When brilliant Barry called the shots
Today marks 50 years for South African Richards's strokeful 325 runs in a day, plundered for South Australia against Western Australia at the WACA ground, Perth in the 1970-71 season
Barry Richards played just four Tests — all against Australia — in the 1969-70 season before the apartheid policy kept South Africa out of international cricket till 1991.
Richards had a rewarding career at Hampshire and figured in World Series Cricket. He played many a fine innings after that 140 against the Australians in Durban (94 came in one session) but the one which had more than just an amazing ring to it was the triple century, achieved in a day for South Australia against Western Australia at the WACA ground in Perth on November 20, 1970.
It will be 50 years for that 325-in-a-day tomorrow. It is rated as one of the finest innings in Sheffield Shield history, scored against an attack which celebrated radio commentator Alan McGilvray described as "hardly innocuous."
McGilvray wrote in The Game Goes On: "Graham McKenzie for a start, had played some 57 Tests, and was a pace bowler of strength and persistence. He gave very little away. Dennis Lillee was just starting off and in his first season of Test cricket. Batsmen of that season were quickly coming to respect the great pace he generated.
And Tony Lock, the Western Australian skipper of the time, was a wily old veteran whose left-arm spin had seen him through 49 Tests for England. This was an attack to be respected." There was also leggie Tony Mann, left-arm spinner John Inverarity and wily medium pacer Ian Brayshaw.
Richards's strokeplay had a demoralising effect on young Lillee. His opponent's innings played a role in the confidence gained on a then recent Australian second team tour to New Zealand wearing off.
There wasn't a shot in the book which Richards didn't execute and, at stumps on Day One, he was unbeaten with 325. His captain Ian Chappell also got a three-figure score. But his was 129. A second wicket alliance between the captain and his imported opening batsman was worth 308. There were more rewards for Richards than just applause and accolades from teammates, spectators, even his opponents.
Chappell was told that his 129 was quick — in 170 minutes. But when he worked out that Richards scored 179 in the same amount of time, he couldn't help calling his partner's effort "incredible."
Accolades flew thick and fast when Richards became only the second batsman to score 300 in a day in a Sheffield Shield game after Bill Ponsford (Victoria against New South Wales at Melbourne in 1926).
Ray Robinson, the doyen of Australian writers, wrote in Australian Cricket magazine: "Richards faced an attack with more than a whiff of Test quality. He sometimes began stepping along the track before the ball left the left-hander's [Lock] hand."
Richards ended up with 356 (381 balls, 48 fours, one six) in a match which South Australia won by an innings and 111 runs with future Australia quick Jeff Hammond claiming nine scalps.
Only to show he was human, Richards was trapped leg before by a Mann (pun intended). Of course, he could have been out on 169 when Brayshaw didn't hold on to a lofted on-drive off McKenzie.
"I didn't throw my wicket away. I kept on the way I always play — to score as many runs as quickly as I can," he told an interviewer. In fact, Richards said in his book, The Barry Richards Story, that the leg before decision given by umpire Warren Carter was a "terrible" one.
Teammate Ashley Mallett remembered that shocker of a dismissal which came after a full toss from Mann. Mallett recounted to me recently what Richards did the previous evening when Lillee bowled the last ball of the day: "It was a short-of-a-length, chest high delivery from Dennis. Most batsmen would play it down safely, but Barry went back and hit it one bounce over mid-on for four. He walked off the ground unbeaten on 325…brilliant! It was just amazing and the timing of his strokes stood out."
Richards had earned every run...literally, since his employers, Coca-Cola, had agreed to pay him a dollar for every run scored and 10 dollars for every wicket claimed with his off-spin.
McKenzie, Lillee, Mann and Lock conceded more than 100 runs each and Richards's audacious strokeplay had a lot to do with that.
Richards spent his post-match celebration hours in the company of teammates Ian and Greg Chappell. In his book he revealed waking up at 6 am realising that he should have been at Perth airport long ago to receive his girlfriend Lorna, who was arriving from South Africa. "Poor Lorna, not knowing a soul in the country apart from me, was in a terrible state. Her first words were punctuated with comments which made Dennis Lillee's curses seem rather tame," wrote Richards.
It was a season to cherish, in which he topped the Australian domestic run charts with 1,538 at 109.86 inclusive of six three-figure scores. His five wickets fetched him an additional 50 dollars. The ball Richards would have cherished most was the one he bowled to send back Rod Marsh in that clash at the WACA. In Richards's words, he "felt for and missed" the first ball of the match bowled by McKenzie, something that caused Marsh to remark: "Geez, I thought this bloke was supposed to be able to play a bit."
It didn't need Richards's amazing 325 runs in a day for Marsh to dispel any doubts over the South African's ability. He realised it much earlier in the day when the Western Australian bowlers were put to the sword. In his book You'll Keep, the stocky wicketkeeper-batsman called it the 'Barry Richards game.'
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello
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