Viv Richards deserves a respectful nod after Ben Stokes’ latest record

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A few weeks ago we asked whether Ben Stokes was definitely a better pick than Harry Brook in England’s World Cup squad. We drew no firm conclusions. Smashing 182 off 124 balls to break the record for the highest score by an England batter in a one-day international (ODI) probably moves us in the general direction of a ‘yes’… and now we want to talk about Viv Richards.

The highest score in ODIs is Rohit Sharma’s highly silly 264 off 173 balls. It is one of three doubles he has hit. Seven other players have also crossed that mark – but no Englishman.

It’s worth emphasising that most of those guys are openers. That’s how you make big scores in limited overs cricket. Stokes’ effort is significant for being the second-highest score by a player batting at four or lower. The best effort remains Viv Richards’ 189 not out against England in – get this – 1984.

To make a trite observation at this juncture, times do change. Cricket remains a game of bat and ball, but even if we set aside advancements in bat technology and the modern boundary toblerone’s habit of positioning itself a little nearer the action, the biggest difference is probably just attitude.

Cricketers have spent almost 40 years exploring what kinds of totals can be achieved within the constraints of a one-day international and as limits have been pushed, it’s become the convention to aim higher than players did in the 1980s.

To put things in perspective, only once in that 1984 three-match ODI series did a team pass 200 and that was, as you’d imagine, the time that Viv got within 11 runs of the mark on his own. Furthermore, any sense that this was a one-off batting paradise is allayed by the other scores that day. Of the other 21 batters who came to the crease, only one – Allan Lamb – made more than 26 runs.

That is, by any stretch, an insanely dominant performance within the context of a match, but it was also an insanely dominant performance within the context of the era.

At the time of writing, there have been 4,379 ODIs since that Old Trafford game, in which getting on for two million runs have been scored. Middle-order batters have contributed quite a lot of them. Yet despite all that collective ability and despite all of those attempts, no-one has yet improved on Viv Richards’ effort.

You’d call it an absolutely freakish knock if it weren’t for the fact the same bloke also still has the second-fastest Test hundred of all time to his name.


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  1. From my hazy childhood memories, the Windies used to knock off 250 with 9 wickets left after someone like Viv or Gordon Greenidge had scored 200 of them. Probably didn’t actually happen.

  2. This article makes me feel old.

    Not only because it brings to mind events of nearly 40 years ago…

    …mind you, KC is currently sitting on a “rain-affected match” report of mine from similar vintage…

    …but also because I do quite often find myself saying, in a grizzly-old-man stylee, that Bazball doesn’t feel new to me, it’s just novel to witness an England team doing it. The West Indies, when they had a sufficiency of talent to play dominant, attacking cricket, used to do just that.

    Viv was seriously special with the bat. Ben Stokes comes close with the bat and,, when able to bowl, is a seriously special all-rounder.

      1. Quite like the idea of ‘carsed’ being a contraction of ‘can’t be arsed’. More syllabically efficient.

      2. Sitting in the Tavern Stand yesterday evening, when Carse lit up Daryl Mitchell’s stumps, I felt an almost insatiable desire to leap up and yell “SHUV IT UP YOUR BRYDON”.

        Fortunately, fatigue and wise-self-counsel got the better of me.

      1. Glad for you and the Leicestershire supporters, daneel. (For the win, not for your inability to spell correctly the name of your beloved club, obviously.)

        Has this laid to rest the memory of the club’s previous attempt at a List A Final:

        Daisy and I remember the incident so clearly, not least because one of our nephews shares the name of that unfortunate bowler. Our Scott was relentlessly teased by his pals in the aftermath of that final…and by his brother, who supports Somerset.

        Laid to rest now, anyway, that 2001 memory, so no point in mentioning it again. Well done Leicestershire 2023.

      2. I mean, it (and that poor sod) was the first thing I thought of when they won the SF, but hopefully yes, he won’t be a punchline any more, which he never deserved.

        Has been an odd year for the club. They’ve been unusually not completely terrible in the CC, and seem to have got over the traditional mid-season exodus and Nico’s defenestration (which I’m still not happy about).

  3. Labuschagne playing rugby for Japan today. Commentators pronouncing his name in the proper way, none of this ‘Lab-er-Shane’ nonsense.

  4. I remember that Viv innings – well, on telly at least. He was a hero of mine as a teenager (when I was that age, not him).

    Knowing he liked to hit anything through mid-wicket, England bowled straight and packed the leg side field. So he would just step outside leg stump and wallop the bowling over long off. Amazing to watch. Especially when as you say, that kind of thing wasn’t done then.

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