Graham Napier revealed he felt just a small pang of regret for not completing what would have been the first double-hundred of his career after announcing his return to County Championship cricket with a sensational innings of 196 for Essex against Surrey at Whitgift School – an onslaught which included a world record equalling 16 sixes.
The 31-year-old all-rounder suffered a career-threatening back injury in June last year and, although he has played in one-day matches for Essex this season, this was his first taste of Championship cricket since he sustained the injury in 2010.
“The boundaries are pretty small at Croydon and going for sixes just seemed the right thing to do,” he said. “The first one I hit in the morning off Chris Tremlett (it was one of three that landed in the adjacent Brighton Road) got my rhythm going.
“I had an idea that I was fairly close to the world record number of sixes when I had a look at the scoresheet at lunchtime but once we started playing again I didn’t give it too much thought. We had nine wickets down when I went for another six to get me to 200 but it was one shot too many.
“It would have been nice to reach the double-century in style but I pushed it a little too much. A year ago I didn’t think I’d even be playing cricket again, so I just enjoy every moment.”
Napier went on the rampage once he had reached a 75-ball half-century, with his next fifty requiring just 27 more deliveries – at which point he had struck five sixes and 15 fours. Another 15 deliveries took him to 150 (9×6, 15×4) and when he was finally dismissed four runs short of a double-century, he had faced just 130 balls and collected 16 sixes and 19 fours.
Napier also set the record for number of sixes in a Twenty20 innings when he struck 16 maximums during his famous 152 not out (made from 58 balls) against Sussex back in 2008 and he admits that to hold a record in both forms of the game is something special. “To be honest, it’s an honour and I hold both on an equal par with the other,” he said.
“I suppose I’m one of those guys that, once I get myself in, I’m capable of those things and once I’ve hit a boundary I’m always on the lookout for a few more. Having a good bat helps and I’ve had a couple of really excellent ones made for me in the past couple of years.
“Records are nice to have and to see your name there, but when you go out to bat you are trying to score as many runs as you can however you get them. It just so happened this time that I got them quite quickly!”