Viv Richards during his record-breaking 189

Viv Richards: six-hitting as mental disintegration

© PA Photos
20

High Fives

Five of six

Massive, huge, monstrous - and did we mention really massive? Here's a handful of the biggest hits you've ever seen

Rob Smyth |

Viv Richards off David Lawrence, Trent Bridge, July 1991
Nobody will ever hit sixes like Sir Vivian Richards. Nobody will ever clear the boundary with such relative frequency - or with the same awesome combination of serenity, power, ease and disdain. He turned it into an art form. There were bigger and better sixes, not least in the 1979 World Cup final, but Richards' straight six off David Lawrence captured one of his greatest qualities - the ability to turn bowlers into Sisyphus.

Lawrence had one of the more vigorous fast-bowling actions; journalists were contractually obliged to describe him as "bustling". He gave a little piece of his soul to every delivery. All that effort instantly rendered worthless by one effortless swing of the bat. The ball was halfway to Derby before Lawrence had even finished his follow-through.

Richards used the six as an expression of undeniable superiority. They were worth a lot more than six runs, because of the impact they had on the bowler. During his legendary unbeaten 189 in an ODI against England, Richards flicked Ian Botham for six. Botham waved his hands around, overwhelmed by futility, and looked this close to shouting "It's not fair."

Richards was a fast batsman - not just in the speed he scored and the speed of his hands, but the way he reversed the relationship between quick bowler and batsman, hunter and hunted: mental disintegration achieved without saying a single word.

Moin Khan off Chris Harris, Auckland, March 1992
Every kid at school had a grainy VHS to watch on loop when nobody was around. It's just that the less, erm, pubescent were more interested in the joy of six - in my case, highlights of the 1992 World Cup semi-finals, the first cricket I ever recorded for posterity. Two things stayed in the mind. The England fan who went through the entire range of human emotions in a few minutes at the end of the second semi-final - even though a ball wasn't bowled in that time.

The other was Moin Khan's audacious six to put Pakistan on the brink of their first World Cup final. Pakistan needed nine from eight balls - pretty tricky back then - when he swiped Chris Harris over long-off for six. It's the kind of shot that lodges itself in the mind's eye, and especially the mind's ear: I can recite Bill Lawry's commentary without thinking. The next ball was pulled for four, and a game that looked set to go to the last ball didn't even go to the last over. The non-striker, Javed Miandad - who knows all about hitting timely sixes - celebrated so joyously that he looked like he was trying to fly.

As well as further fuel for a burgeoning love affair with Pakistan, which started when I "watched" a teenage Waqar Younis destroy New Zealand on Teletext, the six was a classic example of one of the most fascinating parts of any major tournament - the exquisitely cruel moment when the hosts, hitherto so innocent and hopeful, have a knife plunged into their heart. One New Zealand fan was so dumbstruck that he didn't move for seconds, as if somebody had paused him, and you can hear the gasps and shrieks as Moin's six goes the distance. Especially when you're watching it for the 400th time.

Heals: by the power of Bryan Adams

Heals: by the power of Bryan Adams © Getty Images

Ian Healy off Hansie Cronje, Port Elizabeth, March 1997
Who needs self-help books when so many of the great Australian sides of the 1990s and 2000s have released autobiographies? I devoured them, even the ones that made War and Peace look like a short story, expecting profound insight into mental strength and personal development from these flinty-eyed Paul McKennas. Turns out they all have the same fragilities as us; they just hide them a lot better. Ian Healy once said that Australia were the masters of bluff. His wonderful book Hands and Heals confirms he was speaking from experience.

Healy strutted like a man immune to self-doubt. His six to win the glorious Port Elizabeth Test and give Australia the first of many series victories over post-isolation South Africa is a perfect example of Healy and Australia ignoring pressure. In fact, Australia were having a fraught tour, with the captain Mark Taylor's desperate batting form the most significant of a number of problems. During the run chase, Healy was "very, very nervous", with "legs like jelly" when he came to the wicket. He became distracted by a group of noisy schoolchildren, and started singing Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" to clear his mind. With five needed, Australia lost their eighth wicket, and South Africa were one away from Glenn McGrath. Jason Gillespie played out the over and then Healy lofted Hansie Cronje's third ball high over square leg for six. He was only the second Australian, after Alan Turner, to win a Test with a six.

It was one of the moments of his career, not least because his missed stumping chance had cost Australia in a similarly epic match in Karachi two and a half years earlier. Amid the celebrations, Steve Waugh shouted in his face: "Karachi's gone, mate!" What nobody knew was that it was an accidental knockout punch to win cricket's heavyweight championship. Healy had only been aiming to hit a four, but he went through with the shot and connected so sweetly that it sailed over the rope.

John Davison off Jacob Oram, Benoni, March 2003
For a six to stay in the memory, a batsman doesn't just need to find the sweet spot of the bat - he needs to find your sweet spot too. A six can become yours for all kinds of reasons - from its trajectory, to the batsman, to how much coffee you had that morning. John Davison's barbaric blow against New Zealand at the 2003 World Cup comes into that category.

There is so much to love about it. It was the third six in Jacob Oram's over; it made the most beautiful noise off the bat; it was scored by a man who played for Canada, who had already, against West Indies, hammered the World Cup's fastest century; it went so high it probably appeared as a UFO on air traffic control displays.

The best thing of all might be the gunslinger's response, a studied walk down the wicket as if to say, "Yeah, no biggie." He was right: it wasn't a biggie. It was monstrous.

Make mine a 12: Andrew Flintoff tees off at Edgbaston

Make mine a 12: Andrew Flintoff tees off at Edgbaston © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff off Brett Lee, Edgbaston, August 2005
The size of sixes in the modern game has us reaching for our internal thesaurus, or making up our own words: monstrous, huge, mahoosive, thunderbastard. To some, such sixes will always simply be "massive" - the subconscious result of Andrew Flintoff's massive attack on Brett Lee during the 2005 Ashes.

It was an extraordinary shot, a bottom-handed bunt back over long-on. But like so many great scenes, what elevates it further is the dialogue: Geoff Boycott's background cackle and particularly Mark Nicholas' infectious commentary: "Oh, helloooooo! Massive! MASSIVE!" It was my generation's confectionery stall.

There had already been moments of fantasy and hyper-cricket in the series, but this was off the scale. It wasn't apparent at the time - England were still in danger of going 2-0 down - but this was the moment the 2005 Ashes lost its return ticket to the real world. That Flintoff six is a microcosm of the greatest cricket England fans will ever see and will ever want to see. It is instant serotonin, something that should be bookmarked for a bad day. If I could take a single six with me to the next world, this would be the one.

Rob Smyth is the author of Gentlemen and Sledgers: A History of the Ashes in 100 Quotations

 

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  • POSTED BY grant on | August 26, 2016, 9:55 GMT

    I saw a match in the 90's where flintoff against the SA A side on the newlands ground hit the ball on top of the players pavillion. Its 6 stories high. it hit the roof. Thats the biggest I saw live.

  • POSTED BY Sreejith on | August 26, 2016, 6:10 GMT

    I haven't seen a more beautiful six than Tendulkar flaying Toom Moody in Sharjah, 1998. It was a gorgeous shot, a perfect culmination of footwork, bat swing, the ball hitting the sweet spot and, of course, the iconic commentary that followed - "The little man has hit the big fellow for six. They are dancing in the aisles in Sharjah" by you know, who.

  • POSTED BY Michael Jones on | August 25, 2016, 22:58 GMT

    The tagline is hyperbole: the article would be more accurately titled "five sixes which the author happens to remember well". As he points out, the same adjectives are applied to many sixes in the modern game, and are thus meaningless in trying to compare them. It's noticeable that not a single exact measurement is mentioned: not a scrap of proof that any of the hits listed was any bigger than others which don't appear. Charles Davis recently wrote an article for this very site attempting to establish, from the little concrete data available, the longest distance which can actually be verified, and while Mr Smyth's reminiscences may make interesting reading as reports of the matches in question, they add nothing to any attempt to establish which hit was the longest.

  • POSTED BY Yatin on | August 25, 2016, 15:23 GMT

    Kim Hughes Six of Chris Old! It was one of the biggest ever seen. Yuvraj Singh's 124 m in 2007 T20 World cup. Nathan Astle's assault on Andrew Caddick in Christchurch's Jade Stadium. Viv Richards Six of Mike Hendrik in 1979 World Cup Final of last ball of innings Tendulkar's Sixes against Shoaib Akhtar and Caddick in 2003 World Cup. and Very little known - Atul Bedade's 4 sixes against Pakistan @ Sharjah

  • POSTED BY J on | August 25, 2016, 8:16 GMT

    Good article, but my non bias choice would be a couple of Nathan Astle's monsters off Andy Caddick during Englands 2002 tour to New Zealand on his way to the fastest double hundred. Go on youtube, find the highlights, put the volume on high, and listen to the sound of new ball on willow, like the crack of a sonic boom reverberating around the ground.......a cricket ball has never been hit so sweetly.

  • POSTED BY ramsrd on | August 25, 2016, 0:20 GMT

    @ siddiqimali on - Unfortuantely VS Pak in Sharjah, yes, but irony is now when Pak see India, Pak turns around and runs the other way. Ganguly's sixes in Sharjah were massive, Tony Greig's commentry was gold, Sachin's six against Andrew Caddick in '03 WC was huge, they ran out of measuring tape.

  • POSTED BY DAVID on | August 24, 2016, 17:14 GMT

    Can't resist speaking up for some batsmen whose once-famous massive hits are now all but forgotten: Ted Dexter (off Tom Veivers at the MCG); Alan Davidson (off Colin Cowdrey - a leg-spinner in his youth - at the SCG); Garry Sobers (off fast bowler Ian Meckiff at the SCG); and numerous colossal hits by the giant George Bonnor and by that ball of muscle Gilbert Jessop. Joe Darling was the first to hit a ball out of the ground (Adelaide) to register Test cricket's first six. And the ultimate dead-batter, Trevor Bailey, once emerged from his characteristic coma to hit a six at the Gabba to win £100. And the boundary fences were the actual boundaries in those days - the extremity of the playing area, not a rope 20 yards in, allowing fours and sixes from weak dabs by unprecedentedly powerful chunks of willow.

  • POSTED BY Aravind on | August 24, 2016, 15:32 GMT

    My best Six Sixes Miandad Six of chetan Sharma ,And there is no Doubt about it MSD monstrous hit of Clint McKay Rajesh Chauhan Six off Saqlain Mustaq i dont exactly remember , Brett Lee last ball Six of Agarkar(please correct me) Ridley jacobs last ball Six and of course Moin Khan Semifinal game turner

  • POSTED BY Matthew on | August 24, 2016, 14:18 GMT

    another great thing about Flintoff's six - wasn't it dropped by one of his family members in the crowd?

  • POSTED BY Sandeep on | August 24, 2016, 13:01 GMT

    No mention of the iconic Miandad hit, or the Tendy upper cut to Shoaib in WC 2003,, or MSD's umpteen blows home and away in crunch situations. Or Yuvraj disintegrating Broad in the first ever T20 world cup. Or Afridi/Razzaq clubbing the ball miles like only they can? None of these merit mention? Very odd selection.

  • POSTED BY Venkatasubramanian on | August 24, 2016, 11:17 GMT

    MSD's tee-off in Adelaide 112m six of Clint Mckay - amazing as it came under tremendous pressure - 15 required to win of the last over and MS finishes it in usual style. The next best thing was the fantastic commentary by Michael Slater, mark Taylor and the (late / great) Tony Graig

  • POSTED BY pathum2487617 on | August 24, 2016, 10:57 GMT

    @AADITYA24 Does Carlos Brathwaite ring any bells?

  • POSTED BY mike.t6237685 on | August 24, 2016, 10:23 GMT

    For many kiwis, it will still be the one handed six at the MCG by Lance Cairns

  • POSTED BY SueRidge on | August 24, 2016, 4:52 GMT

    Surely Simon O'Donnell's six off Malcolm Marshall at the MCG should be mentioned here. When they re-developed the Southern Stand, the MCC commemorated the hit by changing the colour of the 1 seat where the ball landed up on the 3rd tier.

  • POSTED BY Aaditya on | August 24, 2016, 4:51 GMT

    MSD six to win the World cup??You guys still havent seen the Dhoni's biopic trailer?? No world cup in any sport was won with a better finish than 2011 MSD.

  • POSTED BY Faisal on | August 24, 2016, 4:25 GMT

    The biggest of sixes I have ever seen was Shahid Afridi's 158-meters-long six off the bowling of N. McLarren of South Africa in an ODI. The six was so humongous that it sailed over the ground and reached a golf course across the street next to the ground.

  • POSTED BY Muhammad Ali on | August 24, 2016, 3:33 GMT

    Miandad's six of poor Chetan Sharma off the last ball to seal a memorable Australasia cup victory is one of the most influential six ever to be hit. After that, Indian team was so depressed that Pakistan just needed to turn up to win against them. It was the first time that Pakistan had won a tournament and inflicted self belief in Pakistan team that they can win tournaments. That effect was ended with a six of Tendulkar against Shoaib Akhtar in 2003 World Cup. Also, a monstrous six hit by Asif Mujtaba off the last ball of the match against Australia in 1993 World Series in Australia is worth mentioning as Pakistan managed to tie the match.

  • POSTED BY Mohamed on | August 24, 2016, 3:16 GMT

    Best sixes- 1st ball of that over from hapless Broad in T20 world cup, 2nd best - 2nd ball, 3rd - ball no:3, 4th - ball no:4,5th- penultimate ball, & 6th - final ball!!

  • POSTED BY Venkatesh Venkatesh on | August 24, 2016, 2:37 GMT

    Hooper sixer in a test match during 1995 series against Australia led Mark Taylor in West Indies landed outside the ground & smashed Wind screen of the car

  • POSTED BY Sunmeet on | August 15, 2016, 18:33 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar's six of Shoiba Akhtar in the WC 2003 set the tone for the match. Shoaib Akhtar never really looked the same after that six in that match!