Rohit Sharma’s incredible 264 in the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka this week smashed Virender Sehwag’s three-year record for the highest individual score in ODI cricket.
In light of Sharma’s blitzkrieg, I’ve sifted through the archives to produce my list of the 10 best innings in the history of limited-overs internationals.
10) Sanath Jayasuriya 189 v India in Sharjah, 2000
Sharjah was the scene for the 2000 Coca-Cola Champions Trophy Final between Sri Lanka and India and it was the dimunitive Sanath Jayasuriya who stole the show.
Anchoring the innings for the majority, the left-hander led his side into a commanding position, setting the base for an explosive finish. What followed was devasating. After reaching three figures in 118 balls Jayasuriya proceeded to flay the ball to all parts. His next 89 came off just 43 deliveries, including 11 fours and three sixes before being stumped off the bowling of Sourav Ganguly with 11 balls remaining. The late Tony Greig lamented on how he “could have made the highest score ever”, and indeed in hindsight perhaps Jayasuriya should have become the first man to reach an ODI double-century.
Sri Lanka notched up a daunting 299 in their 50 overs, before skittling the Indians for a paltry 54, scoring a 245-run victory, a record margin at the time.
9) Herschelle Gibbs 175 v Australia in Johannesburg, 2006
The 438-game. Eight years on it’s still hard to believe this match really happened. A total of 872 runs in 100 overs, 26 sixes, and sheer cricketing pornography.
The fifth and decisive ODI between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers in Johannesburg was a game ahead of its time – we still haven’t reached that time yet. Courtesy of a Ricky Ponting 164, the Aussies chalked up a world record 434-4 in their 50 overs. A record that was to stand for all of about four hours.
In pursuit of the mammoth target, the Proteas had no option but to attack, attack, and then attack some more. Herschelle Gibbs was up to the task. Coming to the crease at 3-1, Gibbs blazed 175 off 111 balls, to slingshot his side into a strong position. By the time he was dismissed, 21 boundaries and seven sixes better off, the South Africans had managed 299-4 in just 32 overs. Had Gibbs batted through, he would have probably made 250.
South Africa won the game, and the series with a ball to spare, Mark Boucher shepherding the side home with one wicket in hand. It was Gibbs’ effort though, who was key in making the seemingly impossible, happen.
8) MS Dhoni 91* v Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup Final
Twenty-eight years after their maiden triumph, a Mumbai crowd were more demanding than expectant as India looked to reclaim their World Cup crown on home turf.
Dreams of a 100th international hundred for Sachin Tendulkar, at home, and in the final, were soon dashed and after Virat Kohli was dismissed for 35, the Sri Lankans had a foothold at 114-3, defending 274. Out strolled Mahendra Singh Dhoni, promoting himself up the order, India were going to win this game and the captain was leaving nothing to chance.
Soaking up the pressure in the cauldron of the Wankhede Stadium, Dhoni guided India, aided by Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, steadily towards the target. With victory all but assured, he decided the game was to end in trademark MSD fashion. The six clubbed over long-on to bring India their second world title, is etched forever into the memory of every Indian sports fan. A sporting fairytale.
7) Adam Gilchrist 149 v Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup Final
Rain reduced the 2007 World Cup Final to 38 overs a side, making it even more essential for the team batting first to set an imposing total.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat and it was Adam Gilchrist who came to the party in Barbados. Taking the Sri Lankan attack to the sword, the wicket-keeper slashed the bowlers around the ground, wreaking havoc as he chalked up 149 runs in just 104 deliveries. An innings that included 13 fours and eight sixes led the Australians to a huge 281-4 from their 38 overs. Controversy was rife however after it transpired Gilchrist had wedged a squash ball into his glove, something he made reference to whilst celebrating his century. The MCC were quick to quash any murmurs of rule-breaking.
Sadly, the end scenes of the final were slightly farcical. Forced to complete their innings in near-darkness, Sri Lanka fell 53 runs short on the Duckworth/Lewis method. That didn’t bother Australia, whose dominance brought them a third-consecutive World Cup triumph.
6) Kapil Dev 175* v Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup
When Kapil Dev strode to the crease with India 9-4 – which soon became 17-5 – his side were in deep trouble. The unfancied Zimbabweans were running riot and the Tunbridge Wells crowd may have expected to have been home by mid-afternoon.
Kapil had other ideas. With the support of the lower order, most notably wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani, the captain began to hoist his team to a defendable total. Brutalising the Zimbabwe attack, he crunched a record 175* consisting of sixteen fours and six maximums. Kapil and Kirmani put on an unbeaten 126 for the ninth-wicket, as India compiled a strong 266 off their 60 overs.
India went on to win the game by 31 runs and Kapil’s heroics lit the spark for the rest of their World Cup campaign. Stunning two-time champions West Indies in the final, India managed to defend a meek 183 at Lord’s to be crowned world champions for the first time.
5) Saeed Anwar 194 v India in Chennai, 1997
On a swelteringly hot day in Chennai, India and Pakistan took to the field for a group match in the 1997 Independence Cup.
As always in an India-Pakistan contest, tensions were heightened and it was the exquisite left-hander Saeed Anwar who rose to the occasion. An innings contrasting with timing and brute force, Anwar cut, pulled, and drove, on his way to breaking Viv Richards’ 13-year record for the highest individual score in ODIs. A knock of 22 fours and five sixes, he looked set to become the first man to become the first double-centurion in ODI cricket, but was dismissed by Tendulkar six runs short.
The Pakistani carried his side to a strong 327, of which Anwar made 194 – nobody else surpassed 39. In reply, Rahul Dravid hit a composed century, but the target proved too much, as Pakistan claimed victory by 35 runs.
4) Sachin Tendulkar 98 v Pakistan in 2003 World Cup
If ever an ODI innings deserved a century it was this one. The match date was set in stone over a year in advance, and amidst growing political tensions between India and Pakistan, anticipation was huge for this blockbuster at Centurion.
Pakistan had set a total of 273, a formidable one considering their bowling trio of Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, and Waqar Younis. India needed a fast start, and Sachin Tendulkar was intent on giving them one. A cover drive for four in the opening over was just the beginning. Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, took fire at Tendulkar in the second over. The response was magical. First came a swishing upper-cut for six, followed by a beautiful flick off the pads, before a gorgeous straight drive to complete the sequence. One of the most memorable passages of play in ODI history.
The Little Master continued to feast on the Pakistani attack, in an exhibition of power and placement. The whirlwind lasted for 75 deliveries, before Tendulkar was caught by Younis Khan off the bowling of Akhtar for 98. From thereon, Dravid and Yuvraj guided India to victory, as they maintained their 100% record over Pakistan in World Cup cricket.
3) Rohit Sharma 264 v Sri Lanka in Kolkata, 2014
On his return to the Indian team Rohit Sharma would have been keen to make an impact against Sri Lanka in Kolkata, and my, did he do just that.
Dropped at third-man on just four, Rohit ensured the mistake was to be one of the costliest in the history of the game. Calmly reaching his first 50 in 72 balls, what followed was a blitzkrieg seen previously only in video games. The next 101 deliveries brought with them 214 runs as Rohit sent the Eden Gardens crowd into a frenzy, with a tumultuous 33 boundaries and nine maximums.
Cracking the ball to all corners, the opener sailed past his previous high score of 209 versus Australia in Bangalore last year, to become the first man to score two double-hundreds in the history of ODI cricket. Sehwag’s 219 was next to fall as he continued crucified admittedly poor bowling, on his way to a scarcely believable total. Dismissed off of the final delivery of the innings, the only record still standing after the assault was Ali Brown’s 268 made in a limited-overs match for Surrey, 12 years ago. I doubt Rohit minded too much.
2) Viv Richards 189* v England at Old Trafford, 1984
The flambuoyant West Indian, Viv Richards, had built a reputation for being the best player in the world at limited-overs cricket. This innings encapsulated that greatness, as he tore into England’s bowlers, whilst guiding his team towards a solid total.
Played in the days where ODIs were 55 overs per side, Richards came to the crease with the West Indies in a spot of bother at 11-2. Typically he stood firm, but woes at the other end continued, and he soon found himself running out of partners. When Malcolm Marshall was run-out for four, the West Indies were in dire straits at 102-7. Richards blazed on, supported ably by Eldine Baptiste, but after he was caught behind for 26, followed soon after by Joel Garner, the innings was all but over at 166-9.
Michael Holding grit his teeth, giving Richards as much strike as possible, in order to inflict maximum damage. He didn’t disappoint. Pumelling the ball everywhere, Richards went on to post 189* – with 21 fours and five sixes – as the West Indies made 272-9. The unbeaten 10th-wicket partnership of 106 is a record that still stands 30 years later.
England, shell-shocked from Richards’ masterclass, crumbled in their chase, bowled out for just 168. Still not content, Richards picked up two wickets and snaffled a catch. Not bad for a day’s work.
1) Sachin Tendulkar 200* v South Africa in Gwalior, 2010
The best player of his generation, and undoubtedly ever in ODI cricket, it was probably written that Tendulkar would be the first man to mount the 200-run ODI Everest. A feat that had tormented and teased fans, as much as avid statisticians.
A predictably hot day in Gwalior, a flat track and a smallish ground were suitable conditions for something special. It was to be more perfect than special, however. A chanceless knock against arguably the best bowling attack in the world, South Africa. Tendulkar struck the ball with grace, and purpose, dissecting the field as he began piling up the runs. Upon reaching his first 100 in just 28 overs, whispers of the double were beginning to circulate, he had a chance.
The full array of shots were on display as Tendulkar pressed on. Around 10 overs later, a flick through mid-wicket took him past 150, Indian hearts were beating somewhat faster by now. Fitness levels were questioned, and duly answered as a well sprinted second run snuffed out hopes of a run-out. There was a sense it was going to happen, but it didn’t quell the tension.
Still the slaughter continued, fours and sixes aplenty as Tendulkar edged closer to the milestone, first past his previous best of 186*, then surmounting Anwar and Charles Coventry’s 194 for the highest individual ODI innings. Visibly beginning to tire, Dhoni took up boundary hitting responsibility, leaving Tendulkar to pick off the occasional single.
The third ball of the 50th over marked the moment. On 199 only a single was required, and over a billion hearts were in mouth as Charl Langeveldt ran in. Tendulkar nudged the ball to point, trotted through for the single, and sent a crowd, and a nation into delirium. The Master had done it. An innings of a lifetime, from the greatest of them all.