In the world of cricket, this is the 100-metre sprint and, coincidentally, a Jamaican is on top. Like Usain Bolt, Chris Gayle has penchant for fast cars, parties and the good life, but more than that, it’s their ability to turn heads on the field that sets these two athletes apart.
But before Gayle scored a half-century from 12 deliveries in the Big Bash League a few days ago and before Bolt came up with his world-record time, Yuvraj Singh, perhaps the most flamboyant of the Indians, had pummelled 50 from a mere 12 balls, 36 of which came from a single Stuart Broad over.
This is the list of ten men who kicked off the race to the fastest T20 fifty, in what now stands as a testament to a batsman’s ball-hitting ability in the shortest format of the game.
Andrew Symonds, 18 balls
Kent v Middlesex, Twenty20 Cup, Maidstone, 2004
This was only the second season of the T20 Cup and the fans were in awe of the spectacle. They had seen some massive hitting, but nothing quite like this. Chasing 156, Kent opened with Symonds and Shahid Afridi. Afridi failed, but Symonds came up with a masterclass. The burly Australian not only became the fastest to a half-century, but he also became the fastest to a T20 century after bringing up the three-figure mark in a mere 34 deliveries with 16 fours and three sixes. It took Chris Gayle nine years to top that feat, getting his hundred off 30 deliveries in Indian Premier League 2013.
Imran Nazir, 14 balls
Lahore Eagles v Sialkot Stallions, ABN-AMRO Twenty20 Cup, Lahore, 2005
Having seen the success of the format in England, Pakistan applied the equation at home and met with greater success as T20 cricket suited Pakistan’s fast-paced game. Helping its popularity along was Nazir. It was seventh game of the inaugural edition, and Stallions had opted to bat first. Given the freedom, Nazir went on a rampage from ball one as he collected 54 runs from 19 balls with six fours and four sixes to guide his side to 210. Much to his dismay, Eagles chased it down off the final delivery.
Ross Taylor, 16 balls
Central Districts v Otago, NZ T20 Competition, Dunedin, 2006
On the back of a 57-ball 101 from Chris Gaffaney, the opener, Otago had made what looked like an unchasable 219. That assessment took a beating when Taylor came in at No. 3 and shred Otago’s bowling with a cudgel. He spent 13 minutes at the crease and brought up his half-century from 16 deliveries with nine fours and five sixes. Central Districts went on to win with an over to spare.
George Bailey, 19 balls
Tasmania v Western Australia, KFC T20 League, Hobart, 2007
He doesn’t look like he could hurt a leather ball. Rather, it doesn’t seem like he would want to. But on this day at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, when his beloved Tasmania was up against Western Australia, Bailey challenged that assessment. This assault lasted a mere 19 minutes. Like the Gatling Gun going off, Bailey brought up his half-century in 19 deliveries, studded with seven sixes, and finished on 60 from 21. His fifty matched the then record set by Owais Shah during a 2005 edition of the Twenty20 Cup. Shah had smashed seven fours and two sixes to get to the mark, ending on 72 from 30 balls.
Mohammad Ashraful, 20 balls
Bangladesh v West Indies, Johannesburg, 2007
By 2007, Bangladesh were being spoken of as combative T20 side, a tag they carried with them into the World T20 in South Africa. There, they chased down West Indies’ total of 165 with six wickets and 12 balls to spare. Chief architects of the chase were Aftab Ahmed and Ashraful. Displaying an utter disregard for the bowlers, Ashraful finished his innings on 61 from 27 deliveries with seven fours and three sixes. En route, he also broke Sanath Jayasuriya’s record for the fastest T20I fifty, which the Sri Lankan took 23 balls to complete.
Yuvraj Singh, 12 balls
India v England, Durban, 2007
If you’ve hit 36 runs from six deliveries, it’s very likely you would be at the top of this list. Until Gayle went berserk for the Renegades, Yuvraj was king. His innings will be remembered fondly for he became the first man in T20 history to smash six sixes in an over to bring up his fifty in a mere 12 deliveries. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had set the stage perfectly by adding 136 runs from 14.4 overs. All Yuvaj had to do was to go out there and tee off from the first ball. He missed out from the first, but the second was a four, as were his fifth and sixth deliveries. Then, Broad’s first delivery was smacked over cow corner, the second was flicked over backward square, the third over extra cover, the fourth guided over backward point, the fifth smacked over midwicket and the sixth cleared the wide mid-on fence by a mile.
Martin Guptill, 15 balls
Auckland v Central Districts, State Twenty20, New Plymouth, 2008
As luck would have it, Central Districts were on the receiving end of a Taylor-like belting a few years later when they locked horns with Auckland. Auckland, fighting for a spot in the final, needed to win big. That Central Districts made a brilliant 180 for 8 was a setback, but Auckland still went all out. Paul Hitchcock began with 20 from 9, but the chase gathered steam after Guptill’s 18 ball 55, which came courtesy four fours and five sixes. Lou Vincent also made a spectacular 17-ball half-century. The duo brought about a win, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.
Adam Gilchrist, 17 balls
Deccan Chargers v Delhi Daredevils, Indian Premier League, Centurion, 2009
The left-hand batsman is known for his hard-hitting ways and Delhi got to witness the kind of carnage he is capable of. Gilchrist’s men had made it to the semifinals of the second season of IPL. They needed a spark to chase down 154 and it came from their captain. Gilchrist smashed 85 from 35 balls with ten fours and five sixes, his fifty coming in 17 balls. In the final, they defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore to claim the crown.
Marcus Trescothick, 13 balls
Somerset v Hampshire, Friends Provident T20, Taunton, 2010
Trescothick, the left-hander, is a quick run-getter, but isn’t quite in the league of Yuvraj or Gayle. Yet, he fell one short of their record. Having given up on his international career, he continued playing for Somerset and had managed some mighty scores. Chasing 216, Somerset got off to manic start with Trescothick and Peter Trego adding 116 runs from eight overs for the first wicket. Trescothick smashed five fours and five sixes en route to fifty, while Trego took a lazy 37 balls to get to the mark. Trescothick finished on 78 from 27 and had done enough to set up his side’s victory. Somerset won with two overs to spare.
Chris Gayle, 12 balls
Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers, Big Bash League, Melbourne, 2016
206666266416. Reads like a phone number? It isn’t. That’s Gayle’s blitz pattern from his final game in the Big Bash League 2015-16. The West Indian holds the record for most things T20, but even he hadn’t come close to Yuvraj’s mark. Gayle’s previous fastest 50 was a 17-ball effort, which was part of the 175 he smashed against Pune Warriors in the Indian Premier League. In Australia, putting aside his off-field controversies and in a chase of 170, he began by smashing Greg West for four sixes. He then went after Ben Laughling, taking the medium pacer for 17 runs. Gayle had reached 45 from 11 balls. One big hit was all he needed and he came up with it by sending a tossed up delivery from Travis Head over the long-on boundary. Head, though, had the last laugh after guiding Adelaide to a 27-run win.