On June 23, 1979, West Indies bagged their second World Cup title, owing to a century from the magical willow of Viv Richards, a blitzkrieg by Collis King and toe-crushing yorkers from Joel Garner. The English were emphatically trumped, falling short by 92 runs. Karthik Parimal looks back at the course of the game.
The second edition of the World Cup, in 1979, played out much the same way as the first. Eight teams participated, 15 fixtures scheduled and the 60-over format was round robin, followed by knockouts. The frenzy, though, doubled and the West Indian expats thronged every venue with great vigour. Their side were firm favourites to lift the coveted trophy for the second time in a row, and it wasn’t a surprise to see them storm into the final. The fact that they were to face hosts England, and not Australia like on the previous occasion, in the finals, added to the fervour.
The Richards and King show
Although the English were in a familiar backdrop, they weren’t touted as favourites against the might of West Indies. Furthermore, their bowling department had been weakened owing to an injury to Bob Willis in the semi-final match against New Zealand; he was one of their good performers that tournament. Willis’s replacement was left-arm orthodox bowler Phil Edmonds, who ended up as the most economical of the four specialist bowlers. England relied on part-timers Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch and Wayne Larkins to chip in 12 overs to fulfil the minimum quota of the fifth bowler.
Considering the overcast conditions, and realising that it presented an advantage to his depleted bowling attack, skipper Mike Brearley promptly opted to field first upon winning the toss. Ian Botham, Mike Hendrick and Chris Old immediately found assistance and a phase featuring quality swing bowling ensued. This was backed up by some sharp ground fielding, resulting in Gordon Greenidge being run out by Derek Randall. Soon, Desmond Haynes held out to Hendrick at slips. Hendrick then bowled Alvin Kallicharran around his legs. Clive Lloyd walked back after Old held on to a brilliant return catch. At 99 for four, the defending champions were tottering.
A certain Viv Richards, who dropped anchor at one end, welcomed the new batsman, Collis King, with the words, ‘take it easy’. However, the senior player’s advice had no impact on King; he made it clear that he intended to hit out at the part-timers, especially Boycott. What followed was carnage. In his next six overs, Boycott conceded 38 runs. As King created an outlet for the mounting pressure, Richards eased into the situation and got into a zone of his own. He timed every ball with incredible precision and effortlessly began to toy with the bowlers; even the frontline ones. He cut, pulled, glanced and drove with grace, and before long, West Indies had wriggled themselves out from a spot of bother.
At the other end, King continued to go berserk. The theory at the time (which continues to hold water even today) was that when one batsman attacked, the other stayed put by cutting out risks, thereby increasing the chances of finishing with a formidable total on the scorecard. Teams were just beginning to realise the importance of keeping wickets in hand towards the final overs. But the duo put this logic to rest temporarily and threw caution to the wind. The English bowlers were thwacked from both ends.
“I remember feeling close to impotence in the World Cup final in 1979, when Collis King and Viv Richards cut loose. Admittedly we had to bowl Geoff Boycott, Graham Gooch or Wayne Larkins for 12 overs, which was, in those conditions, like attacking tanks with pea-shooters,” Brearley recollects in his book The Art of Captaincy. By the end of their innings, Richards remained unconquered on 138, a knock that was inclusive of three 6s and eleven 4s. It was King’s 66-ball 86 that received more accolades; including one from Richards himself. When he departed, West Indies were well placed at 238 for five and, albeit minor hiccups, finished on 286 for nine from 60 overs. A daunting task lay ahead for England.
Big Bird crushes toes
The English openers — Boycott and Brearley — started watchfully. The repertoire of the West Indian bowling attack perhaps forced them to be extra cautious, but, with their water-tight techniques, wickets had been ruled out of the equation. At tea, they were in with a chance at 79 for no loss, requiring 208 from the remaining 35 overs, few of which were to be bowled by part-timers. Sitting in the dressing room with refreshments on either side, Brearley felt the score was a perfect launching-pad for an onslaught. He made up his mind to go after the bowlers in the following session, for Boycott would duly decline the offer had it been made to him. However, he was soon talked out of the plan by Botham and Randall, who both suggested Brearley carry on without trying to accelerate right away.
The innings continued at the same tempo, and then, when the scorecard read 129, Holding evicted Brearley and Boycott in quick succession. By then, the required run-rate had reached unimaginable heights and this put incredible pressure on the batsmen who followed. To make matters worse, only 50 runs were scored from the next 13 overs and no advantage had been taken off the part-timers, too, for Richards conceded just 23 in his six overs. It was here that “Big Bird” Joel Garner re-entered the fray and wreaked havoc. His first spell yielded little success, but the second massacred the English line-up.
Garner, 6 feet 8 inches tall, often made life miserable for the batsmen, as early sighting of the ball was never an option for them with his hand delivering over the top of the sightscreen. On this occasion, bowling from the Nursery End, the ball delivered came from above the signboards, and the English batsmen, understandably devoid of patience, struggled while attempting to go after Garner. He accounted for the wickets of Graham Gooch, David Gower, Larkins, and Old — all bowled, before having Bob Taylor caught by wicket-keeper Deryck Murray. From 183 for three, England collapsed to 194 all out.
Garner’s spell read five for four in 1.5 overs as he finished with overall figures of five for 38.
West Indies won their second consecutive World Cup, this time by 92 runs, thereby revealing the gulf in class between them and the next best team in the world.
Brearley rued the fact that he didn’t listen to his instincts and was unhappy for being swayed by the thoughts of his fellow teammates. He makes several references of this game in his book The Art of Captaincy, and wonders if things would have ended differently had he attacked post tea. Viv Richards was awarded the man-of-the-match, but there is no denying the fact that there were several contenders for it.
West Indies 286 for 9 (Viv Richards 138*, Collis King 86; Phil Edmonds 2 for 40, Ian Botham 2 for 44) beat England 194 (Mike Brearley 64, Geoffrey Boycott 57; Joel Garner 5 for 38; Colin Croft 3 for 42) by 92 runs.
In Photos: England vs West Indies, 1979 World Cup final
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/