One world record that will never be broken.

It is the most enduring world record in the history of sport. It will never be broken and will be taken to the grave by the select few athletes who were fortunate to have achieved the momentous feat.

The world record was set on a sultry evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, India, just moments after the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Yes, the world record was set after the completion of the officially sanctioned events and was thus shrouded in secrecy…until now.

Beyond the gaze of the crowd and the glare of the TV cameras, and far removed from the world’s media, a special world record performance took place which will remain in the hearts and minds of the small band of heroes who were privileged to have taken part.

The hand-picked athletes snuck out onto the Athletics track before its closure. They heard hastily prepared instructions before assembling into their teams at the top of the 100m track.

No starting blocks. No starters gun. No spikes to be seen and no official race numbers. The covert nature of the record attempt necessitated such measures.

Go!

They were off, 4 finely-tuned athletes leapt from the starting line and strained every sinew to propel themselves at break neck speed down the track. After 25 metres they passed a biro to their team mate and yelled furiously into their ear to Run, Run, Run…and this they did.

One team established a small lead and left the third and fourth place teams in their wake, but a flying second leg charge from team two drew them level by the time the biros were passed into the hands of the third runners at the 50 metre mark.

The team in third then sailed into second with a silky smooth baton change and the third leg runner of the team which had changed in first place appeared to stumble. Was it a fall a hamstring, a calf strain? It appeared to be a simple cramp, and their hopes were dashed.

The remaining three teams continued to battle for supremacy in what was now a tightly-contested race worthy of a world record and eternal glory. A neck and neck tussle had ensued before the final biro change just 25 metres from the finish line.

The small band of onlookers were now cheering themselves hoarse and their cries merged with the shouts from the teammates of the final leg runners. They inched closer and closer to the finish line. Despite the closeness of the race and the monumental efforts of every competitor, only one team could win and claim this auspicious and unbeatable world record.

Two teams now edged stride by stride to the line and barely a whisker separated the two champion athletes striving to etch their names into history forever more.

5 metres, 4, 3, 2, 1 and a final desparate lunge delivered one team to victory just a breath ahead of another team in second and a different team in third.

The victors rejoiced and celebrated in unison, sending their cheers into the night sky and up to the heavens. They had won. They had conquered. They were giants of the sport.

They were heroes.

There’s nothing worse than fourth place at a major championship, and so it was on this sultry night in Delhi.

The 4 x 25 metre relay had been run and won.

What is the world record?

Actually, I have no idea. No one had a stopwatch on the race and even if they had I doubt they could have recorded an accurate finishing time, let alone have it ratified by the IAAF. The event was such a crazy blur of activity that capturing a reliable finishing time was impossible.

The names of the record holders have been lost to history as well, such was the manic energy and sheer delerium which engulfed the participants.

The medal ceremony did take place, as did drug testing. Traces of caffeine were certainly found in the majority of competitors, and traces of alcohol would certainly have been found in the competitors if the testing had taken place a few hours later.

While the finishing time and the names of the athletes passed into the night sky, it is fair in this instance to say that sport was the winner.

Image: Charles Deluvio

A Century in Three Overs.

Sir Don Bradman is famous for many amazing achievements. He is regarded by many as the greatest batsman of all time and finished his career with an average of 99.9 runs.

One of his lesser known, but still impressive achievements, is the century he scored in just 3 overs, off only 22 balls.

Bradman scored the unfathomable century at Blackheath Oval in November 2, 1931. Was it the fresh mountain air, the 1000m altitude or the kookaburras cheering him on from the pine trees surrounding the oval? Who knows, but either way it a was a remarkable innings.

Bradman recorded the following figures on the way to his century:

1st Over 6 6 4 2 4 4 6 1 (33)
2nd Over 6 4 4 6 6 4 6 4 (40)
3rd Over 1 6 6 1 1 4 4 6 (27) & 2 to Wendell-Bill.

It was very kind of Bradman to let his batting partner, Oscar Wendell-Bill, score some runs during the blitz. It’s also surprising that he recorded two singles during the century, and that he was not on strike for the first or fifth ball of the third over.

The world-record innings was not scored while playing in the baggy green. It was reached while representing a Blackheath XI against a Lithgow XI to commemorate the opening of the Blackheath wicket. In total, Bradman made 256 including 14 sixes and 29 fours, despite renowned bowler Bill Black being introduced into the attack.

Not only was the century the fastest in history, it was also witnessed by a crowd so large it is unlikely to have been matched since. The young boys among that crowd had come to see the great man play and were also employed to retrieve the ball from the road, people’s backyards and the pine trees after Bradman had dispatched yet another boundary. The collection of the ball is included in the 18 minutes that it reportedly took for Sir Don to reach his ton.

After the game, Bradman wrote about the innings with the humility that was as famous as his sporting talent, saying,

‘It is important I think to emphasise that the thing was not planned. It happened purely by accident and everyone was surprised at the outcome, none more so than I.’

Obviously Blackheath Oval is relatively small and the boundary fence may not measure the same diameter as the MCG or Lords. Bradman was not facing a rampaging Harold Larwood, nor Dennis Lillee or Sir Richard Hadlee. He was instead battling the bowling attack of the Lithgow XI.

Furthermore, he had a little assistance not available to modern day cricketers. He faced overs of eight balls, so over the space of three overs he had an extra six balls in which to compile the ton. That said, he still reached a hundred within the modern-day 3 overs.

Could it be repeated?

Perhaps it has been, somewhere. Perhaps in a game of grade cricket somewhere in the world.

In first-class cricket, the fastest century belongs to David Hookes. The Australian hit 102 runs off 34 balls while playing for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against Victoria back in 1982. Even in T20 cricket, which was created solely for big hitting and boundaries, the fastest hundred is still slower than Bradman’s Blackheath best. Indian batsman Rohit Sharma scored 100 from 35 balls against Sri Lanka in 2017.

Technically it is possible.

A batter could score 102 runs within 17 balls, then hit a six off the 18th ball just to rub it in to the bowler. It would be a remarkable feat, requiring skill, audacity, timing, power, technique and perfect footwork, all of the traits which distinguished Sir Don Bradman.

This feat, and many other which accompanied Sir Don, does make one ponder…do today’s cricket coaches give kids a golf ball and a cricket stump, and instructions to hit the ball against a water tank for hours on end?

Image: Alessandro Bogliari