1987 Reliance World Cup: When Viv Richards single-handedly outplayed Sri Lanka

Viv Richards showed great prowess of powerful hitting on either side of the wicket in his swashbuckling knock © Getty Images

On October 13, 1987, the Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards massacre struck Sri Lanka and swept them away at the National Stadium in Karachi during the 1987 World Cup. Prakash Govindasreenivasan revisits the rampage that Viv Richards caused on that day.
It was a kind of day that every bowling attack feared during the years when the West Indies dominated world cricket. If their pace battery could dismantle any batting line-up in a jiffy, it was Viv Richards’s swagger and flamboyance that sucked the life out of the opposition’s bowling attack. There are very few clear-cut examples of leading from the front and playing a captain’s knock like the way Richards did it on this day against a Sri Lankan bowling attack who clearly saw one of their worst days in office.
At 45 for two and Ravi Ratnayake on a hat-trick, not even the most cynical Sri Lankan fan would have anticipated what was about to happen. A tall West Indian batsman with just a cap on his head walked out like a lion walks out of its den to greet the morning sun.
Richards began on the front foot, attempting a powerful cover drive, only for the fielder to put in a good effort to save a couple of runs. However, the fielders couldn’t quite keep that going for too long as the power with every stroke began to increase manifold. Richards was ferocious and in the mood hunt.
There a few odd nudges behind square and a nurdle or two here and there but the bad balls were plundered. Powerful strokes were being played behind point and through covers as the West Indies were starting to recover. Richards did not even think twice before putting all his might while dispatching delivery bowled down the leg. There were shots off the back foot and some elegant flicks in front of square as he was starting to settle down and build towards a big score.
Before most people in the stands could realize, a single on the leg side brought up Richards’s half-century. In his casual nonchalant manner, he completed his run, raised his bat straight up in the air for a few seconds and was ready for more.
It seemed as if the half-century had given Richards the license to shift gears further. He whacked the ball for a six over the long-on boundary with what can be described as the most effortless attempt to get maximum. Another hushed celebration followed when he reached the three figures. It was still not quiet the end of his epic knock.
As the innings progressed, Richards began to show a lot more movement at the crease. In the 44th over, West Indies were cruising along well with 258 runs on the board and looked set to get close to the 300-run mark. Richards, however, was eyeing something bigger. He unleashed a flurry of shots, starting with a couple of big sixes over extra-cover off Asantha de Mel.
He showed great prowess of powerful hitting on either side of the wicket and got a couple of boundaries. He also displayed his knack of hitting gigantic sixes and slammed couple straight over long off. And then there was the third, as he moved past 150 and looked set to take the West Indian total much beyond 300. While not taking the aerial route, Richards was busy piercing the field and getting boundaries as the Sri Lankan bowlers had no answer for his aggression.
The pressure was clearly telling on the fielding side as they began to bowl full tosses and half-volleys to a man who was right in the thick of the zone. When Richards was caught on 181, he had managed to post the highest individual score in a World Cup. His stroke-filled knock had taken him just 125 deliveries and was laced with 16 fours and seven sixes. He missed his previous best of 189 not out by a whisker but had done enough with his 10th ODI century to take the West Indies total to 360 for four. The middle-order maverick eclipsed the century scored by Desmond Haynes (105 off 124 balls) which was a sedate and a patient knock, proving solidity from the other end.
The Sri Lankan bowlers had one of the worst days on the field with the likes of De Mel (one for 97 in 10 overs) and Gurusinha (one for 43 in four overs) being the worst sufferers.

What followed

  • Roshan Mahanama and Brendon Kuruppu gave their side a blazing start but couldn’t hold on for too long.

  • A couple of wickets early on deflated Sri Lanka’s chase and at the end of their quota of 50 overs, they had just 169 runs on the board — 12 runs short of what Richards managed on his own — to give the West Indies a 191-run victory.

Brief scores:
West Indies 360 for 4 in 50 overs (Desmond Haynes 105, Viv Richards 181; Ravi Ratnayake 2 for 68) beat Sri Lanka 169 for 4 in 50 overs (Arjuna Ranatunga 52, Asanka Gurusinha 36; Carl Hooper 2 for 39) by 191 runs.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)