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From 334 to 481: the rise of the highest ODI total

In every decade since the 1970s, teams have set new records for ODI totals, breaching the 300-run and then the 400-run mark.

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
England's latest brutal display at Trent Bridge extended their record for the highest-ever ODI total. In the first ODI, staged after the 1971 Melbourne Test was washed out, Australia chased down 191 in 34.6 eight-ball overs and there was a slow, steady progression of scores rising into the 200s until, in 1975, during the 19th ODI, England broke through the 300 barrier. ESPNcricinfo traces the rise of the highest ODI total.
The first day of the first World Cup - men's that is, the women were two years ahead of things. Dennis Amiss made 137 and England's innings was rounded off by Chris Old's Buttler-esque 30-ball 51. The final total of 334 was a big leap on the previous best of 266. Controversy then ensued as Sunil Gavaskar batted through India's 60 overs for 36 off 174 balls. "Dejected Indians were pathetically pleading with him to die fighting," reported the Cricketer. "Their flags hung limp in their hands. It was a perverse moment of self-inflicted shame."
Two World Cups later, the record was broken as Pakistan enjoyed the Welsh air against a Sri Lanka side still young in their full international days. After Mohsin Khan and Zaheer Abbas - with 82 apiece - had laid the platform, the acceleration came from Javed Miandad (72 off 52) and Imran Khan (56 off 33) with what Wisden termed a "violent assault". Sri Lanka were never in touch, but weren't embarrassed as they made 288. Arjuna Ranatunga was part of the middle order: his, and Sri Lanka's, time would come.
What would Viv Richards have done in the current era? It doesn't really matter, because he was immense when he did play. He had already produced an innings, his unbeaten 189 against England, at Old Trafford in 1984, that remains one of the greatest in ODI history but, in terms of runs, nearly surpassed it in this match as his 181 off 125 balls carried West Indies to dizzy heights. Richards' innings began on a hat-trick ball; by the time he departed he had the highest score in a World Cup at the time. His last 81 runs came from 33 balls.
A quirk of fate meant that the record England set in 2016 was a carbon copy of how they held it 24 years ago. Before the the team built under Eoin Morgan, this was their finest one-day side having reached the World Cup final a few months previously only to be toppled by Imran Khan's team. It was little consolation, but back on home soil they comfortably beat Pakistan in the one-day series. In this contest runs came throughout the order. Of the top six, only Allan Lamb did not contribute significantly. Robin Smith led the way with 77 off 72 balls but the real flourish was left for Graeme Hick who clubbed 63 off 42 deliveries, his fifty coming off 34. Pakistan's frontline attack was formidable - Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed - but the fifth-bowler combination went for 106 in 11 overs.
The record wasn't edged past, it was smashed, and not surprisingly by the Sri Lankans who were in the course of reinventing the one-day game. Aravinda de Silva got a huge personal score of 145 as it quickly became clear there would be no repeat of Kenya's historic victory over West Indies a week earlier. Ranatunga added the finishing touches with a 29-ball fifty although Kenya's left-arm spinner Asif Karim ended with the highly respectable 1 for 50 in his 10 overs. 400 was close, who would be the first there?
It would take another 10 years for the milestone to be crossed, and it came on the most remarkable of days at the Wanderers. Ricky Ponting slayed 164 off 105 balls, on the ground where he had dispatched India during the 2003 World Cup final, and Michael Hussey scored 81 off 51, as Australia marmalised South Africa's attack on the Highveld. Ponting's hundred came from 71 balls and the last 20 overs of the innings brought 225 runs early in the T20 era. Astonishingly, though, a few hours later the record-books were being re-written again…
South Africa 438 for 9 (49.5 overs) v Australia, Johannesburg, 2006
"They are 15 short, lads," is the apocryphal line attributed to Jacques Kallis as the shell-shocked South Africans made there way into the dressing room at the interval. Yet the miracle happened. Herschelle Gibbs responded to Ponting's epic with 175 off 111 balls and Graeme Smith plundered 90 off 55. Such was the early onslaught that South Africa were on track from a long way out, it was a question of the wickets they were shipping. In the end it came down to the final over from Brett Lee and with two needed Andrew Hall picked out mid-on. But Makhaya Ntini managed to squeeze a single, levelling the score amid delirious scenes in the crowd, before Mark Boucher thumped the winning boundary.
There must have been something in the water during 2006 because South Africa's record lasted barely three months, although this record wasn't exactly in a fair contest as Sri Lanka overwhelmed Netherlands. Neither were there any TV cameras present to record the moment. Sanath Jayasuriya butchered 157 off 104 balls and Tillakaratne Dilshan 117 off 78. The only danger that could stop Sri Lanka from setting a record was being bowled out. They were still 31 short when the eighth wicket fell, but Dilshan was still there.
Another 10-year gap, another record. After Alex Hales' England-record 171, the side appeared to be cantering towards a record total when the 48th over - bowled by Wahab Riaz - went for 24. But Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali belatedly made life tougher. After Jos Buttler swung and missed twice at Hasan, four runs were still needed off the last ball. If there's a man who can find the boundary when needed it's Buttler and he duly drilled the final delivery over the off side. So, where next? As Australia went ballistic in their chase against Sri Lanka in Dambulla - 68 after five overs, 100 in 8.1 - the thought of 500 did not seem quite so outlandish.
Two years later, on the very same ground, England didn't just break their world record, they utterly marmalised it. Hales was once again England's top-scorer on his Nottinghamshire home ground, but his 147 from 92 balls shared top billing Jonny Bairstow's 139 from 92 - his fourth ODI hundred in the space of six innings. Bairstow had added 159 for the first wicket with Jason Roy, who ran himself out for 82 from 61 balls, but the coup de grace was applied by the skipper Eoin Morgan, who slammed an England record 21-ball fifty to turn on the afterburners for an already turbo-charged innings. Australia actually did well to deny England that elusive 500 total, but it was scant consolation, particularly for the hapless Andrew Tye, whose nine overs went for an even 100.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo