Most people would recall Tilak Raj’s over to Ravi Shastri that produced 36 runs in a Ranji Trophy match between Bombay and Baroda back in 1985 as the most productive over in cricket. However, about five years later in 1990, Bert Vance gave away more than 70 runs in a single over to earn the dubious distinction of bowling the worst over in the history of the game.
The incident took place during a match played at Christchurch between Canterbury and Wellington in New Zealand’s domestic championship. Wellington, desperately in need of a win to secure the title, declared their second innings on the last day, leaving Canterbury 291 runs to win off 59 overs.
Despite an achievable target, Canterbury lost early wickets and looked to be down and out with the scorecard reading 108/8. Lee Germon and Roger Ford, the last recognized batting pair on the crease at the time, could best hope for a draw.
With the last two overs remaining and Germon still on the crease, Wellington skipper John Morrison came up with a plan to induce the Canterbury batsmen into playing big shots and give Wellington a chance to capture the remaining two wickets. The idea was to bring on a part time bowler and give the Canterbury batsmen enough runs in the penultimate over that the target seemed gettable in the last six balls.
Bert Vance, New Zealand middle-order batsman, was give the task with the scorecard reading 196/8 and Germon holding fort on 75.
The over, which became the most notorious over in the history of cricket, started with a series of illegitimate deliveries. Only one of the first seventeen balls, most of which were cracked past the boundary ropes, was legal.
Germon went on a rampage and took 70 runs off the over, which included five boundaries and eight mammoth sixes. In the process, the wicket-keeper batsman brought up a well deserved ton. Ford, who was patiently watching the massacre from the other end got a chance to face just two balls and scored five runs off it.
But, it was not batting or even the bowling side that was left flabbergasted. The scorers, amidst all the slam-bang display, lost track of the score and had to ask those around including the spectators to solve the mystery. The umpire, too, seemed confused and allowed only five valid deliveries before calling it an over.
The chaos continued even as Evan Gray bowled the last over, in which as it was later discovered, Canterbury needed just 18 runs to secure an unlikely victory. Germon managed to score 17 off the first five deliveries but ignorance of the happenings led to Ford blocking the last delivery and the game finally ended in a draw. It was only when they entered the dressing room that the two not-out batsmen discovered how close they had come to securing an improbable win.
Morrison later recalled how he nearly had a heart-attack after learning how close they had actually come to losing it all.
"I nearly had heart failure when I learnt a little time after the game that Canterbury only needed one to win and we had Vance bowling to a very leaky field. It was also very possible because of the confusion that he may have bowled yet another no-ball,” he said.
"I decided that the tactic, while being innovative, was definitely a once only! But it`s now a noted game and lives on whereas if the conventional tactics had been used the game would have faded completely and anonymously into the past," he added.
Besides Vance’s over that remains confined to record books now, there was another record worth a mention created in the match. It was the partnership between Germon and Ford (182), which to this date remains the highest ninth wicket partnership for Canterbury.