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Great achievements, in all walks of life, tend to be appreciated the most significantly after the event. In cricket, this can be exaggerated even further.
The legacies of the immortal WG Grace, Victor Trumper, Sir Jack Hobbs, Charlie Macartney and Archie McLaren seem to have swelled further over the decades and centuries – at least, in the minds of historically minded cricket followers.
For more contemporarily-thinking spectators, reminisce upon Sachin Tendulkar at Sharjah, Tubby Taylor’s run-less streak (it seems to grow a few more months by each retelling), or even Monkey-gate.
Even for someone like myself, a mug who prides himself on a lack of bias and pure straight-talk, the significance of Matthew Hayden’s 181* at Seddon Park in 2007 has only really hit me the last 12 months. The importance of that series being won 3-0 only hit the day after the event.
Once excitement is succeeded by pragmatism and realism, events take their rightful place on the cricketing shelf – or in some cases, climb a bonus few ladder rungs through sheer awe.
The simply remarkable, fastest-ever one-day international century scored by Corey James Anderson for New Zealand against the West Indies at Queenstown was one of those events.
He blitzed one of the best ODI spin bowlers in the world, namely Sunil Narine, as if he were delivering Joe Root’s nude offies.
36 balls were all the century took, beating the world record by a single delivery.
As I followed the game on Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary from Brisbane, only seeing the innings the following day, the raw excitement of the event didn’t hit me with full force until I saw the reception on social media.
Facebook and Twitter were fuelled by the knock, comparing it to this, that and the other.
It was not until the next day, when hype subsided somewhat, we could really enjoy Anderson’s knock for what it was – a world record, an innings of the club cricketer in excelsis, to recite Cardus’ commendation of John R. Reid in 1949, and the first desirable world record New Zealand has attained since Nathan Astle’s 222 in 2002, and the ten wicket thumping of Australia in February 2007.
But where in cricket’s pantheon does Anderson’s knock sit, now we can analyse it impartially and without the effects of adrenalin?
The immediate comparison is with Shahid Afridi, the previous record holder, so let us make that the purpose of this piece.
As we all know, the previous mark was set by Afridi as a 17-year-old, playing against a very strong Sri Lankan XI, a ton coming off a similarly incredible 37 balls.
The two innings have many similarities in fact – young, unknown all-rounders, playing against supposedly strong bowling teams, on admittedly good batting grounds, setting match-winning totals.
Both appeared out of nowhere, both were playing in meaningless series, neither really had much more than pride sitting on the game – bilateral and trilateral ODI comps are virtually redundant – and both helped set not merely match-winning, but absolutely impenetrable totals.
Afridi came in at number three, playing just his second ODI, scored 102 (out) off 40 balls, and took to Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Dharmasena, no mean feat.
However, his 102 was only a “baby hundred”, potentially overshadowed by the huge 371 made by Pakistan in total. It was 27.49% of Pakistan’s team score, or just over a quarter.
Comparatively, Anderson batted through to be not out (admittedly through a much shorter innings), finished with 131 off 47, and made 46.29% of the team total, or just under a half.
Under the circumstances, Anderson’s is perhaps the most notable of the two, in terms of continuing past the 100 mark, making a big impact on the team score, and playing the role the team required.
So Anderson was impressive – very impressive – with his contribution to his side.
He did what the team required most, and did it to the fullest. One can ask no more of a player than that.
But if that is the qualification for a great innings, then one has to consider one final factor.
One man has been overshadowed by Anderson, but performed to his fullest, did exactly what the team needed, and couldn’t have done it better.
Jesse Ryder and Corey Anderson, we salute you both.