MCC President Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, looks on as Clive Lloyd (right) raises Prudential World Cup 1975 after the West Indies beat Australia in a thrilling final © Getty Images
MCC President Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, looks on as Clive Lloyd (right) raises Prudential World Cup 1975 after the West Indies beat Australia in a thrilling final © Getty Images

June 21, 1975. In the first World Cup final, Clive Lloyd’s West Indians overcame the stiff challenge of Ian Chappell’s Australians. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the game involving Lloyd’s spectacular century, the Viv Richards miracles on the field, the Lillee-Thomson collaboration with the bat, and the false alarms that brought the crowd streaming into the field with the match still unfinished.

The stands, according to John Arlott, were seething with leaping West Indian delight. They had thronged in their thousands, taking over every vantage and not-so-vantage viewing angles to cheer their team in the inaugural World Cup final. As the Members’ Stand of Lord’s remained frosty, sedate and sombre, the hordes of expat merrymakers painted the ground with throbbing emotions. With their cheerful revelry and joyous bands, under the baking heat of a London sun that seemed more suited to the Caribbean skies, they packed the stadium to the full, almost spilling into the ground.

The championship was nearing its final moments — heading for what at one point seemed an anti-climactic finish. When last man Dennis Lillee joined Jeff Thomson in near darkness, it looked a hopeless task for Australia at 233 for 9, chasing a target of 292.

But Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee were defiant. Twenty-four runs were needed with 11 balls left, when Thomson chipped Vanburn Holder into the hands of Roy Fredericks in the covers. In those good old innocent days without field restrictions, Fredericks was the only fielder on the off-side, and Thomson had picked him to perfection. The joyous masses rippled in to the ground, in a swarming human deluge of euphoria. None of them had heard the call of no-ball!

Fredericks, however, was fully aware and shied at the non-striker’s end where Lillee was standing outside the crease. He missed and the ball disappeared somewhere in the outfield, lost amidst the hundreds of happy feet. And the two Australian fast bowlers started running furiously.

The two men scampered through and back and back again as the pitch remained the only part of the ground yet to be invaded. Deryck Murray diligently stood at the stumps, guarding them from souvenir snatchers. Dickie Bird at square-leg had his hat swiped off his head and several sweaters whisked off from around his waist. The following year, he saw it on the head of a West Indian bus conductor who proudly recounted the story of getting it off the head of Dickie Bird, the great Test match umpire!

The laymen were not the only ones caught on the wrong foot. In the BBC commentary box, Jim Laker exclaimed, “That’s it!”  On the pitch, Lillee wanted to run even more, but Thomson was wary. He feared the ball emerging from the pocket of some West Indian fan and unwanted hands whipping the bails off and running them out.

As the ground was cleared, confusion persisted about the number of runs to be awarded for the delivery. The umpire at the striker’s end suggested two, and Thomson bristled. “Pig’s arse … we’ve been running up and down here all afternoon.” At the other end, Bird walked up to Lillee and asked how many they had run. The response was equally colourful: “You should be counting, but I make it about 17.” Finally, they got four.

There had been a small rehearsal of the invasion on the previous delivery when Thomson had clipped to fine leg and just about managed to beat Keith Boyce’s searing throw with a desperate dive while running two. Umpire Bird had remained unmoved, but it had mattered little to a number of fans who had sprinted in.

However, three balls later, it was not a false alarm any more. Coming together with 59 runs to win from 8 overs, the two rugged Australians had mixed common sense and good fortune in excellent proportions to bring Australia within 17 of the West Indies total. And now, with just nine balls to go, Thomson jumped out and swung at Holder, his agricultural essay missing the ball by a good yard or so. By this time, after a 118.4 over day, Thomson was feeling the strain. He was late in turning and getting back to his crease, and Deryck Murray’s underarm throw from behind the stumps struck the wickets with a clatter of finality — the fifth run out of the Australia innings.

The players made a frantic dash for the safety of the pavilions, but not all of them were lucky. Thomson’s pads were swiped off. At fine-leg, Keith Boyce was ambushed and pinned down while his boots were torn away from him. He remained a captive hero of the violent adulation before the police ran in to rescue him.

The West Indians had triumphed in the first edition of the World Cup, and it was a proud Clive Lloyd who held aloft the trophy handed over by Prince Phillip. He had reasons to smile under his luxuriant moustache.

A fortnight under the sun

“In this country I have to draw the sun from memory,” the inimitable Australian leg-spinner Arthur Mailey had quipped when the Queen had been effusive in her praise of the exhibition of his paintings, but had found some shortcoming in the way the morning star had been portrayed. Yet, for two weeks as the first World Cup was fought out in this land known for the grey skies, the northern sun redeemed itself by shining in full glory. Not one ball was lost to the whims of the weather.

One-day cricket was still in its infancy. Only 18 matches had been played in all. Many teams still struggled with the concepts of the new format. Nowhere was it more apparent than in the match between India and England, when Srinivas Venkataraghavan’s side had replied to 334 for 4 with 132 for 3. Sunil Gavaskar had stonewalled his way to 36 not out in the 60 overs.

To organise such a tournament in those rudimentary days was a remarkably innovative step taken by ICC, a body not really known for experimentation. Fortune favoured their bravado. In Prudential Insurance they found a generous and loyal sponsor. Matches bubbled with excitement, two best teams met in the final and it was one of the greatest showdowns ever witnessed during the course of a day.

The Supercat

The match was meant to be special right from the very beginning. The start could not have been more sensational after West Indies had been sent in by Ian Chappell. Lillee bounced and a ferocious Fredericks hook sent it orbiting into the crowd. But, the left-hander stumbled and fell on his stumps.

Alvin Kallicharran struck two boundaries before snicking to Rod Marsh. Gordon Greenidge  crawled to 13 in 61 balls before following suit. At 50 for 3, the hulking form of Lloyd walked out under his maroon cap to join the greying presence of Rohan Kanhai at the other end. Astutely, Ian Chappell brought Lillee back for a spell to Lloyd from the Nursery End.

Lloyd clipped Lillee through the mid-wicket for four. The great fast bowler responded with a bouncer, and Lloyd swivelled around to send it spiralling over deep square-leg into the top tier of the Tavern Stand. The temporarily muted West Indian thousands found their voice with a vengeance. And for the next hour and a half the excitement pulsated in their vibrant hearts.

To be fair to Lillee, he induced a false shot off the West Indian captain. At 26, Lloyd pulled him again, and the top hand slipped off the handle, the mistimed ball sped towards mid-wicket, where Ross Edwards put down a fast and low chance.  But, after that it was merciless massacre.

The West Indian hundred came up with the 50-run partnership, and Kanhai’s contribution in the stand had been six. Max Walker had bowled a testing line during the troubled initial session of the West Indian innings. Now, Lloyd launched him high back over his head and it went on first bounce straight into the pavilion rails before ricocheting back into the ground.

A lofted whip over mid-wicket for four was summarised immortally by John Arlott as, “The stroke of a man knocking a thistle top off with a walking stick.” And the mighty willow went through another full swing to launch Walker into the grandstand, bringing up the 100 of the partnership.

Off the 82nd ball he faced, Lloyd’s blade went through a classy arc which would have meant a certain boundary in traditional cricket. However, his heroics had prompted Ian Chappell to put a man on the cover fence several years before it became fashionable. The West Indian captain jogged a single to bring up his sensational hundred. The runs had come in a tumult even though Kanhai had not scored for a period of 11 overs.

Lloyd’s dismissal was unfortunate. He was caught by Marsh off Gary Gilmour, down the leg side, and the decision made after a long discussion between the umpires. He did not seem to have hit it, but the 102 from 85 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes remains one of the greatest innings ever played in this form of cricket. He scored the runs out of 149 added with Kanhai.

The role of the veteran Guyanese batsman, however, cannot be undermined. He pulled out a classy cover-drive from time to time, and lent the wisdom of his experience to season the ingredients of supreme youthful talents. He scored a patient 55, and in the end 291 looked a formidable total.

Gilmour finished with figures of 12-2-48-5 to follow up his 12-6-14-6 against England in the semis.

The Viv Richards triple-strike

Yet, the Australian batting side contained a galaxy of stars, and it was hardly beyond their reach. And they might have coasted to the total but for some electric work in the field.

The trouble started at 25, when Kallicharran took Rick McCosker superbly in the slips off Boyce. But, Ian Chappell was the ideal man to come in at number three against spirited fast bowling. The captain and Alan Turner had taken the score to 81 when the first of the hat-trick of strikes was effected by the magical Viv Richards.

Young, inexperienced and yet to become the star of the batting world, Richards had done little with the bat. In the match he had been castled by Gilmour for four. In the whole tournament he had scored 38 runs at 12.66. But it would not really be stretching it to say he won it for West Indies that day.

First Ian Chappell pushed to the leg side and called for a single. Richards darted in from mid-wicket and sent in a lightning quick underarm throw, catching Turner short of his ground.

Brother Greg Chappell joined the captain and the score had proceeded to 115 when there was a fraternal misunderstanding during the call for a run. And Viv Richards again pinged the stumps with bulls-eye accuracy.

Yet, Australia had enough resources to cruise along. Doug Walters was shaping well. The skipper was looking dangerous, with 62 already under his belt. The score read a healthy 162 for 3 with 21 overs to go, the target very much within reach. Lloyd was sending down some tidy overs of medium-pace, but the bowling looked far from threatening.

It was now that Chappell pushed to mid-wicket, to the left of that same man lurking there. The very sight of Richards caused the batsmen to pause, and then the Antiguan fumbled. The ball got away, a few yards behind him, and Chappell started again, sprinting down the pitch. Viv Richards swooped down on the ball, in one majestic motion, and backhanded the return to his captain who took off the bails. Ian Chappell was caught short of his ground.

Richie Benaud was livid in the commentary box. The Australian captain had made the cardinal mistake, going against the old adage and running on a misfield. Richards had thrown out the cream of the Australian batting.

Soon, Lloyd completed a fantastic match by bowling Doug Walters. Wickets continued to tumble in spite of honest efforts of Edwards, Marsh and Gilmour. When Holder had run out Walker to make it 233 for 9, it seemed all was over.

But then Lillee and Thomson stretched the match to the limits of the long day. The false celebrations leading to swarming invasions prolonged the match even further. The game had started at the stroke of eleven, and by the time the police were rescuing Boyce from zealous admirers, it was quarter to nine in the evening, the sun still smiling graciously on the arena. By fate or foresight, the day was the summer solstice, the longest in the year. And it has lived bright and long in our memories.

There were 26,000 who sat in the stands that day, a fair proportion of whom made it into the centre during and after the game. The gate receipts amounted to a record £66,950. This new form of the game had come to stay.

Brief scores:

West Indies 291 for 8 in 60 overs (Clive Lloyd 102, Rohan Kanhai 55; Gary Gilmour 5 for 51) beat Australia 274 in 58.4 overs (Ian Chappell 62, Alan Turner 40; Keith Boyce 4 for 50) by 17 runs.

Man of the Match: Clive Lloyd.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)