Jamie How blasts his way to 222
How good was he? Staggeringly so.
Jamie How ripped pages from the New Zealand cricket history books in Hamilton today when he made 222 in the one-day clash between his Central Stags and the Northern Knights.
Amazingly, his side had to hold on desperately to win a memorable match as the hosts almost chased down Central's 417-6.
The former New Zealand opener plundered runs at will off all the home team's bowlers at Seddon Park as he made the equal second-best List A (one-day) score in the game's history.
Only England's Ali Brown, who miraculously scored 268 for Surrey against Glamorgan in 2002, has made more runs in a List A innings than the 31-year-old. How drew level on the worldwide list with legendary former South African batsman Graeme Pollock, who made an unbeaten 222 in a 60-over match in 1974.
How's tally left in the dust the previous best domestic mark of 170 scored by Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum for Otago five years ago.
He plundered 27 fours and eight sixes in a whirlwind assault that lasted just 188 minutes, facing 138 deliveries.
He and opening partner Jeet Raval - who made a somehow understated 115 off 106 balls - put on a domestic record-shattering 321 for the first wicket as the Stags reached a new mark for teams in the domestic one-day competition and the fifth-highest score in the worldwide history of domestic cricket.
How gave no sign of what was to come in the first three overs before exploding into action in the fourth, taking 18 off Brent Arnel's bowling with three fours and a six. That was all the encouragement he needed, and while he occasionally lofted shots agonisingly out of the clutches of the Northern fielders, he middled most of his array of attacking strokes as the home team's bowlers flagged under the assault.
He did get beaten once, when Anurag Verma yorked him to rattle the stumps when on 80, but a no-ball had been called and How quickly whistled past his ton and then through the 150-mark, with his only scare coming when Jono Hickey couldn't hold on to a leaping effort on the midwicket boundary.
Seam, spin or part-time trundles couldn't stop How until he finally perished when in vain pursuit of Brown's mark when Anton Devcich clasped a chance at long-off from Arnel's bowling that was only a metre away from being his ninth six.
In a neat twist, while How was blasting his way into the record books, Sky TV were showing Nathan Astle's unforgettable test innings of 222 against England in Christchurch 11 years ago as day one of the current test in Dunedin was rained out.
"It was nice to get a hundred, then you kind of keep on going until you expect to get out," How said.
"You get a bit of a feel for it and then if you're starting to see it well you try and put a bit of pressure on. I got a few lucky ones away then decided to keep on trying to see how far it'd go."
How said he didn't think much about his record-breaking numbers until late in his innings.
"It was nice to keep riding the wave and it kept on going."
In reply, the Knights made a determined chase of a seemingly impossible target.
Devcich (54 off 41 balls), Hickey (61 off 55), Brad Wilson (48 off 42) and Jono Boult (52 off 37) set up the remote possibility.
Wilson was caught by Tarun Nethula on the long-off boundary, throwing the ball back up as he went over the rope, but the home team were furious with the claim for a catch, arguing that Nethula had stepped on the rope as Wilson reluctantly and angrily walked off.
Graeme Aldridge (50 off 34) and Anurag Verma (52 not out off 32) then produced an NZ one-day record-breaking partnership of 102 before Aldridge fell in the penultimate over which also saw Arnel run out to end the game with the Knights 20 runs short of a unbelievable win.
Central's victory was the second in four Ford Trophy matches for the defending champions and kept them in the playoff hunt, while the hosts suffered the first loss of their campaign.