Liebke has a new book out, and you can read 1/50th of it here for FREE
Your friend and mine Dan Liebke has written a book counting down the 50 greatest matches in Australian cricket (of the past 50 years). It’s called, fittingly, The 50 Greatest Matches in Australian Cricket (of the Past 50 Years). Here quite literally free of charge is the chapter on exactly one of those matches.
A World Cup-Shaped Beacon: Australia v West Indies, Prudential World Cup Final at Lord’s, London, England, 1975
In 1975, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in cinemas all around the world. Inspired by the comedy troupe’s quest1, cricket authorities2 decided to offer a grail of their own: a World Cup to determine who was the best one-day cricket team in the world.
Would it be England, who had played 15 of the 18 ODIs that had taken place over the last three and a half years? Would it be Australia or New Zealand, who’d played seven apiece? Or could Pakistan (3), India (2), West Indies (2), Sri Lanka (0) or East Africa (0) overcome their inexperience in the format?
The tournament started in Lord’s where England’s 4/334 batting first was met with an eccentric performance from India’s Sunil Gavaskar, who batted through India’s full allotment of 60 overs to score 36 not out.
Lord’s was clearly a silly place, and as the tournament moved away to other grounds around England, the various teams’ quests for the World Cup became much more sensible.
Australia faced the three-headed foe of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the group stages. They won two and lost one to qualify for the finals.
Gary Gilmour then took 6/14 from his 12 overs in the semi-final to dismiss England for 93 on a pitch so green it could have been mistaken for shrubbery. He then followed up his bowling exploits with a run-a-ball 28 when forced to the crease at 6/39, to bravely run away with the match.
In the final, Australia would face the undefeated West Indies, who had handily defeated them earlier in the tournament. They were now back to taunt them for a second time.
Australia won the toss and Ian Chappell chose to field first. His opposite number3, the bespectacled West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, then proceeded to produce one of the very best batting performances in World Cup history.
Lloyd clobbered his way to 102 from 85 balls, with 12 fours and two sixes to set up the West Indies total of 8/291 from their 60 overs. Gilmour was again Australia’s best bowler, taking 5/48.
“Everything just clicked,” said Lloyd later. “From then on you realise this is your day. You couldn’t make a hundred in a better scene than that. It was a full house, a beautiful day and the cricket was pretty exciting. It was a final that you would want to be involved in.”
The Australian run-chase was bizarre. There were not one, not two, but five run outs, as Viv Richards made a stunning impact on the match with his fielding.
First to succumb to Richards was Alan Turner, who was slow to respond to Ian Chappell’s call for a single, as he dropped a ball to the leg side. Turner hesitated with a half-skip, as if riding an imaginary horse, before setting off. But Richards was already sprinting in from mid-wicket, where he scooped up the ball in his right hand and slung it into the side of the stumps.
The second run out came when a misfield from the point fielder convinced Chappell to call his brother Greg through for the single. Richards, however, scooted across from cover to cover for his teammate, recover the ball and cover himself in glory with another direct hit.
Ian followed in virtually the same fashion. He pushed the ball to mid-wicket, then hesitated when he realised it was Richards somehow fielding there as well. When Richards fumbled slightly, Chappell decided to go for the single, only to be caught short of his ground when Richards rocketed the ball to Lloyd at the bowler’s end.
Each of these run outs by themselves might have been considered a mere scratch. A flesh wound, at worst. In accumulation, however, they left the Australians completely disarmed. When Max Walker succumbed to the eerie spectacle of a non-Viv Richards-inspired run out, Dennis Lillee joined Jeff Thomson at the crease with the score 9/233. The West Indies had surely defeated their worthy adversaries.
The last pair refused to surrender, however, despite the hopelessness of their position.
With 59 needed off seven overs, Lillee and Thomson threw the bat. They drove, slogged, clipped and otherwise improvised their way to 9/268 with 11 balls left. Thomson then pushed a ball from Vanburn Holder inside-out towards extra cover, where the catch was taken by Roy Fredericks. Out? Not out! Umpire Dickie Bird had called a no-ball. With Lillee out of his crease backing up, however, Fredericks decided that an interesting type of dismissal to inflict upon the Australians might be, oh, a run out. He flung the ball at the non-striker’s end, only to see the ball disappear into the charging crowd.
Yes, charging crowd. Because excited West Indies supporters, oblivious to the no-ball call and thinking that the match was over, were invading the ground. As they were doing that, Lillee and Thomson were running.
They scurried for one. Then back for the second. And a third. Nobody knew where the ball was, so Lillee gestured for Thomson to keep running. Thomson refused, aware of the peril they’d be in if somebody returned the ball to a fielder. It was a peril Lillee was willing to face but Thomson’s cooler head4 prevailed.
This was mad, wondrous stuff. The tournament had started with one kind of silliness at Lord’s. It was now ending with an entirely different kind.
The police eventually showed up to disperse the crowd and send them on their way, and shortly after Thomson was dismissed.
How was he out? Take a guess.
Lillee and Thomson had been brave. But the fight was the West Indies’.
They had succeeded in their quest for the World Cup. For the first time in cricket history, the sport had an official world champion.
The West Indies would remain the kings of cricket for the next two decades.
Result: West Indies won by 17 runs
1 Which, after all, featured a photo of W G Grace in the role of God. (That’s not a joke. Go back and have a look.)
2 Whose supreme executive power, as always, was derived from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
3 None of the players wore numbers. That was an innovation for a future era.
4 Yes, Jeff Thomson’s cooler head. These were wild times.
- This is an extract from Dan Liebke’s new book The 50 Greatest Matches in Australian Cricket (of the Past 50 Years). If you want to read about the other 49 and find out where this one ranked, the book is available for purchase in the greatest 50 bookstores in Australia (and elsewhere). You can also order it online via 50greatestmatches.com
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