Cricket great celebrates 69th birthday

2014-07-25 00:00

ONE of the world’s and South Africa’s greatest cricketers celebrated his 69th birthday this week.

Barry Richards, sentenced to only four official Test matches before sporting isolation kicked in, is regarded by many as one of the top five batsmen the game has ever seen. He was gifted in the art of batting, making it look easy. Often, he seemed to get tired of batting, giving his wicket away when he deemed to have done enough. At club level, he batted in a match using only the leading edge and still made runs.

In the four Tests he played, he gave the cricket world a smidgen of what he was capable of. Taking on Bill Lawry’s Australians in the 1970 4-0 whitewash, he smashed 508 runs in seven innings at 72,57. This included two hundreds (140 and 126) and two fifties (65 and 81). His lowest score was 29, in his first Test innings, and he stroked 70 fours and five sixes.

His crowning glory was in the second Test on his home turf of Kingsmead, where he made 140. He narrowly missed a century before lunch, being undefeated on 94 in a total of 126-2.

After lunch, he joined Graeme Pollock, who went on to make 274, in a 103-run partnership, made in an hour.

After his brief Test career, he was forced to ply his trade overseas. He joined Pollock, Mike Procter and Eddie Barlow in the Rest of the World side against England — these matches replaced the cancelled Springbok tour of England — with limited success.

He then carved out a career with Hampshire in England, South Australia, World Series Cricket and Natal. He bowed out playing in some of the rebel tours undertaken by various sides in the early to mid 80s.

He left his mark wherever he went and his achievements bear mentioning, underlying what the world missed out on in the Test cricket arena.

• He scored four centuries for Natal in a season four times.

• He carried his bat through a completed innings in First Class cricket three times. One instance was for Hampshire against Nottinghamshire in 1974 when he scored 225* in a team total of 344.

• Between 1968 and 1976, playing for Hampshire, he averaged in the top 20 each season. In these years, he scored 15 607 runs at 50,51.

• His highest first class score was 356 in 1970/71 for South Australia at the Waca. He savaged Dennis Lillee, Graham McKenzie and Tony Lock among others. He bashed 325 runs in one day from 322 balls, with 44 fours and a six.

• He averaged 109,86 in the 1970/71 Sheffield Shield season. After Bradman, Richards was the second man to make centuries against all opponents that season.

• Scored a century before lunch nine times, five of which were on the first day of a match.

• Is rated 24 on ESPN’s Legends of Cricket.

• Richards played three ‘Supertests’ for the World XI in World Series Cricket in 1976/77. In the second match, he opened with Hampshire partner and West Indian Gordon Greenidge and scored 207. They put on 234 for the first wicket before Greenidge retired injured. When Richards was out, the score was 369-1 from 60 eight-ball overs.

• He played five Supertests, scoring two hundreds and two fifties in eight innings, averaging almost 80.

• Richards was selected by Donald Bradman in his all-time greatest team.

• He was rated by former Test umpire Dickie Bird as the best batsman he had ever seen.

• Finished his career with 28 358 runs, including 80 centuries and 152 fifties at 54,74.

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