Simon O’Donnell’s fastest fifty in ODIs — off 18 balls

Simon O’Donnell… 74 off 29 balls © Getty Images

On May 2, 1990 Australia flogged Sri Lanka in the second semifinal of the Austral-Asia cup. If Dean Jones’s century grinded the Sri Lankans, then Simon O’Donnell’s 29-ball 74 came as the executioner’s axe.  Sarang Bhalerao revisits O’Donnell’s world-record feat of scoring the fastest fifty in the One Day Internationals at that time.

When Australia won the 1987 World Cup it was a watershed moment in their one-day cricket history. The resourceful young cricketers had stood up and made themselves count. One such fledgling all-rounder in the Australian ranks was Simon O’Donnell who finished the tournament as their most economical bowler. Sadly, his joy was short lived as doctors told him that he was suffering from cancer, immediately after the trophy triumph.

O’Donnell showed true grit to fight the dreaded disease and eventually overcame it. One of the high-points in O’Donnell’s 87-ODI match career was his blistering knock on a hot afternoon on May 2, 1990 at Sharjah.

At 172 for two against Sri Lanka, Australia needed to deliver the knock-out punch. Captain Allan Border promoted O’Donnell and gave him the licence to go for the kill. The boundary line was extraneous as the quality of his hitting was quite sensational. The Sri Lankans were slowly losing their foothold in the contest, courtesy of Dean Jones’s class and O’Donnell’s belligerence.

The feature of O’Donnell’s batting was the ease with which he hit the ball, especially to the straight field. Ravi Ratnayeke’s innocuous length delivery landed on the stadium roof, above the commentary box. In his next over, Ratnayeke dropped a ball short which was clubbed over long-on. It looked more like a tennis forehand!

Champaka Ramanayake tried to bowl full to O’Donnell. The first ball missed the yorker length by a few inches and was dispatched to the mid-wicket boundary. The full-toss that followed went over the mid-wicket and into the stand. It was a barrage of succour balls on offer for the Australian all-rounder.

Wicketkeeper Brendon Kuruppu came upto the stumps to keep O’Donnell rooted to his crease. Ramanayake was missing his line and the result was catastrophic. He bowled a wide delivery to O’Donnell hoping that he won’t be carted through the leg-side. The ball flew off O’Donnell’s edge over the vacant slip area for a boundary. A routine six straight down the ground followed thereafter.

Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was flummoxed by this sortie. He brought his part-time seamer Asanka Gurusinha who was carted over his head for a six. O’Donnell was batting on 49 off 17 deliveries. When O’Donnell hit Gurusinha past covers for a single, he created history  — world record for the fastest fifty in ODI cricket.

O’Donnell was finally dismissed for 74 off 29 balls. His innings was studded with four boundaries and six sixes. Jones finished unbeaten on 117 and David Boon scored 30 off 18 deliveries batting at No 5.
Australia registered their highest total in ODI history — 332 for three beating their previous highest score of 328 for five in 60 overs against Sri Lanka in the 1975 Cricket World Cup.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for 218 and they were knocked out of the Austral-Asia Cup. A resounding win by 114 runs from Australia setup their final date with Pakistan on May 4.

O’Donnell’s innings made the match a cul de sac. Sri Lankans had no answers to his hitting, which was top-notch.

Brief Scores:

Australia 332 for 3 in 50 overs (Dean Jones 117*, Simon O’Donnell 74; Ranjith Madhurasinghe 1 for 32) beat Sri Lanka 218 all out in 45.4 overs (Hashan Tillakaratne 76; Peter Taylor 2 for 28) by 114 runs.

Man of the match: Simon O’Donnell.

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)