The six is one of the most important and entertaining numbers in the game of cricket. Fans throng to the stadium to see sixes which sail over the boundary ropes and into the stands. The Twenty20 format, the shortest in this game, was built upon the promise of big sixes on a consistent basis. For a batter, the six is considered the ultimate number as it showcases his/her attacking prowess and big-hitting ability. However, for cricket fans, the common question is when was the first six ever hit in cricket? The answer is today. On January 14, about 121 years ago, the first-ever six in cricket was hit in the 55th Test match which was ever-played.
Joe Darling, playing for Australia in the Test match against England in Adelaide in 1898, hit a shot that sailed out of the Adelaide Oval. Interestingly, any hit that would go over the boundary at that time was considered five runs instead of six but the rule was later changed to make it six runs. This was the first six ever hit in Test cricket without the aid of overthrows. Things became even better for Darling as he hit a magnificent 178 and the knock included 26 fours and three sixes. Significantly, he notched up his century by hitting another six as Australia won by an innings and 13 runs as they won the five-match series 4-1.
#OnThisDay in 1898, Australia's Joe Darling hit the first six in Test cricket history, by launching the ball out of the Adelaide Oval against England.— ICC (@ICC) January 14, 2019
At the time, simply clearing the boundary would only yield five runs. pic.twitter.com/GnY6hvTa5a
Since Darling’s first six in 1898, batsmen and the game of cricket have evolved in a major way. The advent of ODIs in 1971 made power-hitting the essential tool of survival in cricket while the explosion of Twenty20 and many global leagues have made six-hitting the norm for entertainment. In ODIs, Shahid Afridi of Pakistan is the leading six-hitter with 351 sixes from 398 games. He is the only batsman to hit over 300 sixes in the ODI format. For India, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma are the leading six-hitters.
In Twenty20 Internationals, Chris Gayle of West Indies and Martin Guptill of New Zealand are the ultimate six-hitters with 103 each. While Guptill achieved the feat in 76 games, Gayle has taken just 56 games for this feat.
In Tests, only players in history have scored over 100 sixes in the format. Adam Gilchrist of Australia was the first player in history to reach 100 sixes during the Test match against Sri Lanka in Hobart in 2007. In 2016, Brendon McCullum shattered Gilchrist’s record to achieve the most sixes in Test history. In his final game in Christchurch against Australia, McCullum blasted a century off just 54 balls, the fastest in Tests and his 145 off 79 balls included 21 fours and six sixes, which took him past Gilchrist’s tally. In the second innings, he hit another six to finish on 107 sixes as he ended his career in style.
For India, Virender Sehwag has the most sixes with 91 in 104 Tests while in Twenty20 Internationals, Rohit has hit 98 sixes in 90 games and he has a chance to go past 100 in the upcoming three-match series against New Zealand. Interestingly, no batsman has hit over 100 sixes in all three formats. Gayle is the nearest with 98 sixes in Tests but it will be interesting whether the West Indies dasher will play another Test.