Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Classic Matches…..2 : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh


England v Pakistan  •  Headingley, Leeds, 16 June 1979

This was a key match, for the winners would avoid the mighty West Indies in the semi-finals. Both the teams were on edge, and the pendulum swung from one end to the other as the batsmen struggled for runs.

England were put in to bat and there was excitement from the very start. Skipper Mike Brearley was caught behind second ball off Imran Khan, and Derek Randall was dismissed similarly in the second over sent down by Sikander Bakht. After a brief respite, wickets fell regularly and at 118 for eight, England appeared down and out for the count.

Wicketkeeper Bob Taylor had figured in a few rescue acts over the years, but keeping him company here was the lanky, awkward Bob Willis, hardly known for his prowess with the willow. On this occasion the fast bowler showed that he had the resilience to battle it out in a desperate situation. The Bobs put on 43 runs, which were to prove crucial in the ultimate analysis. Still, a score of 165 in 60 overs could not have inspired much confidence in the hosts.

Pakistan made a comfortable start which provided no hint of the turmoil that was to follow. Mike Hendrick was adept at moving the ball and revelled in home conditions. Ken Barrington put his bowling in perspective: "Most batsmen have no idea how to face him. With the ball starting one way for one ball and the other for the next, it's a lottery for any batsman."

It was time for Hendrick to give further evidence of it. In a truly devastating burst of eight deliveries he left the Pakistan innings in tatters. He removed Majid Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Sadiq Mohammed and Haroon Rashid with only three runs added during this time. Ian Botham soon got into the act, dismissing Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas. Pakistan were 34 for six, having lost all these wickets in a space of five overs.

A collapse of such proportions would have destroyed most sides, but the Pakistan team of the 1970s had tremendous depth with the likes of skipper Asif Iqbal, Wasim Raja, Imran Khan and wicketkeeper Wasim Bari occupying the slots from no.7 to no.10. Asif and Raja added 52 priceless runs for the seventh wicket. Then Imran helped his captain put on 29 runs for the next wicket.

Asif departed after playing a responsible knock of 51, spanning 104 balls, with five fours. Another 51 runs were required in 20 overs with two wickets in hand. It was still a difficult task as Imran and Bari put up further resistance. The pair put on 30 runs and the target seemed to be within sight.

In desperation Brearley turned to the innocuous round arm of Geoff Boycott. The Yorkshireman had Bari caught behind and the tide turned yet again. Amid growing excitement, Boycott turned up trumps for the second time as he had last man Sikander Bakht caught by Hendrick. Pakistan fell short by 14 runs with four overs still to be bowled.

It was a keenly fought battle which generated great excitement, a kind of match the crowds always hope for. The real gainer, as they say, was the game of cricket.

England          : 165 for 9 wickets (60 overs)
Pakistan         : 151 all out (56 overs)

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

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