A record that stood for more than 17 years was finally broken on New Year's Day in 2014. Corey Anderson bludgeoned the West Indies bowlers to score the fastest ODI century, off just 36 balls, eclipsing the record of 37 set by a 16-year-old Shahid Afridi in 1996. Anderson finished unbeaten on 131 and such was his savagery that he even managed to overshadow Jesse Ryder, who motored to the sixth quickest ODI century of all time. The pair powered New Zealand to a scarcely believable 283 in just 21 overs.
This, after there were fears of yet another washout. The chase turned out to be a mere formality as West Indies limped to 124 for 5, having lost the game in the head the moment they walked back to the dressing room for the short innings break.
Irrespective of the format, this was the fastest ever international century. While it's true that the grounds in New Zealand are not the biggest, many, if not all, of Anderson's hits would have cleared the rope at any venue across the world. He blasted 14 sixes, two behind Rohit Sharma's world record of 16 and New Zealand's sixes tally stood at 22, another world record. India hit 19 sixes in the same match in which Rohit smashed 209 against Australia, but that was off 50 overs. New Zealand managed all those in just 21. West Indies' bowling figures were similarly remarkable, for the least expensive economy rate was 11, by Nikita Miller.
Anderson and Ryder, both powerful left-handers, were proving hard to distinguish in the middle. Dwayne Bravo inserted New Zealand in what he thought was good bowling conditions but New Zealand batted like they were on a different planet. Length balls were punished, the fuller ones scooped and the shorter stuff biffed square of the wicket. The margin for error was so little that the exasperated attack failed to find the right lengths to contain the batsmen. Toe crushers seemed the only solution, but there were hardly any.
Walking in at the fall of Ross Taylor's wicket in the eighth over, Anderson scored his first boundary by pulling Bravo one bounce to deep midwicket. He then sent Sunil Narine several rows over deep midwicket and it was the first of several hits in the region. There was a competition for spectators, wearing orange t-shirts, to bag $100,000 for taking one-handed catches. Anderson and Ryder gave the crowd plenty of chances, but none of the spectators could win the jackpot.
Even the umpire had to take cover when an Anderson biff off Jason Holder scorched to the straight boundary. Two bowlers who bore the brunt of Anderson were Sunil Narine and Ravi Rampaul, who conceded four sixes in an over each. Against Narine, Anderson employed the slog and cleared the area between deep midwicket and long-on. One of those landed several yards behind the last row of spectators and another brought up his fifty, off just 20 balls.
Rampaul was punished for bowling too full and he gave away four consecutive sixes, including one that looked like a mis-hit, but still had enough mileage to clear long-off. Narine and Rampaul conceded 24 and 26 respectively and the prospects of scoring the fastest ODI century was more than a reality, as Anderson ended the Rampaul over needing 16 off seven balls. Given his manic scoring rate, the world record was seriously under threat.
Consecutive boundaries took him to 93 of 33, the second of those, off Lendl Simmons, being an ungainly slash to backward point. He ended that over on 95 off 35 and nothing less than a six was needed off his next ball to seal the record. As it happened, the planets were aligned at the right moment and Anderson brought up the record with a massive slog over long leg off Miller.
Anderson broke the very record that announced Afridi to international cricket - his first innings for Pakistan, in his second match, at the Nairobi Gymkhana against a Sri Lanka attack that had only months earlier helped win them the World Cup. Afridi's knock ended at 101 but Anderson didn't stop there. An audacious slap over cover off a Bravo slower ball that looped ever so slowly outside off, was symptomatic of the control he had over the bowling.
In the midst of Anderson's carnage, it was easy to forget the significance of Ryder's century, more for himself. This was only his second match for New Zealand since the horrific incident outside a Christchurch pub last year where he was assaulted and hospitalised. Ryder was miraculously back on his feet before the domestic season and won his place back in the ODI squad.
The initial pyrotechnics from Brendon McCullum set it up for Ryder to swing his arms. True to his style, Ryder's shots were effortless. He was able to loft through the line with ease, pull the seamers nonchalantly when they bowled too straight. Half-volleys were pierced wide of the packed off-side field and a six over long-off brought up his fifty off 23 balls. Three boundaries in an over off Bravo helped him speed towards his century and he got there with a single to short fine leg in the 19th over. It was also the sixth-fastest ODI ton, off just 46 balls.
The match was a no-contest by the end of the fourth over, with West Indies tottering at 19 for 3. There was no choice but to play in fifth gear, and in the process fell to fielders in the deep. Ryder, who could do nothing wrong, too helped himself to a wicket. Bravo helped himself to 56, but it was inconsequential - his side was totally outclassed.
With the series tied at 1-1, the teams head to Nelson, another popular holiday destination. They will hope for better weather. Those who braved the cold in Queenstown and stayed on were truly rewarded.