I thought of those words when I was watching Vikram Solanki make 100 from 47 balls for Worcester against Glamorgan in the T20 Cup the other night. They were spoken [or rather written - or more accurately still, ghostwritten] by/for Barry Richards about the time he scored 325 not out in a day for South Australia in Perth, against an attack that featured Dennis Lillee, Graham Mckenzie and Tony Lock.
Richards made those runs in November 1970, way before an expression like 'in the zone' was foisted upon us, but that was where he was, more or less. He'd entered a rarified place where his natural ability was unobstructed by his own mind. It never happened to him again.
Solanki is no Bad Baz and the Glamorgan bowling was some way short of test class [it was actually some way short of first class] but then everything is relative. Vikram looked slightly shellshocked when Sky spoke to him afterwards. He had been in the zone, striking the ball with a rare purity, not a slog on the scorecard. He sustained it for a ball shy of eight overs.
Playing that way is about a state of mind that can't necessarily be summed up statistically. It's a personal, unique thing. The night after Solanki's hundred, Flintoff made 93 from 41 balls and today Yuvraj got 131 from 102, but Flintoff was swinging and Yuvraj, who occupies the same higher talent plane as Richards, was doing his usual job of work. Solanki's knock - for him - was better than both.
The zone seems to be some kind of id state, a place where instinct rules the brain, where any kind of doubt or fear is banished, where, in Tom Redfern's phrase, a batsman is no longer 'wizened by risk'. Access to it is as mysterious as it is rare.
If there is a statistical measure for something that individual, then Tom's 100 in less than 50 balls is probably a good one. It represents a century scored at 12 an over, or a boundary every other ball. It feels achievable until you try and do it, but then that's the point. You can't really try. Batting often enough is the fee for entry, but no-one knows when - or even if - the gates will ever open for them.