Graham Napier re-wrote the record books for Essex 13 years ago

Graham Napier of Essex celebrates taking a wicket (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Graham Napier of Essex celebrates taking a wicket (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

It was 13 years ago this week when Graham Napier re-wrote the record books. 

When 5,500 fans packed into the Chelmsford ground on a balmy evening on June, 24, 2008 to watch Essex meet Sussex in the Twenty20 Cup, they could not have imagined that they would be about to witness a spectacular world-breaking salvo of sixes from the bat of Graham Napier.

It was a life-changing innings for a game changer.  As the popular Essex Eagles all-rounder strode to the crease, neither would he have any idea of what was about to occur.

"It was the launch pad of my career at a time when I didn't really know where my cricket was going,” he readily admitted. “It set me on track to where I wanted to be.”

Batting at number 3, he scored 152 not out from just 58 balls during which he set new world record figures by launching 16 sixes, many like Exocet missiles, whilst his innings was the highest-ever score in domestic T20 cricket.


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It was also the most runs (136) scored in boundaries in an individual T20 innings. 

“I remember that I started off a bit scratchy, I got off the mark with a couple of runs and then I  saw an early opportunity to chance my arm and the ball went out of the ground for six,” he recalled.  “At that point, I remember thinking, ‘Let’s go for it.’ 

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“There were a couple of overs when the bowlers lost it a bit and I was just seeing how far I could hit the ball,” he continued.

“When you are batting at the Hayes Close End, you’ve always got the river to aim for! It was brutal innings and you make the best of those times.”

His century arrived from 44  balls and 15 balls later, he was celebrating his hundred.  

The next 50 runs came at even greater pace with just 13 more deliveries required to reach his to 150, achieved with the 16th six of his spectacular innings that also included 10 fours. 

His assault allowed the Eagles reach 252 for 3 at the close of their innings before dismissing the Sharks for 114.

And Napier’s blitzkrieg innings brought the offer of an IPL (Indian Premier League) contract with Mumbai Indians. It was a commitment that was to change his life.

The 152 opened the door for me,” he acknowledged. “It got me into world headlines and led to opportunities to play in the IPL and other places. 

He fondly recalls two of the particular maximum blows of that mind-blowing assault. 

“My third six, a straight drive off Dwayne Smith was my favourite shot of the innings,” he said. “I was beginning to get my eye in and with fine leg up and deep square-leg in front of square, I knew he couldn’t bowl too short.  

"I aimed straight and the ball soared over the ropes. This six took the least effort but it was the best-timed. 

“Then the final six, a pull shot off James Kirtley to reach my 150.  At this point, I felt I had climbed Everest; I was on top of the world.”

The compelling cricketer, who made his senior debut for Essex in 1997, was an effective and fine exponent of the game across all three formats. He played 172 first-class matches for Essex and accumulated 5,225 runs and took 468 wickets.

His 219 List A appearances for the county brought 251 wickets and  almost 2,400 runs whilst 109 T20 matches produced 123 wickets and 995 runs but  at the end of the 2016 season, the Colchester-born player took the decision to retire.

“I wanted to go out when I was still turning in acceptable performances,” he insisted.

Now his time is spent as cricket coach at RHS School in Ipswich but he hopes that his master classes for Essex on the cricket field will be fondly appreciated by all who saw him play.

“I’d like people to remember me as someone that played with a smile, enjoyed the game and entertained,” he concluded. 

He certainly did that!
 

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