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The Barry Richards story: From impressing Compton to World Series Cricket

Barry Richards
by Crispin Andrews 6 minute read

In 2015 Barry Richards, the great, vast, unfulfilled South African titan, revisited the moments that made him in a chat with Crispin Andrews.

First published in 2015

Done like a flipper

30-odd | South African Schools v MCC, 1963

I’d got to 30-odd, hit Richie Benaud for a couple of fours, and was feeling quite pleased with myself. One went through the covers. Not bad for a 16-year-old. Benaud was famous. Then he bowls what looks like a short one, I go back to pull it through mid-wicket, it slides on quicker and castles me. I’d never seen a flipper before. Taught me that not all bowlers were stupid. That they made plans just like batsmen.

In front of Compton

South African Schools v Western Province, January 1963

Only one other person had ever done it before. And we won, beat the full Western Province team by three wickets. Gave me a bit of notoriety as a schoolboy. Denis Compton saw the game and was very complimentary about my batting. Said these are the kids that will play Test cricket. Mike Procter, Hylton Ackerman and Lee Irvine were in that schools team too.

Flowerpot man

South African XI v Australia, December 1966

I scored my maiden first-class hundred against Bobby Simpson’s Australian tourists. It was just before the first Test, but I didn’t get selected. During that game, the team was invited to a local nightclub, but I wasn’t allowed in. Not wearing a tie. I kicked out angrily at a flowerpot, which wasn’t quite as heavy as I thought it’d be. The pot ended up in the swimming pool. There was soil everywhere. The club manager phoned the team manager. I was demoted to No.8 for the second innings and didn’t make the Test team. Back then it was all about discipline.

Convincing the hardheads

70 | Hampshire v Yorkshire, Southampton, May 1968

Not long after signing with Hampshire, I made 70 out of 122 on a very difficult pitch. Boycott, Illingworth, Close, Trueman were all playing. Guys who’d been around for a long time, come up the hard way and were very tough judges on new young players. You had to earn their respect. I wasn’t used to green tops, coming from South Africa where pitches are generally hard and true. You would, though, occasionally come across under-prepared schools wickets. You couldn’t play with as much freedom but you had to take every opportunity to score.

Stuffing the Aussies

South Africa v Australia Test series, 1969/70

There was an excuse that Australia had come to South Africa straight from a long tour in India, so were tired and below their best. There might have been some truth in that, but they’d won in India, so they’d have been on a high, too. We won 4-0. I averaged 72, and scored my first Test hundred in my second match, in the first over after lunch on the first day. South African domestic cricket was so strong in the late Sixties that there wasn’t too much of a step-up in standard playing in Tests.


England tour cancelled, 1970

I was playing for Hampshire at the start of the season and you could see it coming. Anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain had made it clear that he would interrupt the games. If the tour went ahead, Hain said that his people would walk in front of the sightscreens, run on to the field from the stands and grab the ball and throw it out of the stadium, even disrupt our travel between games. The Rest of the World games that replaced the Test series were some consolation. It was great playing alongside Sobers, Clive Lloyd and all those other guys, but it wasn’t Test cricket. Our team wasn’t out there. It wasn’t the same.

Triple in a day

356 | Western Australia v South Australia, November 1970

The first ball from Graham McKenzie bounced and moved away, I played and missed, someone said something from behind the stumps. That was the only ball that did anything all day. I don’t remember missing another in my five-and-a-half hour stay. It took a dodgy decision from the umpire to get me out for 356, the next day. Leg-spinner Tony Mann drifted one down the leg-side, I went to turn it off the face, it hit me on the pad and the umpire gave me out. I wasn’t usually a ‘big score’ man. I’d get myself in and then amuse myself. My conversion rate from 50 to 100 wasn’t very good. That day, though, I just batted on and on.


Hampshire take the County Championship, 1973

We hadn’t won it for 12 years, and only once ever in the club’s history. What stood out for me, though, wasn’t my batting – everyone did their bit with the bat – but our fielding. We caught everything that year. Me and Gordon Greenidge in the slips; but also in the outfield. The fielders gave the bowlers so much support.

Damp days in Derby

County cricket in the late Seventies

After 10 years of county cricket I’d had enough. There were guys, grinders I called them, who could go out and play every day, with no chance of being selected for Test cricket, and still motivate themselves to perform. I wasn’t a very good grinder. You’d be playing in Derby in front of two people, it’d be raining and you’d think, ‘Why am I here?’

Stuffing the Aussies – Part II

101* | World Series Cricket Super Test Final, Rest of the World v Australia, February 1979

It was a low-scoring game. We needed 224 to win and I was there at the end, 101 not out, with Imran Khan. We won by five wickets. It was a fighting innings, not as fluent as others I scored, but in the circumstances it was an important one.

Belated fulfillment

World Series Cricket 1977-79

Everyone who played in World Series Cricket will tell you it was the toughest, most competitive cricket they ever experienced. Before the first season, Kerry Packer sat all the players down and made it perfectly clear there was no room for complacency. He knew that his new brand of cricket had to look good on TV, and told us that anyone who under-performed or didn’t give it their all, would be sacked on the spot.

Kerry was there during all the big games, sniffing around, and you knew that you couldn’t afford to relax. I had the added motivation of wanting to prove myself at this level, after all those years away from Test cricket. To prove that us South Africans were still competitive.

My one disappointment is that the runs I scored against all those fast bowlers in those Super Tests don’t count as first-class runs, let alone Test runs. My Test match average, 72, would have actually gone up had they counted. And I’d have played enough games to feature in Test match records. It’s frustrating to see Zimbabwe and Bangladesh playing Test cricket, with so many mediocre players on show, and to think that WSC isn’t even recognised.

First published in 2015

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