All in a day's work for Gary Gilmour: take 6 for 14, top-score in a chase, and pretend nothing has happened © Getty Images
All in a day’s work for Gary Gilmour: take 6 for 14, top-score in a chase, and pretend nothing has happened © Getty Images

On June 18, 1975, Gary Gilmour picked up six for 14 and then rescued his side with the top score of the match at Headingley in the World Cup semi-final. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back one of the greatest performances in the history of ODIs.

What is the greatest performance in the history of ODIs? There have been Viv Richards’s 189* at Old Trafford, Kapil Dev’s 175* at Turnbridge Wells, and Sanath Jayasuriya’s 189 at Sharjah; on the other hand, there have been Aaqib Javed’s 7 for 37 at Sharjah, Courtney Walsh’s 5 for 1 at Sharjah, and Shaun Pollock’s 5 for 36 at Edgbaston.

What about the greatest all-round performances? Yes, they have been there too. On 11 occasions a player has scored a hundred and has taken four or more wickets in an ODI, and on 15 occasions a player has scored a fifty and has taken five wickets.

There have been few that would have matched Gary Gilmour’s performance in the 1975 World Cup semi-final, though. Perhaps none. Scoring runs and taking wickets is one thing. Rip through the opposition with the ball and then win the match with the bat from a hopeless situation is something else. More so if it’s a World Cup semi-final. Especially if it’s at the opposition’s den. And if it’s your third ODI, you’ve never batted before, and have taken 3 wickets till date, it sounds almost absurd.

Yet that was what Gary Gilmour did. Let us look back at that historic day — perhaps the greatest of all ODI performances.

The England innings

The pitch had been used before in the tournament for the league match between Australia and Pakistan. However, to quote Wisden, “the groundsman had watered it and it looked green and damp.” There was a tinge of green, but it was evident that the moisture might dry up later in the day.

Ian Chappell, the Australian captain, admitted after the match: “The ball seamed all day and the bounce was a bit uneven. It was difficult to get to the front foot against bowlers of the pace playing in this game and when you got one that kept low — well that explains the LBWs.” He added: “Perhaps it’s a good thing that batsmen do not have it all their own way all the time.”

Chappell won the toss and had no hesitation to bowl first. England opened with Dennis Amiss — possibly the first great ODI batsman — and Barry Wood. After Dennis Lillee had sent down the first over, Ian Chappell brought on Gilmour, the burly southpaw, from the other end, ahead of Max Walker.

It was evident that the Australian fielders were running between overs to get as many overs in as possible before the Sun came out. Or was it because they did not want to bat in the fading light of the evening? Whatever it was, it turned out to be unnecessary.

Playing his first match of the tournament Gilmour somehow extracted unreal movement, both in the air and off the moist surface. It was not every day that Lillee was pushed into the background, but it was simply going to be Gilmour’s day. Sure enough, he soon bowled on the leg-stump that straightened, and Amiss was trapped leg-before for 2.

Wood cover-drove Lillee exquisitely for the first boundary of the match, but Gilmour soon pitched one on off-middle, and the swinging yorker made its way through Wood’s ‘gate’, and the off-stump was pegged back. 11 for 2. Wood had looked positive, it was a special delivery.

Lillee, certainly nowhere close to Gilmour’s form, pitched one on the middle stump that Tony Greig flicked for four to bring the home crowd to its feet. At 26 for 2, with Greig looking good and Keith Fletcher looking determined, England looked to have found a hold of some sort.

It was then that Rodney Marsh produced a catch that has made his supporters claim that there has been none like him: Gilmour bowled one wide (moving it away from the right-hander for a change), Greig slashed hard, and the ball flew at Ian Chappell at first slip, who was standing reasonably wide; Marsh flew in front of Chappell and somehow managed to come up with the ball in his right glove.

Frank Hayes walked out. The broad-shouldered elegant Lancastrian on-drove to hit the first boundary off Gilmour, but soon shouldered arms to one against the same bowler. Gilmour appealed, and the David Constant raised his finger; replays, however, showed that the ball would possibly have missed the off-stump.

Gilmour followed with Fletcher’s wicket. The ball nipped back in viciously to trap Fletcher leg-before. Gilmour had claimed his five-for, and Fletcher was eventually dismissed for a painstaking 45-ball 8. England were 35 for 5, and were in serious trouble now. Gilmour had now become the second bowler in ODI history to have claimed a five-for, the first being Lillee earlier in the tournament. The television commentator confessed that “Alan Davidson would have been proud of a spell like this”.

Alan Knott followed soon for nought: Gilmour pitched one up, Knott played back, and the Constant had no hesitation when the ball hit his pad. Gilmour leapt in joy: he had become the first bowler to pick up 6 wickets in an ODI, and with figures of 6 for 10, definitely looked hungry for more.

Lillee had meanwhile given way to Max Walker: Chris Old flashed hard at Walker, and Greg Chappell moved swiftly to his left to complete the catch at second slip. It was the first wicket from the other end, and at 37 for 7, England were as good as out of the match.

Mike Denness, the English captain, soon square-cut Walker hard to become the first batsman to reach double-figures in the match. The shot also brought up the fifty. Soon afterwards, though, John Snow tried to leg-glance Lillee — who had replaced Walker — and the snick landed in Marsh’s gloves. Snow walked.

Walker, with his unusual wrong-footed action, replaced Lillee again after lunch, and finally ended Denness’ resilience by clean-bowling him for 27. He had batted for 60 deliveries, and England, though in a situation less worse than before, were still in a hopeless 73 for 7.

So good was the Australian bowling that Jeff Thomson could not be brought on before the 26th over. He immediately found Geoff Arnold’s edge, but the ball raced to the fence through the slips. Walker ended England’s misery, though, by trapping Peter Lever leg-before: Bill Alley had no hesitation in raising his finger.

England were bowled out for 93 in 36.2 overs: other than Denness, Lever (with 18 not out) was the only one to go past ten; and there were only 6 boundaries. Gilmour finished with phenomenal figures of 12-6-14-6, while Walker supported him ably with 3 for 22.

Gilmour’s spell had been rated by Wisden as the best-ever in ODI history. His figures remained the best ODI bowling analysis for 8 years till Winston Davis took 7 for 51 in the 1983 World Cup (though Imran Khan equalled Gilmour’s 6 for 14 in 1985). He was not through, though.

The Australian chase

A target 94 from 60 overs was supposed to be a paltry target, but England had a four-pronged attack in Snow, Chris Old, Geoff Arnold, and Peter Lever; each of the bowlers was a formidable name on a surface whose kind was familiar to them, and when Alan Turner and Rick McCosker strode out to open batting, the English bowlers had vowed to give it back to them.

The openers took the score to 17 before disaster struck: Turner was trapped in front of the stumps to Arnold, and Alley raised the telltale finger. The Chappell brothers were both leg-before off identical deliveries that kept low. Snow — who had managed to generate some serious pace — had removed both in the space of nine balls.

It was then up to the local hero Old to wreak havoc: coming on first-change, he clean bowled the trio of McCosker, Ross Edwards, and Marsh in quick succession in an inspired spell of hostile bowling. Old had taken 3 for 2 runs in 7 deliveries.

Gilmour found himself walking out again, this time to join the inimitable Doug Walters — who was hanging around with uncharacteristic grimness — with the score on 39 for 6 and 55 runs required. England’s seamers had bowled her back into the match.

The 20,000-strong Headingley crowd had found their voices now, and as banners with “’roos can’t play cricket” and other similar slogans came out on the cloudy day at Leeds. It was Australia’s turn to resurrect now.

Walters, despite his reputation as an explosive batsman, went on to average only 25.68 in Tests on English soil, and a similarly measly 19 in the ODIs. The crowd expected some stroke play, but did not expect him to last long. Sure enough, Snow found his edge when he tried to fend one off, and the ball raced through the slips.

Gilmour, however, batted with confidence from the first ball he faced, and his confidence buoyed his New South Wales captain. Walters drove one, and square-cut another fiercely — and the target got closer. Other than those two special strokes, he generally preferred to take the backseat.

Gilmour, on the other hand, was as serene as one could imagine. He drove calmly, and cut the occasional delivery. Then, suddenly, something snapped: Gilmour edged one to Greig at second slip, but the chance was spilled. Australia were 78 for six then, and had the catch been taken, England might have managed to scrape through, with only Walker, Lillee, and Thomson to follow.

The catch being spilled, Gilmour took Australia to a victory in no time: the 55-run partnership came up in only 58 balls. Gilmour remained unbeaten on 28 from 28 balls, while Walters hung on with 20. The target was achieved in 28.4 overs with a no-ball and a leg-bye off Arnold.

Jeff Stollmeyer’s choice for the Man of the Match was one of the easiest in history.

What followed

– West Indies defeated Australia at Lord’s to lift the World Cup. Gilmour picked up five for 48, and finished the tournament with absurd figures of 11 for 62.

– Gilmour played only one more ODI after the World Cup — against at Adelaide six months later, where he accounted for Lawrence Rowe and Richards, and Australia won the ODI.

– Gilmour finished with an ODI batting average of 42, and picked up 16 wickets from his 5 ODIs at an incredible 10.31 (along with a strike rate of 20 and an economy rate of 3.09). Strangely, he never played again.

Brief scores:

England 93 in 36.2 overs (Mike Denness 27; Gary Gilmour 6 for 14, Max Walker 3 for 22) lost to Australia 94 for 6 in 28.4 overs (Gary Gilmour 28*, Doug Walters 20*; Chris Old 3 for 29) by 6 wickets with 188 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Gary Gilmour.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)