Hayden Hits Fastest Ever WC Ton

After South African captain Graeme Smith won the toss and sent Australia in, Hayden set about the most blistering attack on the normally miserly Shaun Pollock. Such was the ferocity of Hayden and Adam Gilchrist’s assault that Australia brought up 50 runs from the first five overs of the innings, while Pollock went for 42 from his first five overs and Makhaya Ntini 35 from his.

Normally, Adam Gilchrist lead the way for Australia with his cavalier stroke play, but although he was hardly slow today in compiling 42 from as many balls, it was Hayden who really shone. His assault on Pollock, normally the least expensive of a combative South African attack was collared for five from his first over, eleven from his second and an astonishing 17 from his third as Hayden turned back the clock. In the recent series in Australia it was said that Hayden sometimes tried to force the issue too hard in ODIs rather than let the ball come to him, but today it was the Hayden of 2001 – waiting for the ball to come to him, and dispatching it to all points of the small and lightning fast Basseterre ground in St Kitts. Seeing Hayden stand tall and well balanced when depositing a bowler of Pollock’s class over long on twice in one over was to garner an appreciation for the sheer power of the modern batsman – strong, fit, with a bat as broad and thick as an oak tree, striking the ball to small boundaries over slippery outfields as some of the world’s best bowlers and fielders are taken out of the game by a combination of batsman-friendly conditions and bat technology.

When Smith was forced to replace Ntini and Pollock with Hall and Langeveldt, the run rate slowed somewhat, but by the time Gilchrist was caught by Gibbs at backward point from Langeveldt, Australia were still 106 for one from 14.4 overs. Hayden, however, took out any grief at the loss of his partner on the South Africans and, with one ball left to pass the record of Canada’s John Davidson for the fastest ever World Cup ton, Hayden straight drove Smith for six to complete his hundred from 66 balls. When caught by Gibbs from a clever slower ball from Jacques Kallis for 101, Hayden had struck 14 fours and four sixes from 68 balls.

Whilst Hayden’s innings was Boys Own stuff, it again reinforces the need for the game’s administrators to take some steps to re-dress the lopsided nature of contemporary cricket. With bats now thicker yet lighter than ever before, boundaries short, outfields like polished glass and the bowlers forced to change the ball as it gets softer and discolours, it is apparent that one day cricket has become too lopsided in favour of batsmen. A close up of Hayden’s bat was met by a comment from South African legend Barry Richards that he could have a sponsor’s advertisement on its edges and commentators in the stands could still see it easily. Sadly for the game, Richards is right. And bats like Hayden’s are the rule rather than the exception. Unless something is done soon, the one day game will be so one-sided that the stocks of world bowling ranks will continue to thin as young potential stars see only futility in the leather-flinging caper.

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