On 13th September 1983, Lancashire opener Steve O’Shaughnessy equaled a 63-year old world record in controversial circumstances. It was a three-day match between Lancashire and Leicestershire for the Walter Lawrence Trophy. There were significant amount of rains in Manchester and the entire first day’s play was washed out. Finally the match started in the second afternoon and from the very beginning the chance of a draw loomed large.
Lancashire batted first and in wet conditions kept losing wickets regularly. Only Graeme Fowler could score 85 whereas others could not go on to get big scores. They finished day two with 187/7. The overnight pair Jack Simmons and wicketkeeper John Stanworth added 79 for the eighth wicket and finally they were all out for 236. Leicestershire also had the risk of getting negative points for their poor over rate in the season and hence tried to finish their overs as soon as possible. And in the last hour they bowled 26 overs.
In such cases teams generally forfeit an innings to make the math interesting; however Leicestershire also required at least one batting point and hence decided to bat. They batted for 44 overs, added 150 runs for the loss of 4 wickets and secured that 1 point before declaring.
This is when the interesting bit started. Lancashire openers Fowler and Steve O’Shaughnessy came out to bat and found David Gower and James Whittaker with the ball. This was another plan by the Leicestershire captain Roger Tolchard to improve his team’s over rate.
Gower and Whittaker were not regular bowlers and it was showed in their performance. There were plenty of long-hops and full-tosses for the batsmen to make merry. The Lancashire duo did just that. They kept getting bat balls and kept dispatching those to the boundary. Run rates were increasing exponentially and fours and sixes became regular occurrence and at times batsmen were hitting consecutive boundaries and sixes. O’shaughnessy and Fowler both were playing their shots and the former reached his century last ball before Tea interval. It took just 35 minutes for him to reach the century and Lancashire scored 190 runs in that 35 minutes.
With this O’Shaughnessy touched the 60-year old record of scoring the fastest First Class century by Percy Fender. However even he realized that the circumstances were in his favor and he scored these runs against effectively ‘Joke Bowling’. Even Wisden also refused this century as the joint fastest with Fender’s as they also did not think the quality of bowling was too impressive.
Despite getting a lead of 286 runs, Lancashire went to bat after Tea and showed no interest to declare. Tolchard brought his regular bowlers and O’Shaughnessy was out for 105. Soon Fowler reached his 100 and was immediately dismissed. With Lancashire on 214/3 play was stopped for bad light and then it started raining to effectively end the match.
It was a peculiar scenario as the tournament management considered this as a result but Wisden refused to do so. O’Shaughnessy also received a telegram from Fender congratulating him. He went on to meet him and chat few days later.