Although Richards has appeared to burst on to the scene, for him it has been the result of years of hard work and incredible support from his father, whose tireless dedication bowling countless thousands of balls to Joshua every week has resulted in him having to have a shoulder operation in the past year.
No great deeds are achieved without great sacrifice!
Playing for Gauteng against KZN Inland in the CSA 3-Day Provincial Cup at Johannesburg in his debut innings in first-class cricket, Richards (a product of St Stithians College) brought up his 50 off 106 balls in 165 minutes (9×4), speeding up slightly to go to his 100 off 194 balls (306 minutes, 17×4). He finally fell for 104 off 200 balls in the 69th over, adding six runs off 17 balls in the second dig.
On 18 October Richards scored 36 and 75 in his second first-class match, against Easterns at Benoni, followed by 27 and 26 against Free State in Bloemfontein five days later.
8 November saw him record his highest first-class score (145) against North West in Potchefstroom (adding four not out in the second innings).
He had to wait a month before his fifth first-class match, however, which came against Northern Cape in Kimberley as he entered a golden nine-day period of near perfection with the bat. He scored 132 (205 balls) and 118 (201 balls) in a relatively low-scoring match, and on the Sunday’s One-Day Challenge match (the day after the 3-Day match finished) he scored his first A-List century, 100 off 96 balls (13×4, 2×6), finally falling with his side five runs short of victory, Gauteng winning by seven wickets with 101 balls in hand.
Three days later, he was opening the batting for the Cricket South Africa Invitation XI against the touring Pakistan XI, scoring 98 off 134 balls (11×4, 1×6), adding eight off six balls in the second innings. The quality of players and competition was worthy of first-class status, but since it was the only warm-up match for Pakistan before the first Test at Centurion, both teams utilised more than 11 players, and as a result the match was not accorded first-class status.
Richards’ next step will be to keep scoring runs in the 3-Day competition with a view to getting a nod for the Highveld Lions. but he says he’s going to keep doing what got him to this stage: working hard.
The @OfficialCSA 3 Day match between Central Gauteng @LionsCricketSA and @ncapecricket was won quite comfortably by Gauteng thanks to 2 consecutive centuries by Joshua Richards. #100's #Cricket #cricketer #Highlights pic.twitter.com/ZkPn7OBqkR
— PV Match Highlights SA (@PVMatch) December 20, 2018
Photos: Lee Warren/Gallo Images; Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images