Saturday, March 03, 2007

Looking through Gary Gilmour's Eyes

With World Cup fever gripping the nation (?!) here's the first in a series of articles looking at previous World Cup competitions - not particular pattern or formula, sometimes it'll be a high level overview, and sometimes I'll pick on some particular issue and give it a flogging. I've no idea how far we'll get with this. Let's face it, during England's recent World Cup escapades (1999 comes to mind) I've started to lose the will to live, so committing ideas to paper/WP may prove rather a traumatic experience.

First stop is 1975.

Here's a statistic that I found stunning when I first looked it up - there had only been 18 One Day Internationals before the start of the 1975 World Cup. Of those, England had appeared in over two thirds. The West Indies, Pakistan and India had appeared in only a handful of games between them. For comparison, the most recent 18 ODIs all took place in the last THREE WEEKS!

So when the teams were gathering for the inaugaral World Cup, there was very little 'form' for bookmakers to study. The West Indies were probably favourites, if only because the one-day format suited their style of cricket and the fact that a lot of their side had excelled in English domestic one day cricket. Pakistan were also fancied as they could put this fearsome line-up out - Majid Khan, Sadiq, Zaheer, Mushtaq, Asif Iqbal, Wasim Raja, Javed Miandad, Imran, Wasim Bari, Asif Masood, Safraz Nawaz. Obviously it wasn't to be for Pakistan this time, but it's worth noting that two of that side had their day in the sun no less that seventeen years later! England had a pretty solid side, and the Australians looked strong - fresh from giving England a good shoeing earlier in the year thanks to that stunning Aussie wench - Lillian Thompson.

England and New Zealand got to the semi finals in rather sedate fashion from a group that also featured India and 'East Africa'. Who they? Well, to my mind, 'East Africa' is Kenya, and possibly Uganda - both of which were happliy independent by 1975, so I'm not sure why we had to suffer the empire throwback of a name which conjours up echos of tea plantations and 'White Mischief' - presumably designed to keep the MCC 'dribblers' happy and make them think it was still 1923. Their wicketkeeper was a guy named Hamish Macleod (tartan has always been big business in Mombassa) and their skipper was Donald Pringle - Derek's old man - obviously Kenyan through and through...

Anyway, England made short work of India, thanks to Sunil Gavaskar not realising it was a one-day game, saw off NZ thanks to a Keith Fletcher ton, and then spent a happy early evening sipping pink gins and playing canasta with the 'Happy Valley' set after they'd polished them off by about 700 runs at around half past three.

The best games were all in the other group - the 'Group of Death' if you will, where West Indies, Pakistan and Australia fought for the two semi-final places alongside Sri Lanka, still then only an associate member.

Dennis Lillee inspired Australia to victory over Pakistan, who then had West Indies eight down with 80 still required to win, and contrived to lose by one wicket in an extraordinary finish.

The scenes at The Oval for the West Indies v Australia match up were extraordinary. West Indies fans were scaling the walls, throwing their ticket stubs back to friends waiting outside and smuggling themselves into the ground in delivery vans to see their heroes. One estimate was that there were 40,000 shoehorned into the ground - double the official attendance. Alvin Kallicharran single handedly destroyed the Australian attack in thrilling fashion to ensure West Indies topped the group and thus got a fairly easy passge through to the final via victory over the Kiwis.

The other noteworthy event in this group was the performance of Sri Lanka against Australia - which was a huge step on their way to attaining full status - the famous 'would you like to press charges?' comment after Jeff Thompson had hospitalised Gehan Mendis with a yorker came here.

The other semi final was England vs Australia at Headingley. Rumour has it that it was so cloudy that those in the top ten rows of the Western Terrace had to wear oxygen masks. Gary Gilmour produced a classic left arm seamers spell to reduce England to 52-8. 3 caught behind, 2 LBW and 1 bowled by the 'nip-backer' - he ended with 6-14. Denness & the tail took the score to 93.

The England bowling line up was none too shabby for the conditions and Snow, Arnold and Old had the Aussies 39-6. But ultimately there weren't enough runs to play with, Gilmour rode his luck with the bat to finish with 28 not out and the Aussies went through.

Thousands of words have been written about the final so there's little point rehashing it with a blow by blow account. Suffice to say that I was glued to the television for the whole length of it. (nine hours plus) Clive Lloyd played one of the defining one day innings, Australia confidently chased a seemingly insurmountable target only to shoot themselves in the foot with run-outs - not once or twice but FIVE times. It ended past eight o'clock - with another run out as Lillian Thompson got her knickers in a twist going for a short single!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

East Africa included zambia and malawi as well as the three "east african" countries - one presumes in an attempt to make a strong enough side. Indeed hamish mcloud was from zambia. Derek Pringles dad lived in kenya for 17 years (and indeed died there) so was doubtless more "Kenyan" that several of the Irish are Irish.