February 18, 2016

Ten memorable maximums

From Darling's Adelaide whack to Dhoni's Wankhede tee-off - a look back at some legendary cricket sixes

Edgabaston '06: when KP went the other way © Getty Images

10. 'I want to hit a six now'
Virender Sehwag could have been forgiven a few nerves as he moved to within five runs of becoming the first Indian to score a Test triple with his idol standing at the non-striker's end. But then Viru's mind has never really worked like that. "When I was on 295, before Saqlain Mushtaq bowled, I told Sachin that whether it was slow, fast or whatever, I would step out and hit him for six," Sehwag told AOC in 2014. "I said, 'Whatever will happen, will happen. I don't care, I want to hit a six now'." And that's what he did, taking two steps down the wicket and launching Saqlain over cow to bring up Test cricket's fastest triple. He'd break his own record four years later.

9. Hot to Trott
Forget your talk of big bats; it's all about the motion in the ocean. Back in 1899, Albert Trott smashed Monty Noble over the Lord's pavilion and into the racquet courts. Bosh. It was the first time such a hit had ever been achieved - and it hasn't been replicated. Not by Beefy, not by Viv, not by Afridi. Judging by an interview with Boy's Own, Trott was pretty chuffed with his efforts. "Noble was bowling, and sending the balls down in pretty good style, and at last I struck at one. I was not very sure about it; and the next thing I saw was the ball looking like a pea in the air, and I learned then that it had just touched a chimney and nearly gone out of the ground." Noble had him caught at third-man soon after attempting another big 'un so he's the real winner.

8. The full Monty
Much-maligned with the bat was Monty. It's not that he didn't lack ability - he played a cover-drive off Mohammad Sami at Headingley in 2006 that was truly supreme - it was just that between the really quite nice shots he wasn't very good at not getting out. He'd play three very pretty blocks, then just miss one. That's probably the reason he averaged under 5 in Tests. There was one highpoint - higher even than the Cardiff and Auckland draws - with the willow, and that came in the same year as the aforementioned Sami drive. He's facing Murali, England are nine down, in a post-05 slump, and on the verge of another defeat. What does Monty do? Bat like a dream and slog-sweep his only Test maximum, much to the crowd's delight. Come back soon, Monty. We were happier with you around.

No nervous 290s for Virender Sehwag in Multan Jewel Samad / © AFP

7. Boom Boom bangs the roof
Power Cricket, they called it. It was at the Millennium Stadium in 2002 and the world of cricket was about to change. All the stars were in - Shoaib Akhtar, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram… Matthew Fleming - and the 75,000-seater stadium had only 71,000 available seats on the opening night. Played indoor, and with additional runs for hitting the ball into the middle tier (8), top tier (10) or onto the roof (12), history was made when Shahid Afridi muscled a Fleming delivery skyward and it came back down off the old rain-stopper. Umpire Vanburn Holder did a weird new signal that's not been since - his raised wrist-cross looks like he's demanding justice for a jailed comrade - and the world smiled. It's classic Afridi, of course, a man who once smashed Ryan McLaren 158m. Look it up, it's mahoosive.

6. Where there's Kapil, there's a way
With India 430-9 in reply to England's 653 (courtesy of Goochie's Granddaddy 333), veteran skipper and swashbuckling allrounder Kapil Dev - in at No.8 - needed to somehow get 24 runs to avoid the follow-on, with leg-spinner and old-school bunny No.11 Narendra Hirwani up the other end. Eddie Hemmings arrived at the Nursery End for an over of airy off-spin, and Kapil saw his chance, swinging four successive sixes back over the roly-poly twirler's head before turning, laughing, to his teammates on the balcony and performing an understated fist-pump. As Richie Benaud mused on commentary, "Well, I suppose it's only logical, if you need 24 to save the follow-on why wouldn't you get it in four hits?" Kapil was justified: Hirwani lasted just two balls and India - having forced England to bat again - didn't make another run, with Kapil stranded on 77*.

5. Sobers' six squared
Garry Sobers, captain of Nottinghamshire, facing Glamorgan's Malcolm Nash at St Helen's, Swansea. Batting for the declaration. Nash, a left-arm seamer, is experimenting with spin. It was probably likelier to happen than not. Sobers swings wildly from the hip and - with help from a short boundary and a catch carried over the line at long-off for the fifth - becomes the first man to hit six sixes in an over. And thank heavens, they're filming the thing. The beleaguered ball itself has been the subject of debate - the first and sixth hits were sent out of the ground and Nash has since questioned whether the ball exhibited and sold at auction is the self-same pill that Sobers sent flying down the King Edward Road back in '68.

World Cup 2011: sealed with a six at the Wankhede © Getty Images

4. Son of a switch
The reverse-sweep? Fine. New-fangled, but fine. But jumping round, switching hands, becoming a left-hander and still smashing it out of the ground? Ridiculous. Unfair, said some. KP started it - initially against spin - to Murali in a Test at Edgbaston in 2006 - and then again against seam (albeit the medium-pace of Scott Styris), twice in an ODI at Chester-le-Street two years later. Truly a game-changer and a debate-inspirer. Who'd have thought that from Pietersen?

3. Well batted, Darling
Until 1910 a six was only awarded if the ball was hit out of the ground, which perhaps explains why it took 55 matches before anyone achieved the feat in Test cricket. The first man to do so, in 1898, was a double-hard Aussie by the delightful name of Joe Darling and he picked a fine time to do it, belting the great English left-arm spinner Johnny Briggs over the eastern gate and into a nearby car park at the Adelaide Oval to bring up his century.

2. Gayle hits Gazi off the strip
It took 2,057 matches before anyone had the audacity to whack the first ball of a Test over the boundary ropes, and it came as no great surprise that the man with the reportedly often ill-concealed cojones to do it was Chris Gayle. Long-form cricket has become an unfamiliar and often confusing beast to the Jamaican in recent years so he thought best to stick to what he knows and keep trying to put the ball in the stands. Gayle shimmied down the track to Bangladesh off-spinner Sohag Gazi's first delivery and deposited the shell-shocked debutant over long-on. That Gazi dismissed him four overs later was largely forgotten as Gayle retired to the changing room with 24 from 17 deliveries and a small slice of history.

1. Captain Cool seals the deal
A World Cup on the line, 35,000 screaming fans crammed into the Wankhede, another 135 million Indians watching at home, not to mention many millions more around the world, and the hopes of the nation rest on your shoulders. No pressure, MS. With India stuttering in their chase of 275, their out-of-nick captain decides to promote himself to No.5. "Something in me said I should go," Dhoni later told AOC. "I knew in my heart it was justified and felt that the team trusted me." That trust was repaid as Dhoni produced a nerveless 91*, thumping Nuwan Kulasekara over long-on to seal the win with a six that rang out across the world.

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