1975 World Cup final: West Indies’ triumph of character and skill

The sun shone; Clive Lloyd played an innings of surpassing skill and power; Australia resisted down to the last; and the crowd, not only its West Indian contingent, was exultant.

The crowd invades the Lord’s cricket ground after the West Indies picked the last Australian wicket.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

The Prudential Cup final was all that anyone could have hoped for it. The sun shone; Lloyd played an innings of surpassing skill and power; Australia resisted down to the last; and the crowd, not only its West Indian contingent, was exultant.

When Australia measures its defeat, it may attribute it to failure under pressure. The Australians dropped six catches – all difficult, and most of which they would have held if they had been in full match trim instead of out of season and practice – and three of their first four batsmen were sacrificially run out. Usually in the past when a match between these two countries has come to the pinch, Australia won through cooler nerve. This was therefore a triumph of character as well as skill for the West Indies.

The pitch was slow, true in line, but not quite honest in bounce. It is doubtful if Ian Chappell gained any advantage when he won the toss and sent the West Indies in to bat. Gary Gilmour found no such help from atmosphere or pitch as he enjoyed against England, while Dennis Lillee bowled without great threat.

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Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge had assumed something near command when Lillee dropped short. Fredericks hooked him into the crowd at long leg but, in doing so, knocked off a bail and left to sympathetic applause. Alvin Kallicharran and a subdued Greenidge had gone by 50 for 3, when the innings rested with Rohan Kanhai, responsibility implicit in his grey hairs, and Clive Lloyd, who from his first ball played off the middle of the bat. To say that he scored a century off 82 balls is to reduce to cold figures a heart-warming innings of relaxed majesty in which he struck the ball mightily and as he willed.

Jeff Thomson, recovering with dignity both from barracking and being no-balled, bowled hard at him, but neither he nor anyone else was Lloyd’s master on this day. Two lazily levered sixes, some fine cover drives and a whipped leg glance of amazing late reaction marked an innings which combined style, aggression and effect in rare proportions.

Kanhai went along patiently in his captain’s wake until, at 199, Lloyd touched Gilmour down the leg side and was caught by Rodney Marsh. Gilmour, again the most successful Australian bowler, put out Kanhai and Viv Richards as well within 10 runs and briefly the West Indies trembled. Then Keith Boyce, Bernard Julien and Deryck Murray picked up the tempo and carried it through to 291.

To have beaten that would have set a record for the competition. Yet until almost the last half hour, Australia was in sight of achieving it. Rick McCosker was out early, but then Alan Turner, playing with greater authority than in earlier matches, and Ian Chappell gave Australia the foundation of a win. Chappell was at his capable and belligerent best.

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A bonus

Lloyd took over the duties of the fifth bowler not only more economically than any other West Indian bowler (the only one to average less than four runs an over), but the three crucial run-outs occurred during his spell. Richards was responsible for all: he threw down the stumps of Turner from mid-wicket to break the second-wicket stand at 81; of Greg Chappell after the brothers had put on 34 with mounting certainty; and returned for Lloyd to put out Ian Chappell and end his brisk partnership of 47 with Doug Walters. Marsh and Ross Edwards both strove to arrest the slide, but the final stroke was dealt by Lloyd when he bowled Walters, who had batter far better than he has usually done in representative matches in this country.

The field fell back to the boundaries, permitting the long single but little else. Max Walker was the fourth man to be run out and, though Thomson and Lillee put up more than token resistance, they were always being forced into the impasse of the over-limit game-too many runs wanted and too few overs to make them.

When Lillee was ‘caught’ off a no-ball, the crowd surged on to the field and smothered play. When at length Thomson was run out and lay sprawling from his attempt to dive home, they swarmed across the ground. Throughout the day the police handled a volatile crowd with friendly tact and often humour. The final invasion, however, could have produced violence and some thought needs to be given to the potential danger in such situations. All, though, was noisy good cheer as Prince Philip presented the Cup and the Man of the Match award to Lloyd.

Few would have believed a few weeks before that a match in which Thomson, Lillee, Roberts, Boyce and Holder were involved would see so little short-pitched bowling as this did. Nothing in a completely heartening day was more happy than that.