Cricket World Cup: Innings that shook world

The Flashback: Clive Lloyd's Finest Hour; How an elegant left-hander stole the show in the first final.
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The Independent Online
IT WAS the first, and still the best, of World Cup finals and Clive Lloyd's 102, off 85 balls, which was the dominant individual performance, remains true to Denis Compton's rating at the time as "one of the greatest innings I have ever seen".

The West Indies' victory over Australia at Lord's, by 19 runs, was 24 years ago, but the images that will fill our television screens in the build-up to the 1999 tournament will make it seem even longer. There is Lloyd, aged 29, slim and athletic as an Olympic sprinter, all in white except for the maroon West Indian cap perched at a jaunty angle atop his Afro hairstyle, thumping Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and the rest all over Lord's on his way to his historic hundred.

The ball is red, not white. The sightscreens are white, not black, the clothing traditional, not flashy national colours. And with every Lloyd boundary there are thousands of West Indians cavorting on the hallowed turf. They have not been seen since English grounds adopted all-ticket seating and corporate hospitality boxes.

"Every time I see that footage, I realise how much the one-day game has changed," says Lloyd, now 53 and back on the World Cup scene as the West Indies manager. "I went through all of those changes with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, the white ball, the coloured gear, the floodlights, the fielding circles. That first World Cup was something of an experiment. Limited-overs cricket was well established in England but it was hardly played anywhere else. It was a blessing that we had wonderful weather throughout and that so many of the matches were exciting. It gave the game a great boost."

As one of the driving forces behind Lancashire's dominance of the domestic one-day competitions, Lloyd credits the West Indies' triumph to the experience so many of his players had gleaned from county cricket.

Victories over Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia in the preliminaries and New Zealand in the semi-final were enough to see them through to the final against the Australians on a glorious summer's day at the Mecca of cricket.

"I was surprised when Ian Chappell put us in," Lloyd recalls. "The pitch looked a real beauty and, with our batting, I felt a total of 250 or more was on the cards. But we knew we needed a big score and that at least one of our batsmen had to really fire." This year, captains will consider 250 inadequate for 50 overs, far less the 60 that were played then, but those were the formative years for strategies for this new format and there were, in any case, no restrictions on field placing.

Lloyd's early optimism was quickly shaken when Roy Fredericks, in hooking Lillee for six in the third over, lost his footing and fell back on to the stumps. He was swiftly followed by Alvin Kallicharran and Gordon Greenidge, so that the captain entered to the insecurity of 50 for 3 against the most effective fast bowling of the day - Lillee, the menacing Thomson and the swingers, the left-arm Gary Gilmour and Max "Tangles" Walker. "I was a little apprehensive but conditions were made to order for batting," Lloyd says. "In those days, it was felt spin had no place in the one-day set-up and they had none. The attack lacked variety and the pitch did nothing for the quick bowlers."

Lloyd immediately flicked Lillee off his toes for the first of his 12 fours and hooked him for the first of two sixes. "The ball was coming off the middle virtually from the first shot and, as sometimes happens, I suspected this would be my day," Lloyd puts it matter-of-factly.

What happened was a spectator's delight - and a commentator's, too. "It's not only difficult to bowl a maiden over but, apparently, to bowl a maiden ball," the great John Arlott chortled amid the Lloyd plunder. He described one Lloyd boundary as "the stroke of a man knocking a thistle top off with a walking stick". As Chappell spread out his men, Arlott referred to the wicket-keeper Rodney Marsh as "the entire close field".

Throughout his innings, Lloyd had the company of the sage Rohan Kanhai, aged 39, his predecessor as captain and playing his last match for the West Indies. The pair added 149. Kanhai's share was 50. "His was just the type of role that was needed. His enormous experience and technique ensured the recovery. It wouldn't have been possible without him," Lloyd says.

Once Lloyd was gone, to a dubious leg-side tickle to Marsh off Gilmour, power hitting by Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien, two ebullient all-rounders, carried the total to 291 for 8.

"Once we got that many, we had the match sewn up although we had to be careful we didn't take it for granted," Lloyd points out. "The bowlers stuck well to the task but our fielding was the outstanding feature. I'd told Viv Richards before the match that the Australians were very good runners between the wickets but that they did tend to take chances. I thought a run out or two was on." In fact, the brilliant Richards snared the first three of the eventual five.

He first threw out the opener Alan Turner and then finished off the Chappells, Greg with a direct hit, Ian with a return to Lloyd the bowler, who followed his hundred with 1 for 38 from 12 overs of medium-pace that assured him the personal award of Man of the Match.

"I'm not really an emotional person but it was a very moving moment lifting that Cup in front of all those West Indians," he says. "It meant so much to them and to our cricket."

So what odds another left-handed captain reeling off a hundred in the final at Lord's this time and lifting the Cup for the West Indies for the first time since 1979 when Lloyd was again at the helm in the second tournament? "I don't see why not," says Lloyd, who knows what Brian Lara, and his rejuvenated team, are capable of.

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