Martin Williamson
Executive editor, ESPNcricinfo, and managing editor, ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

The fastest Test hundreds

Crash, bang, wallop

After Adam Gilchrist's onslaught at Perth, Martin Williamson looks at some of Test cricket's other brutal assaults

Martin Williamson

December 16, 2006

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After Adam Gilchrist's onslaught at Perth, Martin Williamson looks at some of Test cricket's other brutal assaults

Viv Richards launches a massive six on his way to a 56-ball hundred in 1986 © The Cricketer

Viv Richards 56 balls, West Indies v England, Antigua 1985-86
Viv Richards loved batting against England in his own backyard. He marked the ground's Test debut with a blistering 114 in 1980-81, and five years later he launched a second-innings onslaught which smashed the previous record for the fastest hundred by 11 balls. "It was one of those days when everything, even mis-hits, went to the boundary," Richards recalled. "In a sense I did everything to get out, but luckily for me, everything went off the middle of the bat. The crowd was jumping and the car horns were blowing all round the island." Richards' friend Ian Botham took the brunt of the punishment, finishing with 0 for 78 off 15 overs.

Jack Gregory 67 balls, Australia v South Africa, Johannesburg, 1921-22
He may have broken the world record for the fastest hundred by nine balls, and done so on a matting wicket, but The Times for one was unimpressed, with its report concentrating on the fact that he had been dropped three times in the process. This was, and remains, the fastest Test hundred in minutes - he took 70 whereas Richards' ton took 11 minutes longer. Although he batted at No. 4, Gregory was a fast bowler who forged a devastating new-ball partnership with Ted MacDonald in the years after World War One. He followed his whirlwind hundred with seven wickets, although the match was drawn.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul 69 balls, West Indies v Australia, Georgetown, 2002-03
A remarkable hundred from a man who is often more associated with stubborn defence. In front of his home crowd on the first day of the series, Chanderpaul unaccountably cut loose as the rest of his team caved in. He brought up his fifty with a six and his hundred with a crashing drive, taking a number of chances in between and gaining an extra five when a wild Brett Lee throw went for overthrows.

Roy Fredericks 71 balls, West Indies v Australia, Perth, 1975-76
Perhaps the most audacious innings in Test history. Australia thumped West Indies in five out of six Tests in this series, but in the second match at the WACA Roy Fredericks led West Indies to an innings victory with an astonishing display. Only a fool gives Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson as good as he gets on a Perth flyer, but Fredericks did exactly that and smacked them all round the park. Even though they were eight-ball overs, their combined figures of 37-0-251-5 were not a pretty sight, and at lunch on the second day West Indies were 130 for 1 - from 14 overs. Fredericks flayed 50 off 33 balls; 100 in 71; in all he faced only 145 deliveries for his 169. "A small man, where does all his power come from," mused John Woodcock in The Times. "You have to see him stripped to see he has arms like a ten-pound trout, and a wild one at that."

Majid Khan 74 balls, Pakistan v New Zealand, Karachi, 1976-77
A brutal onslaught brought Majid his hundred before lunch on the first day of the third Test, an innings The Cricketer said was "so fierce it completely demoralised the New Zealand bowling". It was fitting. An almost equally ferocious attack on the opening day of the previous Test had ended when he was stumped for 98.

Mohammed Azharuddin 74 balls, India v South Africa, Calcutta, 1996-97
Azharuddin's counterattack came with his side up against the wall. He had barely taken guard before a flurry of wickets left India on 119 for 6 in reply to South Africa's 428, but Azharuddin decided attack was the best form of defence. Lance Klusener, making his debut, decided to pepper him with bouncers and was hit for five successive fours for his pains. He scored his fifty off 35 balls, his century off 74, and pulled Paul Adams for a six to go with his 18 fours before hitting him a return catch. He added a 55-ball 52 in India's dismal second innings of 137, but South Africa romped to a crushing victory.

Gilbert Jessop 75 minutes, 80 balls, England v Australia, The Oval, 1902
Perhaps the innings which epitomised cricket's Golden Age, and one which would have been a touch greater had the Ashes not already been decided. Jessop's reputation as a big hitter had already been established, but chasing 263 to win the final Test, he arrived with the score 48 for 5 and proceeded to charge the quick bowlers, lofting them into the pavilion three times. He also hit 17 fours and an all-run five, and the sixth-wicket stand of 109 turned the game - his partner, FS Jackson, contributed 18. England sneaked home by one wicket, showing that their ability to register wins against Australia when the series was decided is almost as old as the game itself.

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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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