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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 16:01 GMT
Sir Viv reaches milestone
Viv Richards sweeps Derek Pringle to the boundary at Old Trafford in 1984
Richards heads for a brilliant 189 at Old Trafford in '84
Viv Richards - one of the greatest batsmen of all time, and arguably the very best of his era - celebrates his 50th birthday on Thursday.

The Antiguan lit up two decades of Test cricket in the 1970s and '80s with a series of dazzling innings, marked by rare panache, power and grace.

Richards was a player brimming with charisma, who enlivened matches simply by his presence, which always carried a promise that something special could happen at any moment.

He was an imperious batsman, who could intimidate any bowler just by the mere fact of his being at the crease.

Once in a generation

Such was his confidence, he rejected the helmet in favour of the cap - a sign of his superiority whatever pace of delivery he was facing.

Apart from his majestic performances at the crease, Richards was also a superb fielder.

Brian Close, his captain during Richards' time as a county player at Taunton, said: "Viv was one hell of a fielder, too. He was sharp in the slips, and like a tiger in midfield."

Richards could even bowl a bit - a lazy off-spin with which he took his fair share of wickets.

Viv Richards was renowned for his powerful strokeplay
Richards never lost a Test series as captain

But it was his batting that marked Richards out as the sort of cricketer who comes along once in a generation, with a genius that Close attributed to a masterly timing of the ball.

Richards' top score in Test cricket was 291 against England at the Oval in 1976, but there were many other innings for which he will be remembered.

Among them was what many describe as the best one-day innings of all time, at Old Trafford in 1984.

He cracked an unbeaten 189, putting on a last-wicket partnership of 106 with fast bowler Michael Holding, of which Holding scored 12.

Two years later, still at the height of his powers, he hit the quickest Test century ever recorded - from 56 balls.

Shining example

Richards scored a phenomenal 8,540 runs in his Test career, with an average of 50.23.

He took over the captaincy of the ultra-successful West Indies team from Clive Lloyd in the mid-1980s, and kept them at the top of the tree in Test cricket.

As a captain, he was a shining example who always led from the front - he is still the only West Indies captain never to have lost a Test series.

Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was also a brilliant county player. He made his debut for Somerset in 1974, and made 191 first-class appearances in a 13-year career.

With fellow West Indian Joel Garner and England all-rounder Ian Botham, one of his closest friends, he was part of the Somerset side which was one of the most thrilling to watch in the late 1970s and early '80s.

It is little wonder then, that the bible of cricket, Wisden, named him one of the five greatest cricketers of the century.

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Sir Viv Richards
"I'm extremely happy that I've reached the milestone"
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