The Master Blaster's 56 balls of madness

On this day in 1986, Viv Richards produced an innings the like of which Test cricket had never before witnessed

Adam Burnett

15 April 2018, 03:45 PM AEST

Adam Burnett previously wrote for and edited at Inside Cricket magazine and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and The Telegraph and the Guardian in the UK.

It's 32 years to the day since Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards - aka 'The Master Blaster' - compiled arguably his most devastating innings in a career that was littered with devastating innings. 

The scene was St John's, Antigua, a venue that would in the ensuing two decades also play host to a pair of world record knocks by another swaggering West Indian, Brian Lara. 

The opposition was England, who were already trailing in the match and by this, the fifth Test, were well and truly en route to a humiliating series whitewash. 

Another Viv classic: 208 in Melbourne, 1984

Not that they could be blamed: their opponents were one of Test cricket's most ruthless winning machines, in that series led by Richards himself - one of the most aggressive batsmen in the history of the sport. 

Having piled on 474 in the first innings and seen England respond with 310, the hosts set about quickly accruing what they hoped would be a winning total during day four of this fifth Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground. 

Central to the carnage was Richards, who entered the fray at 1-100 and proceeded to blast 110 of the next 146 runs scored.

In just 58 balls. 

Richards, who had passed 20 in each of his previous five innings in the series without going on to make a hundred, vented his frustrations in the manner he knew best, carting England's attack - led by Sir Ian Botham - to all parts.

Mix Tape: Viv Richards Vol. 1

In a flurry of sixes (seven) and fours (another seven), The Master Blaster's hundred came from 56 deliveries - a world record that stood for 30 years. 

"Richards's display, making him the obvious candidate for the match award, would have been staggering at any level of cricket," reported the Wisden Almanack. "What made it unforgettable for the 5,000 or so lucky enough to see it was that he scored it without blemish at a time when England's sole aim was to make run-scoring as difficult as possible to delay a declaration.

"Botham and (John) Emburey never had fewer than six men on the boundary and sometimes nine, yet whatever length or line they bowled, Richards had a stroke for it.

"His control and touch were as much features of the innings as the tremendous power of his driving.

"Plundered in 83 minutes out of 146 while he was at the wicket, it had to be, by any yardstick, among the most wonderful innings ever played."

In the 32 years since, only three batsmen have joined Richards in compiling Test hundreds in fewer than 60 balls:

Adam Gilchrist: 102no (57 balls) v England, December 2006, Perth

Glorious Gilchrist

Like Richards, Gilchrist had built his career on blazing innings, making the improbable all too possible and delighting millions along the way. By this stage, the free-swinging leftie was much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and coming off a duck in the first innings, there were some suggestions that maybe his time was up. A streaky boundary through gully from the third ball he faced got him off the mark, and soon enough his 50 came up - from 41 balls. That he went on to fall just one ball short of Richards' record gives some indication of the utter whirlwind that followed as, on his home patch, Gilly put on a show for the ages. The above mini-doco is well worth the watch.

Misbah-ul-Haq: 101no (57 balls) v Australia, November 2014, Abu Dhabi

Misbah scores equal-fastest ton ever

Misbah had already hit a century in the first innings of this match and, as with both Richards and Gilchrist, this remarkable knock came in the pursuit of quick second-innings runs. From the first 21 balls the Pakistan captain faced, he smashed the fastest fifty in Test history, at one point taking the part-time leg spin of Steve Smith for 22 from four deliveries. From there, he simply maintained the rage - though the second half-century, from 35 balls, was sedate in comparison. On 92, he swiped a four to the long-on rope and the very next ball a thick outside edge saw him reach the milestone and etch his name alongside Viv in the record books. Until... 

Brendon McCullum 145 (79 balls) v Australia, February 2016, Christchurch

McCullum smashes fastest ever Test century

Brendon McCullum spent his 101-Test career doing things his own way so it's only fitting that this knock - the fastest hundred in Test history, from just 54 balls - is the only one on this list that came in the side's first innings. Where Richards, Gilchrist and Misbah all had the freedom to unleash with their side well in front in the Test, McCullum's unforgettable innings stemmed from a situation that demanded the opposite; New Zealand were 3-32 on the first morning and needing a steady hand to guide them to lunch. McCullum did exactly that, but in a style all of his own. By the first interval, he was 37 from 18 balls. When the second session got underway, McCullum moved to 68 from 44, and with 32 needed from 11 deliveries to pip Viv and Misbah, hopes of a world record seemed beyond even him. He did it with a ball to spare, those next 10 deliveries reading: 4,4,2,4,0,0,6,4,4,4. In his final Test, which New Zealand ultimately lost, McCullum cemented his legacy as the most cavalier - and one of the best - batsmen his country has ever produced. 

- A version of this article was originally published on April 15, 2017.