Records are made to be broken, and it is interesting to see how the mark for the quickest hundred in the World Cup has been bettered with the passage of time. Wickets have got flatter, bats have got fatter, rules have been altered, batsmen have devised new strokes, and attitudes have changed.
Conditions were perfect at the 2007 World Cup, with a flat batting track and short boundaries. Matthew Hayden was not one to miss out, and he launched a blitzkrieg right from the start. He bludgeoned the South African bowlers, racing to the fastest century in the World Cup off a mere 66 deliveries, one less than Canada’s John Davison in 2003.
Hayden lofted Graeme Smith for a straight six in the 23rd over to claim the coveted record. Australia went on to post their highest World Cup total of 377 for six.
Adam Gilchrist was in an equally belligerent mood, and the duo motored along at 7 runs per over. They posted a century stand before Gilchrist was dismissed for a run-a-ball 42. The partnership was worth 106 in 14.5 overs.
Ricky Ponting kept up the momentum as Hayden went on the rampage, putting on 61 off 51 deliveries.
Hayden straight-drove the first ball he received to the boundary off Shaun Pollock. He lost the strike for a while but made up for it as Pollock came on to bowl the fifth over. He square-cut the first ball fiercely to the boundary, then danced down the wicket to the third and smote it over mid-wicket for a six. The next delivery was pitched up on the off stump and Hayden slammed it high over long-on for another six.
It took Hayden just 37 balls to bring up his fifty as he drove Andrew Hall to the long-off boundary. In Hall’s next over he glanced one to the fine-leg boundary and blasted the next over long-off for a six.
Hayden then rocketed 3 fours in a Charl Langeveldt over. He was on 94 off 65 balls as Smith floated in his off-spinner. Hayden smashed it over the bowler’s head and beyond the ropes to take the record away from Davison.
In the next over bowled by Jacques Kallis, Hayden cut one straight into the hands of Herschelle Gibbs. He had sent the crowd into raptures with his 101 off 68 deliveries, having hit 14 fours and 4 sixes. It was one of the most fierce displays of power hitting ever seen, and left the Proteas shell-shocked.
Ponting and Michael Clarke then posted a mammoth 161-run partnership in 130 balls, both scoring quickfire 90s. Ponting got a-run-a-ball 91 with 8 fours and 2 sixes, bringing up his 10,000 runs in one-day internationals. Clarke was even more belligerent, hitting 92 off 75 deliveries, including 7 fours and 4 sixes.
Smith and AB de Villiers raised a 160-run opening stand for South Africa in a matter of 21 overs. De Villiers hit up 92 in 70 deliveries with 14 fours and 2 sixes. Kallis too joined the party.
But as the wickets began to fall, with chinaman bowler Brad Hogg inflicting the most damage, South Africa hurtled downhill and were beaten by 83 runs.
Despite the big hitting by the other batsmen, everything paled in comparison to Hayden’s awesome knock. Clive Lloyd’s record of the fastest World Cup hundred off 82 balls in the 1975 final stood for 28 years until it was shot down by a long way by the rampaging willow of Davison in 2003. In the 2007 tournament as many as three batsmen - Hayden, Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag scored quicker hundreds than the former West Indies skipper, and one, Brad Hodge, equalled him.
This was indeed a sign of the times and an indication of how dramatically the game had changed over the years.
Australia 377 for 6 wickets (50 overs), South Africa 294 all out (48 overs) (CWC 2007)