“Everything Lillee dished out was dispatched with disdain in that spell (Lillee’s second spell). Not only Australia’s premier fast bowler but Kallicharran was also severe on the others”
There are certain knocks that are hard to forget, especially when they come in difficult conditions and against quality bowling attacks. Certain knocks that are made out of bravery, tough skill and grit and such knocks are termed as ‘ones for the ages.
Back in 1975, in the first-ever World Cup, the face-off between Australia and West Indies at Birmingham was one of the most intriguing and most awaited ones. It was the third game for both sides.
Australia boasted of a deadly bowling attack. Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Max Walker terrorised most batting line-ups in the world. They could run through any side and on any pitch under all sorts of conditions. In that World Cup, they had already done that. Lillee had already taken a five-wicket haul against Pakistan in Australia’s opening game while Thompson had sent a couple of Sri Lankan batsmen to the hospital in their second game. The fearsome pace trio might not have picked up too many wickets in the first two games, but they had sent tremors down the opposition batsmen’s spine.
Remember, those were the days where there were no helmets, no restrictions to bouncers, no control on sledging, in short, nothing was in the favour of batsmen if you had bowlers of the class and quality of the likes of Lillee and Thompson.
The West Indian side also had a few great fast bowlers and also backed it up with their batting, making them a force in that day and age. However, facing the aforementioned troika was no joke. After a stroll through over Sri Lanka in their first game, West Indies snatched a victory from the draws of defeat as Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts combined to score 67-run stand for the last wicket. Windies had won both their games but they had no business winning their second game against Pakistan.
But then came the ultimate test against the Aussies. It was anticipated as an electric contest and was tipped as the battle between Australia’s fast bowlers against the Windies batsmen. Under overcast conditions, West Indies won the toss and opted to bowl first. The pitch was supposedly tacky and sticky and moreover, the Windies bowlers made full use of it. They blew away the Aussie top-order in no time before Ross Edwards and Rod Marsh resurrected to take Australia to 192.
In their chase, West Indies lost Gordon Greenidge pretty early. In walked Alvin Kallicharran, the superstar with the bat in the 1970s. He was not the tallest, in fact, he was one of the shortest. He was 5’ 4’’ and yet, the left-handed batsman was elegant, stylish and had every shot in the book. Every time Kallicharran batted, he looked scintillating in his skill and stroke-play.
He never backed down against any challenge. And that day in Birmingham was no different. Despite the early wicket, it didn’t faze the left-handed No. 3. However, the Australian pace attack was breathing fire and they had an encounter with Kallicharran a couple of years back as well.
But Kallicharran got stuck into that fearsome pace attack and Lillee, in particular, got a lot of stick. That battle against Lillee defined this knock. Kallicharran smashed Australia’s best bowler to pieces and treated the strong 25,000 crowd present at Edgbaston to some delightful and scintillating strokes.
Lille vs Kallicharran – 10 balls, 35 runs, 7 fours, 1 six, 1 single, 1 dot….
Everything Lillee dished out was dispatched with disdain in that spell (Lillee’s second spell). Not only Australia’s premier fast bowler but Kallicharran was also severe on the others. He ended up with an 83-ball 78 helping West Indies chase down 193 with 14 overs to spare. Those were the days when batsmen hardly scored at a strike-rate of 70-75 and the West Indian No. 3 was striking at 93.97! This is a strike-rate that modern-day batsmen also love to have.
He shared a 124-run partnership with Roy Fredericks who scored a well-compiled half-century, as well as West Indies, were on course for a well-paced victory. It gave West Indies their third win of the tournament and some really important momentum going into the semi-finals.
Yes, it was the bowlers who set it up. Sir Andy Roberts took three wickets (3/39) while all the others like Viv Richards and Keith Boyce chipped in with a couple of wickets each. However, it was the assault of Alvin Kallicharran that will always be remembered. In the end, Lillee did manage to get the better of Kallicharran but the game almost had a foregone conclusion with West Indies needing just 40 runs. Hence, he was named the Man of the Match for his knock of 78 and it remains as one of the best moments of that 1975 World Cup.