Viv Richards hooks Derek Pringle to the boundary on his way to a record 189 not out. He added 106 for the last wicket with Michael Holding, Richards scoring 93 of them © Getty Images
Viv Richards hooks Derek Pringle to the boundary on his way to a record 189 not out. He added 106 for the last wicket with Michael Holding, Richards scoring 93 of them © Getty Images

May 31, 1984. Viv Richards essayed perhaps the greatest ODI innings ever with a spellbinding 189 not out against a hapless England attack at Old Trafford. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the innings which saw the master clout five sixes while adding 108 runs for the last wicket with Michael Holding.

It was on this very ground at Old Trafford, eight years prior to the great roar of the feared bat, Michael Holding had spewed his superfast venom. Hurling down those lethal streaks of red that battered and bruised Brian Close, he had thrown down the Caribbean gauntlet in front of the Englishmen. That spell had kick-started a period of nightmare that would last a decade and a half for the Mother Country.

In 1984, the phase was among the darkest, with the pioneering 5-0 Blackwash — and more would follow in the same vein. But, even before the Test series, the spirits of the hosts suffered merciless devastation.  In the first ODI of the Texaco Series, on the self-same Old Trafford track, Viv Richards left dreadful scars on the English psyche — that would last much longer than the multi-coloured welts on the old Yorkshireman.

The assault was brutal enough to make the bowlers wince at every thundering stroke. Especially the charge that followed once the great man had reached his hundred. And as the attack was slaughtered, West Indies rose up from a dismal collapse to post a huge total. The mighty Duncan Fearnley Magnum swung away with ruthless effect, and the echoes reverberated around Manchester. The ball kept disappearing into the crowd and beyond. At the end of the mayhem, the once buoyant Englishmen gingerly clapped the master back to the pavilion, having lost the last inclination to fight back.

The roar among ruins

Yet, at one stage, the Englishmen were on top. Desmond Haynes was run out in the very second over, after the rarest of rare misunderstandings with Gordon Greenidge. Then, an Ian Botham delivery had moved away to take the edge of Greenidge’s bat, while Richie Richardson gently spooned one back to Bob Willis. Geoff Miller had extracted some turn from the wicket, and Larry Gomes had been left bemused by one that pitched on the leg and hit off. Clive Lloyd and Jeff Dujon had fallen to injudicious sweep shots.

It became 102 for seven in the 26th over when David Bairstow’s throw beat Malcolm Marshall’s retreat after the fast bowler had sprinted down for a single that existed only in his imagination. Richards stood there, leaning on his bat, chomping down on that gum. The collar was up, the swagger tinged with a hint of annoyance. By then he had already proceeded to 65, with neat on-drives and trademark flicks; mere jabs, often from the line of the off-stump, that rocketed to the fence. The only audacious stroke had come early on, a cross batted swat over cover off Willis. No other batsman had reached double figures.

In Eldine Baptiste he found an able ally. At last there was a partnership of substance. It amounted to 59 with Richards continuing to score with deft placements and neat drives. Yet, it looked like token resistance when Botham produced a leg-cutter which kissed the edge of Baptiste’s bat. Joel Garner thumped one back powerfully and Neil Foster stooped down to hold a stunning return catch. West Indies were 166 for 9, with the master on 96.

Richards completed his hundred with a punched on-drive off Botham, his close friend and Somerset team-mate. The seventh ODI hundred of his career had come in 112 deliveries, studded with 12 boundaries. And now it was time for him to cut loose.

Holding, the man who had terrorised the Englishmen on this ground eight years earlier, now stood calmly at the other end, watching the magical fireworks unfold.

Botham was the first to suffer. Richards played to the on-side with a flick of the wrist, as he had been doing all along, only this time the ball gained elevation along with speed and landed beyond the square leg boundary. Neil Foster loaded his field on the on-side and pitched outside leg, and the master moved towards square leg to hoist him over long off. Derek Pringle ran in and erred in length by over-pitching, and Richards planted a foot down the wicket, whipped his wrists and launched it over the widish mid-on in an incredible on-driven six. The next one from Pringle was not the slightest bit over-pitched, but was anyway hoisted over long off into the crowd. With that bit of audacity Richards crossed 150.

And when Bob Willis came speeding along his 30-yard run up and hurled it on the off stump, Richards got his left leg out of the way, leant on the backfoot and hoisted it over extra-cover. It was an unreal exhibition of power hitting, leaving the spectators in awe and genuine fear of getting maimed by a flying sixer.

Richards swung the penultimate delivery of the innings to the widish mid-wicket boundary to register the hundred run partnership for the last wicket. Holding’s share had been 12. And as Botham ran in to bowl the last ball, the Antiguan genius moved outside the leg-stump, eyeing the gaps on the off-side. Botham followed him with the ball, pitching it outside leg, and was hit straight back over the head for a bullet-like boundary. In their 55 overs West Indies finished with 272 for nine. The last wicket association had produced 106, Richards scoring 93 of them.

The majestic innings over, the ruling king of world batting walked back to spellbound ovation. It had amounted to an unbeaten 189, with 21 boundaries and 5 sixes, scored in only 170 balls. The last 58 balls had produced 86 runs with 9 fours and 5 sixes. It perhaps still stands as the greatest ODI innings ever played.

What followed

By the standards of the mid-80s, it was a huge total. And against an attack of Marshall, Garner, Holding and Baptiste it was beyond most fantastic and fertile imagination. Only Allan Lamb resisted with 75, and the innings limped to an end with his dismissal at 168. Richards followed up his batting blitzkrieg with the wickets of Bairstow and Miller.

Brief scores:

West Indies 272 for 9 in 55 overs (Viv Richards 189*; Geoff Miller 3 for 32) beat England 168 in 50 overs (Allan Lamb 75; Joel Garner 3 for 18) by 104 runs.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)