Davison writes himself into the record book

A Canadian off-spinner who normally bats at number nine and who has never scored a century smashed the fastest 100 in World Cup history this weekend.

John Davison stole the West Indies’ show on Sunday by ruining most of the opening bowlers’ figures. He hit his century off only 67 deliveries, knocking Kapil Dev off the throne as the world cup’s top power hitter.

Yet his innings wasn’t enough, as the West Indies replied with an equally devastating innings, scoring Canada’s total of 202 in just 21 overs.

But Davison’s knock was good enough to write his name into the record books.
Before yesterday India’s legendary Dev had held the record for the fastest World Cup century. Dev hit his 100 off 72 balls in 1983.

Davison’s storming 111 off 76 balls accounted for more than half of Canada’s 202 total. He struck eight fours and six sixes in his exhilarating knock. His innings ranks as the fifth fastest of all one-day centuries, tied with Pakistan’s Basit Ali. He easily exceeded his highest senior level score of 72.

The lanky off-spinner got his 50 off just 30 deliveries, then 37 deliveries later he smashed a six of Mervyn Dillon to reach his maiden first-class 100.

“I didn’t have plan in mind. I just went out and did my best and it turned out to be my day,” he said. “Once I hit the middle of the bat a few times I worked out it was a pretty good wicket, so I chanced my arm a bit.”

Davison says he only thought about how thin the air is in Pretoria while he was batting. “I thought how far it made the ball travel,” he said.

It certainly was Davison’s day. He was dropped twice. Then the ball careened off the bat and pads before rolling on to the stumps without dislodging the bails. A brilliant catch from Vasbert Drakes in the deep eventually dismissed the Canadian. By then Canada had chalked up more than 150 runs from just 22 overs.

“I was just disappointed that the rest of the batting couldn’t carry it through,” Davison said. Canada was eventually dismissed for 202; the next highest scorer contributed only 19.

The Canadian spinner has scored only one other century and that was at school. Davison says his promotion up the order made the knock possible. “I haven’t had an opportunity like this before. I normally bat down at number nine for South Australia,” he said.

“I’ve played 37 first-class matches, but have had trouble breaking into South Australia’s one-day team,” he said. “I’ve played for the second XI, though. Maybe this will help me get into the first team.”

He didn’t know he had scored the fastest century in World Cup cricket. “I saw it coming up on the scoreboard and I got a chill down my spine,” Davison said.

He was born in Canada, while his Australian parents were on a teaching exchange programme. They returned to Australia when Davison was only five weeks old. There he took up cricket at an early age and in 1993 attended the academy where players such as Ricky Ponting and Glen McGrath learnt their craft.

But Australia is a strong cricketing nation and players struggle to break into the national side. “I knew that I had to explore other options if I ever wanted to play international cricket,” the Canadian spinner said.

At 19 Davison realised he might have a crack at playing international cricket for Canada. He sent a letter to the Canadian cricket board, but received no response for years. Then Canada contacted him. “Some official must have browsed through our cricket website in Australia and found that I was born in Canada,” he grinned.

Davison was only too glad to oblige. “I’ll still be able to wear the baggy green for Australia, though I’m playing for Canada, because Canada is not a test-playing nation,” he said.

He made his debut for Canada two years ago when the team finished third at the 1999 ICC Trophy to qualify for the World Cup. Davison has been playing in the Canadian league for the past three years, when he is not playing for South Australia.

He is a professional who earns his income from cricket - “that is if you forget my job at the winery,” he said with a smile.

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