‘Caribbean Kings’ Retain the Crown (1979)

Cricket World Cup History

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The inaugural edition in 1975 witnessed the lads from the Caribbean, inspired by their industrious captain Clive Lloyd vanquish every opponent en route to winning the first ever World Cup trophy. The team returned to England for the 1979 contest with ambitions of securing the grip on the trophy they earned four years earlier. Although the likes of Keith Boyce, Roy Fredericks, Rohan Kanhai, Vanburn Holder, Lance Gibbs and Bernard Julien were no more, they fielded a more ferocious line up to retain the world prize. Gordon Greenidge was joined by the Barbadian, Desmond Haynes to open the batting assault which was later joined by Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran and Collis King. The onslaught with the ball was led by the brutal quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner.

The same venues from the previous competition were selected while the same format was continued. The six Test playing nations along with Sri Lanka and Canada took part in the tournament. Sri Lanka, the winners of the inaugural ICC trophy and the runners up Canada were selected from non- Test playing nations.

Unbeaten England tops Group A

The opening game featured hosts England and rivals Australia on 9th June at Lord’s. It resulted in an easy win of 6 wickets for England. The Australians were reduced from being a strong team since the majority of their experienced players were under contract by Kerry Packer’s WSC. Batting first, Australia was able to score just 159/9 in 60 overs which was chased by England within 47.1 overs. Graham Gooch scored 53 off 96 balls. The hosts went on to lead Group A, recording further wins against Canada and Pakistan. Chris Old and Bob Willis ran riot against Canada, bowling them out for just 45 runs. The duo bagged 4 wickets each.

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England were challenged by Pakistan at Headingley, as both teams entered the contest after winning their first two games. Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal, upon winning the toss invited England to bat. The visitors curtailed the hosts for 165 runs, with a potential win in sight. But they were fizzled by the fine swing of Mike Hendrick. From a point where the scoreboard stood 27 for no loss, Hendrick sent Majid Khan, Mudassar Nazar and Sadiq Mohammad back to the dressing room, later reducing Pakistan to 34/6. The late fight back of 51 by skipper Iqbal along with the lower order was again intervened by Hendrick with an outstanding catch to dismiss Sikander Bakht to seal a momentous 14-run win. Hendrick’s 4 for 15 which fragmented the top order was assisted by Ian Botham and Geoff Boycott who took 2 wickets each.

Defending Champions with clear intentions              

West Indies began their run with a convincing 9-wicket victory over India. An early slump in the Indian innings was caused by Michael Holding and Andy Roberts with their lightning pace bowling leaving India 29/3. In an attempt to revive the innings, Gundappa Viswanath fought with 75 runs, but was deprived of support from the other end. The Indian innings eventually ceased for 190 in 53 overs. Holding’s 4 wickets were followed by 2 from Roberts and one each from Joel Garner, Collis King and Colin Croft. The impressive response from the Windies was spearheaded by an elegant century by opener Gordon Greenidge. His partner Desmond Haynes braced with 47 runs to provide an opening stand of 138 runs. Greenidge scored 106 not out as West Indies reached 194 with a loss of just one wicket.

Sri Lanka does the ‘Unthinkable’

L-R :  Maj-Gen BR Heyn (Manager). Roy Dias, Ranjan Madugalle, Ranjan Gunatilleke, DLS de Silva, Roger Wijesuriya, Sunil Jayasinghe, Sudath Pasqual, Rohan Jayasekera, Abu Fuard

Seated L-R : Ajith de Silva,  Sridaran Jeganathan, Bandula Warnapua, Anura Tennakoon, Sunil Wettimuny, D S De Silva, Tony Opatha, Duleep Mendis,

(Image courtesy – ‘Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka and Beyond’ by Michael Roberts (2006))

Sri Lanka, a nation that was yet to be granted Test status, was led by top order batsman Anura Tennekoon. Suffering a loss against New Zealand and being unable to play against Windies due to bad weather, the minnows entered Old Trafford on 18th June with hopes of salvaging some pride in their last game. Ranjan Gunatilleke was joined by schoolboy cricketer Ranjan Madugalle for their ODI debut while Madugalle was united with his 17-year-old schoolmate Sudath Pasqual who had already become the youngest ever Sri Lankan to play in an ODI, making his debut against New Zealand in the previous game. Left-arm off spinner Roger Wijesuriya made up the 3rd school boy in that side.

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After winning the toss, India chose to field. The promising start by stand-in skipper Bandula Warnapura and Sunil Wettamuny was later furnished by a 96-run stand between Wettamuny and Roy Dias in 25 overs which was indeed a delight. Wettamuny’s stylish drives were backed by Dias’ appealing strokes. After Wettamuny’s departure for 67, Dias continued his innings, reaching 50. Later Duleep Mendis’s husky play was joined by Pasqual, the youngest player in the tournament to take the Sri Lankan score to 238/5 at the end. Mendis’ fine knock of 64 runs came in 57 balls with three magnificent sixes while the youngster remained unbeaten on 23. Due to the late start on Saturday, India awaited until Monday for the task of chasing 239. India was 119/2, a seemingly firm position needing just 120 runs off 25 overs. But Viswanath’s run out for 22 turned the tables as D.S. De Silva began to operate his googlies, spinning out the middle order. Tony Opatha’s swing attack dismantled the tail as the Indians were bowled out for 191 runs, giving a historic 47-run win to the Sri Lankans. D.S. De Silva and Tony Opatha took three scalps each while Mendis was named Man of the Match. It was the first time in history that a non-Test playing nation had beaten a Test nation in an ODI game, a richly deserved victory for the determined lads from the pearl.

Hosts reach the final against the ‘Favourites’

England and Pakistan who qualified from Group A were joined by West Indies and New Zealand from Group B. The first semi-final took place between England and New Zealand at Manchester. Kiwi skipper Mark Burgess won the toss and chose to field as England posted 221 for 8 after being 98/4 at one point. England’s recovery was largely influenced by Gooch’s 71 runs. Derek Randall’s cameo included 42 runs. New Zealand’s run chase was muddled by wickets at regular intervals before falling 9 runs short of the target. Mike Hendrick took 3 for 55. It was New Zealand’s second consecutive semi-final loss.      

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Pakistan became the first team from Asia to feature in a WC semi-final when they faced West Indies in the second semi-final. Batting first West Indies piled on 293/6 in 60 overs. Once again Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge provided a solid opening stand worth 132 runs. Haynes struck 65 while Greenidge thrived with 73 runs. Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Collis King chipped in with important contributions of 42, 37 and 34 runs respectively. Asif Iqbal took 4 for 56. Initially, the daunting chase was made even more strenuous by hostile West Indian bowling. However against the odds, Majeed Khan and Zaheer Abbas stuck around with a wonderful partnership of 166 runs. Lloyd deployed Viv Richards with his spin while re-introducing Croft from the other end. The gamble paid off as Croft dismissed the pair and later Miandad for a duck. Richards sent skipper Iqbal, Nassar and Imran Khan back to the stands while Andy Roberts sealed the win with two wickets at the end. The 43 run win assured their place in the final against hosts England.

A Caribbean Carnival at Lord’s

Bright sunshine graced the historic Lord’s ground on 23rd June 1979, welcoming the two unbeaten sides for the grand finale. Expectations were sky high on Mike Brearley and his side to beat the reigning world champions on home soil. Brearley won the toss and sent in the opposition to bat. Despite the strongly felt absence of Bob Willis, England managed to gain the upper hand early in the game. The perilous partnership of Haynes and Greenidge was snapped at 22, following an innocuous underarm return by Randall from mid-wicket to the bowler’s end to force a run out. England held the initiative when skipper Clive Lloyd departed for 13, leaving West Indies at 99/4. Viv was running out of partners at the other end when Collis King arrived as their last frontline batsmen to turn the match on its head. The dazzling 139-run stand featured Collis King smashing 86 off just 66 deliveries. King pummeled 10 fours and 3 sixes, inflicting colossal damage to the English momentum. After King’s exit, Richards took up the assault, reaching his century in the following over and subsequently scoring an unbeaten 138 runs, carrying West Indies to 286/9.

England’s response was firm, but slow. Although Brearley and Boycott made 129 for the opening stand, the bowling of Roberts and Garner kept things tight. When both were dismissed by Holding, ‘Big Bird’ Garner and Croft stepped up to shatter the rest of the line up as England lost their last 7 wickets for 11 runs before tumbling down for 194. Garner took 5 for 38 while Croft ended with 3 for 42.

Greenidge’s bat produced 253 runs making him the top run scorer while Mike Hendrick became the highest wicket taker of the tournament with 10 scalps. It was time to rejoice for Clive Lloyd and his Caribbean clan as the crown was retained in style. The emphatic 92-run thrashing, once again proclaimed their supremacy as the leviathan of international cricket.