This article was originally published on All out Cricket on September 8th, 2014.
In the first of a two-part series, last month’s AOC guest editor Mark Nicholas recalls the finest knocks he ever witnessed during a long county career played with and against some of the game’s all-time greats.
Viv Richards, 164*
Hampshire v Glamorgan, Southampton, June 16-18, 1990
I was always keen to set a game up by declaring a little earlier than most. There is no excuse for letting a game of cricket die. And anyway, three-day county cricket would have been boring without a few set up finishes. Glamorgan weren’t playing well at the time, but they had Viv, so I set something well within reach, on a flat pitch at Northlands Road – 364 in the whole day. They were about 140-5 at tea but Viv was still there and he was blocking. He’d got the strop on about something. I think he’d decided the others had played uselessly and, in protest, was going to block out the draw.
We went in at tea. We were definitely going to win. Then, first ball after tea, Tim Tremlett bowling. Viv follows through on a forward defensive and hits it into the road! We thought, ‘F**king hell…here we go…’
Fast forward. With one over of the match left, Viv is 150 not out, they need 14 to win and Malcolm Marshall, the greatest fast bowler in the world, is bowling to the greatest batsman.
They were six down now and Colin Metson was in. So I say to Malcolm, ‘With all of us on the fence, Viv gets a single, and you have five balls at Metson and the rest, who can’t bat. We might even win.’ So Maco runs in and bowls a length ball on off-stump. Viv blisters it through cover four. No one moved. I’m thinking,that should have been a single Maco. ‘Maco, give Viv a friggin single!’ Next ball, Maco bowls a quick bouncer and Viv hit it over the flats. We never saw the ball again.
So I move in and say, ‘Give him a f**king single, bowl him a yorker and you’ve got three balls at Metson!’ So Marshall runs in and bowls a good full ball, not quite a yorker though, and Viv drills it wide of mid-on, turf scorching in the process. Before it crosses the top, he takes his gloves off, heading towards me. He shakes my hand and says ‘That was one helluva declaration skipper, let’s go drink some beers.’ He was 164 not out. The best first-class innings I ever saw. ‘As if he’d have taken the single anyway,’ said Malcolm in the bar at 10 o’clock that night.
And another thing…
Swansea. Marshall to Richards. It was still Marshall to Richards. Malcolm runs in and Viv pulls away at the verylast moment. There’s a hush. On the field we’re all looking at each other. No one dares say anything. “Hey!” screams Viv, now marching down the pitch, past Marshall and on, past the umpire. “YOU!” Nothing. “That’s YOU!” Now Viv’s pointing to a dot by the sightscreen, to a man, sitting on his own, flicking through the pages of his newspaper. “That’s right! YOU!” The man looks up, a little startled, points to himself quizzically. “Yes YOU!!! You’ve got David Gower and Robin Smith at slip! You’ve got Malcolm Marshall, the greatest fast bowler in the world, bowling to Vivian Richards… And you reading the f**king newspaper?”