A moment to remember for Australian legend
There are not many Test batsmen who willingly don nothing more sturdy than a felt cap as protective headwear when facing an international bowling attack on the famously frightening WACA Ground pitch in Perth.
But the fact that Matthew Hayden was clad in his beloved baggy green when he set a new world benchmark for the highest individual score in a Test match – 380 – 11 years ago today instils in him as much pride as the record itself.
That was the head piece that he exuberantly doffed when he pushed a single to long-on to overtake Brian Lara’s then landmark of 375, an achievement that Lara recognised by phoning congratulations to Hayden in the Australian dressing room that evening.
Before the Trinidadian pushed out the mark to a still-unsurpassed 400 six months later.
“I’m delighted and I can’t quite believe it, to be honest,” Hayden said in the wake of his epic 10-and-a-half-hour, 437 ball innings that contained 38 boundaries and 11 sixes.
“I’m just thrilled that I was wearing the Baggy Green cap when the record was broken.”
When Hayden accompanied his great mate Justin Langer to the middle to get the historic first Test against Zimbabwe on Australian soil underway on October 9, 2003 he was sporting the protective helmet that is de rigueur for openers through to abject tailenders in modern cricket.
But having pushed on past on past his initial century and with Zimbabwe’s under-gunned bowling attack unable to extract any menace from the normally receptive WACA track, Hayden called for his Australian cap as he batted on under a cloudless Perth sky.
Not that he scored with the sort of bludgeoning, breakneck speed for which he was to become renowned as he blossomed into one of the most destructive batsmen of his generation.
His 100 didn’t arrive until after tea on the opening day of the match, though by stumps he had cashed in on a flagging attack and was unbeaten on 183.
The next morning he duly passed 200 for just the second time in his 44th Test appearance, and shortly after lunch he reached 300 but still showed no sign of granting the traumatised Africans a reprieve.
Dropped on 335 – just after he had overtaken Sir Donald Bradman and his former skipper Mark Taylor’s tally for the highest Test score by an Australian batsman – at long-on, Hayden realised (if there had been any doubt) that this was indeed the day to cash in.
Throughout his early career when he was told his heavy-footed, full-frontal technique was not suited to the game’s elite level, Hayden disciplined himself to bat for long periods in the domestic arena to ensure that every sizeable start was turned into an even more significant final total.
Against Zimbabwe in Perth, and despite a back problem that almost prevented him from taking his place in the Test and grew worse as he spent the best part of two days hunched over his bat, he seized his opportunity to etch a place in cricket’s voluminous record books.
“I think Stephen (then captain Steve Waugh) had in his mind that he wanted to see the world record broken,” Hayden said as he kicked off his shoes and celebrated with a glass of champagne in the Australian dressing room 11 years ago.
“I must admit I did feel a little greedy though coming out after tea.”
It prompted Australia’s then chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns – recently returned to the national selection panel – to proclaim Hayden “probably the best batsman in the world at the moment”.
It was a crown he deservedly wore in his own right for precisely six months until Lara seized it back.