Big Bird takes flight

West Indies which retained the World Cupafter beating England by 92 runs.-PICS: THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

In a dramatic spell, Garner took five for 38 — England lost eight wickets for 11 runs— to give West Indies a 92-run win. By Rakesh Rao.

The West Indies, underlining its superiority as the emperor of world cricket, was only one among the reasons that contributed to the recall value of the 1979 World Cup.

Jogging down memory lane, the first image that comes to mind is Vivian Richards hitting a last-ball six off Mike Hendrick to remain unbeaten on 138 in the final against England at Lord’s. This was also the match that saw Collis King play the knock of his life at the biggest stage of the game.

After the inaugural World Cup in 1975, the cricket world faced a huge crisis when a miffed Australian media tycoon, Kerry Packer, introduced World Series Cricket after Channel Nine was not awarded the rights for the Ashes series.

The period between the two editions of the World Cup saw several leading cricketers from Australia, England, West Indies and Pakistan signing up to play the lucrative WSC. The gradual success of the WSC forced the authorities in West Indies and Pakistan to soften their stand and include the ‘rebels’ in the National team.

Finally, the Australian Cricket Board relented. A truce was signed between Packer and the ACB on May 30, 1979. As a result, within 10 days, the return of the Packer series’ players to mainstream cricket lent gloss to the World Cup.

Pakistan, England and Australia were seen as the challengers, in varying degrees, to prevent West Indies from retaining the Cup.

In the league, West Indies brushed aside India by chasing down a modest target of 191 with nine wickets to spare after Gordon Greenidge scored an unbeaten 106. This was the only time when West Indies was required to chase a target.

India, not comfortable in the shortened format, lost to New Zealand by eight wickets and hit an embarrassing low when Sri Lanka inflicted a 47-run defeat. The winless team returned home without lasting its allotted overs in any of the matches.

At this point, Sri Lanka awaited its Test status and joined the field only after it was decided to hold the ICC Trophy to let 14 Associate member-countries be part of World Cup. Sri Lanka and Canada joined the full members of ICC to complete the field.

Joel Garner demolished the English batting line-up in the final.-

Sri Lanka, in fact, was also the only team to get a point off West Indies after their league match at the Oval was rained off.

West Indies then got New Zealand out of the way with a comfortable 32-run victory. Half centuries from Greenidge and skipper Clive Lloyd contributed greatly to the tally of 244 for seven. Thereafter, the pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner played their part to help the team top the group. New Zealand too qualified for the semifinals, behind West Indies.

From the other group, England won against arch-rival Australia, debutant Canada and the unpredictable Pakistan. In the race for the second spot, Pakistan drubbed Australia by 89 runs. Australia’s lone victory came against Canada.

In the semifinals against Pakistan, the West Indies openers set the pace with a 132-run stand against an attack that included Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Sikandar Bakht, Mudassar Nazar and the slower variety from Majid Khan and skipper Asif Iqbal. The target of 294 proved a tall order for Pakistan as Croft sent back in-form Majid Khan, Zaheer Khan and a struggling Javed Miandad, while Richards took care of the middle-order, scalping Asif Iqbal, Mudassar Nazar and Imran Khan. West Indies won easily by 43 runs.

The final against England — the side made it past New Zealand by nine runs in a thriller — saw West Indies score 286 for nine, riding on the 139-run fifth-wicket stand in 22 overs between Richards (138) and King (86, 66 balls, ten 4s, three 6s).

Boycott and Brearley did lay a sound foundation of 129 runs but their lack of urgency hurt England. Derek Randall and Graham Gooch held out hopes, with England at 183 for two.

In a dramatic spell, Garner took five for 38 — England lost eight wickets for 11 runs— to give West Indies a 92-run win.