17 from Germon off the first five balls leveled the scores. But with the scoreboard rendered inactive as the scorers still battled to make sense of Vance's over, Ford blocked the last delivery of the match. Only when the players returned to their changing-rooms did the position become clear.

The arguments continued long after the match. "There was all sorts of debate discussing this outrageous situation," recalled Morrison. "Howls of protest and the like, but in the end we were not docked any points and through a couple of other very fortuitous results we won the championship. As you can imagine I copped a fair bit of flack, but winning the championship took most of the sting out of that ... I quickly went from the outhouse to the penthouse!"

But the hastily conceived plan had almost backfired. "I nearly had heart failure when I learnt a little time after the game that Canterbury only needed one to win and we had Vance bowling to a very leaky field," Morrison explained. "It was also very possible because of the confusion that he may have bowled yet another no ball.

"I decided that the tactic, while being innovative, was definitely a once only! But it's now a noted game and lives on whereas if the conventional tactics had been used the game would have faded completely and anonymously into the past."

Much like Steve O'Shaughnessy's 35-minute hundred in 1983, Vance's over is consigned to being a footnote in the record books, although the 182-run ninth-wicket stand remains a Canterbury record.

The over went as follows (the balls in bold are the legitimate ones) - 0444664614106666600401

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

Bibliography
Wisden Cricket Monthly April 1990

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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