World Cup 1975: Glenn Turner’s 171, the first huge innings
Glenn Turner, en route his monumental 171 not out © Getty Images

June 7, 1975. Glenn Turner made merry against an inexperienced East African attack to pile up 171. It stood as the highest World Cup innings till Kapil Dev scored 175 against Zimbabwe in 1983.In the aftermath of Chris Gayle’s 215, Arunabha Sengupta recalls the first huge innings played in the World Cup.

Mismatches Under the Sun

The sun smiled on the land that had for long courted infamy for fickle weather. There was not a speck of cloud in London, the weather was glorious in Birmingham, dazzled in Leeds and even Manchester was bathed in sunshine.

The crowds flocked in to welcome this new-fangled cricket extravaganza. It was the first day of the very first World Cup cricket had ever seen — perhaps barring that failed experiment of the Triangular Test Series of 1912. And the weather gods beamed benevolently on a glorious summer day.

However, the cricket on display was painfully one sided. Four matches, four non-contests.

The Lord’s encounter between England and India has gone down as the first World Cup match, and one of the most bizarre ever. Dennis Amiss hammered the rather limited bowling line up to score 137 from 147 balls, striking 18 boundaries as England toted up 334. In response Sunil Gavaskar carried his bat through the 60 overs, playing 27 balls more than Amiss, and managing an infamous 36 not out with one solitary boundary.  India’s response read a ridiculous 132 for three.

At Headingley, the match was less absurd, but the contest was similarly non-existent. A Ross Edwards 80 powered Australia to 278 while Dennis Lillee and Max Walker blew Pakistan away for 205.

At Old Trafford, the West Indian pace bowlers made short work of the Sri Lankan batsmen, dismissing the non-Test playing pretenders for 86. The runs were rattled off for the loss of just one wicket.

And at Edgbaston, the curious band of cricketers from the nations of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia got together under the banner of East Africa and played against New Zealand.

The Turner Tale

There was the wicketkeeper Hamish McLeod, who had played against Glamorgan for Zambia a few seasons earlier. Another man in the squad was Don Pringle, the father of England all-rounder Derek Pringle. He was 43, and did not play the first match.

There was opening batsman Sam Walusimbi, a legend in Ugandan club cricket.

The man who bowled the first ball was John Nagenda, born in the Belgian Class B Mandate territory of Ruanda-Urundi. In high demand of the wandering cricket teams of England, especially the Stoics, Nagenda was a compulsive punter on horses and later edited a paper namedThe Club Cricketer.  Years later, he ran Arun Lal out with a misguided call while batting together with the Indian batsman against Hurlingham.

The rest of the men were mostly of Asian origin.

Jawahir Shah had hit 137 for Kenya against Bishan Bedi and EAS Prasanna when India had visited in 1967.

Captain Hiralal Shah was to become the manager of the Kenyan World Cup team in 1999, and subsequently a selector.

There was the off-spinning all-rounder Ramesh Sethi, who later played minor county cricket for Shropshire.

Prabhu Nana, the 42-year-old  left-arm spinner hailing from Gujarat, was the early villain and hero of the match rolled into one.

When on 16, the Kiwi skipper Glenn Turner drove one back to him and Nana failed to hold on.

And then Turner’s opening partner John Morrison lobbed one back to Nana to give the motley crew their first wicket.

However, the escape of Turner proved costly. The Kiwi opener, with immense experience of batting in England, lorded over the sketchy bowling. He found gaps all around the ground, mostly with magnificent drives. Boundaries were picked up fluently and frequently.

Nana, canny old customer, proved miserly, giving away just 34 from his 12 overs in exchange of Morrison’s wicket. However, none of the other bowlers had it in them to contain batsmen from a Test playing nation. Turner lofted medium pacer Zulfiqar Ali and Sethi for a six apiece.

John Parker, Turner’s Worcestershire teammate, scored an almost run-a-ball 66, adding 149 with his captain. The opener went on to carry his bat, managing to farm the strike as well.  He remained unbeaten on 171 when the innings came to an end. The New Zealand essay totalled 309 for five. Turner’s knock had taken 201 balls and contained 16 fours and two sixes.

The East African response was never going to be a serious effort at overhauling the target. The Pakistani expat opener Frasat Ali managed to eke out a slow 45, facing 123 balls in a glacial innings. Down the order Zulfiqar Ali cracked a more enterprising 30. However, the pace of Dayle Hadlee and the left-arm spin of Hedley Howarth proved too much for the newbies.

To their immense credit, the East African batsmen did not allow Richard Hadlee to get a wicket. But the great Kiwi pacer ended with rather incredible figures of12-6-10-0.

With Mehmood Quaraishy managing to see through 88 balls in the course of his 16 not out, East Africa got to play out the 60 overs, ending at 128 for eight. The rather painstaking tale of survival came to an end with a whopping 181 run victory for the New Zealanders.

Turner’s 171 stood as the highest score in the World Cup as well as in One Day cricket till Kapil Dev went past him against Zimbabwe in 1983.

The New Zealand captain was named Man of the Match. He did not stop there. A week later he lit up Old Trafford with an unbeaten 114 against India as the Kiwis chased down 230 with six wickets and seven balls remaining.

Turner remains one of the early trendsetters in the history of the tournament.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 309 for 5 in 60 overs (Glenn Turner 171*, John Parker 66) beat East Africa 128 for 8 in 60 overs (Frasat Ali 45, Zulfiqar Ali 30; Dayle Hadlee 3 for 21, Hedley Howarth 3 for 29) by 181 runs.

Man of the Match: Glenn Turner.

(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)