The fastest hundred

Maximum damage

John Emburey
Viv Richards blazes to the fastest Test hundred ever



The Richards romp hastened a second successive blackwash © Getty Images

England had been outplayed in the series. We came to St John's after losing the first Test in three days, the second in five, the third in four and the fourth in three. David Gower sent West Indies in to bat and things seemed fine when we had them at 232 for 5. Then their lower order got cracking. Malcolm Marshall, Roger Harper and Mikey Holding all made half-centuries, taking West Indies to 474.

Our openers, Graham Gooch and Wilf Slack, provided a fitting reply with 127 for the first wicket. David then came up with 90, in what was probably the best batting display of the series by an Englishman. We ended up 164 behind, but we were hoping to save the Test with a day's play still left. The West Indies, however, had their sights on winning. Both Richie Richardson and Dessy Haynes went for their shots. Then I got Richardson out for the sixth successive time that series - he failed to get on top while attempting a drive and was caught.

Twenty-eight minutes before tea, local hero Viv Richards swaggered out to the middle. His intent was unmistakable: he made 28 not out before the interval, including a six each over midwicket off Richard Ellison and me. Things were looking ominous for us. At the break David asked which of us would like to bowl when play started again. There were no volunteers. Finally Ian Botham, who was two wickets short of Dennis Lillee's haul of 355 to become the highest wicket-taker in Tests, said he would bowl from one end and recommended me from the other. As we took the field, I joked to David that if the shit hit the fan, the runs `scored' [by the bowlers] would have to be shared!

Viv launched into me as well, hitting sixes at will. A few went out of the stadium - one into the nearby prison where his father once was a warden

Viv reached his half-century in 35 balls soon after resumption. He then went ballistic, hitting sixes and fours. `Both' tried to bounce Viv out and came off second-best each time: one six off him shattered a bottle of rum in the stands and the ball came back with a piece of glass embedded in it! Viv launched into me as well, hitting sixes at will. A few went out of the stadium - one into the nearby prison where his father once was a warden.

I remember trying to deceive him with a slower one, giving it a little more air as he advanced down the wicket. He failed to reach the pitch of the ball and had to stretch to get to it, but he went through with the stroke anyway, taking the bottom hand off the handle and, with just one hand, hoisted the ball over the midwicket fence and out of the ground!



When in the mood, the King was unstoppable © Getty Images

That was when I threw in the towel. I went up to David and told him that he should get someone else to bowl. My analysis before Viv came out to bat read 9-0-14-1. After the mayhem I ended with 14-0-83-1. Viv's century - his third from four Tests in his hometown - was the fastest-ever in Tests in terms of balls faced (56), beating Jack Gregory's 67-ball record against South Africa in 1921-22. His second fifty came in just 21 balls. When Viv declared the West Indies innings at 246 for 2, he had scored 110 of the 146 runs that had been made during his stay at the wicket.

The English dressing room looked shell-shocked after play had ended for the day. Of course, there were a few smiling faces as well: the ones who did not have to bowl. It was probably the biggest carnage I had seen in such a short space of time in any first-class game.

At that time there was a calypso going around in the Caribbean which had a line that went something like, "Captain, the ship is sinking ..." David made a reference to that in a post-match interview when he said: "The ship has sunk and is lying 20 fathoms deep". He felt his players had let him down. Fact is, England were not in the same league as the West Indies team of that time - and this series, the second of two successive `blackwashes', told that tale.

John Emburey took 147 wickets in the 64 Tests he played for England. He was speaking to H Natarajan. This article first appeared in the April 2003 issue of Wisden Asia Cricket