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“Gilmour was moving the ball both in the air and off the pitch, making it almost impossible for the batsmen. The Australians rushed to their positions after every over to get as many overs as possible before the sun came out”

Gary Gilmour had played only 2 ODIs when he arrived in England for the inaugural World Cup. Though he had taken 3 for 55 across the matches, he had never batted in ODI cricket. Once there, he was left out of the group stages of the tournament.

The semi-final against England was played on a green pitch. “The groundsman had watered it and it looked green and damp,” was the Wisden verdict. Australia decided to drop Ashley Mallett and play four seamers. Thus, Gilmour accompanied Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and Max Walker.

Ian Chappell won the all-important toss and put England in. And once Lillee was done with his first over, Chappell threw the ball to Gilmour.

Gilmour was not as menacing as Lillee and Thomson; nor was he as persevering and consistent as Walker. But he held two advantages over his counterparts: first, he bowled left-handed; and secondly, he could move the ball almost absurdly if the conditions favoured him.

Also read: World Cup Heroes: The blaze of Alvin Kallicharran

It soon became obvious there was more to the conditions than the overcast sky and the green strip. The pitch offered uneven bounce, especially from Gilmour’s end; and as the batsmen found out to their peril, the front-foot play turned out to be detrimental.

Gilmour soon trapped Dennis Amiss leg-before. Graeme Wood put Lillee away for four, but Gilmour soon sneaked one through between his bat and pad to hit off-stump. 11 for 2.

By this stage Gilmour was moving the ball both in the air and off the pitch, making it almost impossible for the batsmen. The Australians rushed to their positions after every over to get as many overs as possible before the sun came out.

And just when England seemed to have settled down, Rod Marsh almost flew in front of first slip to come up with a spectacular catch.

Frank Hayes shouldered arms to Gilmour and was leg-before – though the ball might have missed off; Keith Fletcher hung around pitifully before Gilmour brought one in to have him leg-before. And another leg-before followed when Alan Knott played one from the crease and mixed.

Gilmour became the first cricketer to take 6 wickets in an ODI. He finished with figures of 12-6-14-6. Four of these batsmen were leg-before and one bowled. Their scores read 2, 6, 8, 7, 4, 0, and he left England reeling at 36/6.

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Now Walker took out two quick wickets, and England became 52 for 8. Mike Denness (27) and Geoff Arnold (18 not out) somehow pushed the total to 93.

But England hit back. Their owners added 17 before Arnold took out Alan Turner. Then Chris Old, in a took out the Chappell brothers en route a spell of 3 for 2 in 7 balls. John Snow contributed with two more, and Australia were soon 39 for 6. Doug Walters held the fort, but he needed a partner. And out strode Gilmour, for his second special performance of the day.

It made little sense to wear out the bowlers. All England needed was one wicket, for the batsmen at the pavilion – Walker, Lillee, Thomson – were not quite Bradman. A banner with the words ROOS CAN’T PLAY CRICKET fluttered in the stands.

There was only one way to go about it. And Gilmour, a clean, very hard hitter, took over the charge. He had smashed a 58-ball 52 on Test debut against the Hadlee brothers. The Kiwis will be at the receiving end of his famous 101 at Christchurch in 1976-77 as well, when he (and Walters) drank all night and smashed the bowlers around. Eighty-six of Gilmour’s 101 came in boundaries.

Over years they would compare his all-round skills to Alan Davidson’s; and while he would not quite live up to those expectations, there was little doubt over his natural talent.

Walters led the charge with a drive and a cut for fours. Then Gilmour took over from his New South Wales captain. He stretched his front foot and used those immensely strong shoulders and arms to muscle the ball down the ground.

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On 78, Gilmour was dropped by Greig at second slip. That was the only blip. The pair added 55 in 58 balls. Gilmour finished with a run-a-ball unbeaten 28, leaving Walters behind. He was obviously Player of the Match.

Now Gilmour had to be picked for the final as well. Here he ran into one of the greatest ODI innings of all time. Clive Lloyd walked out at 50/3; he lasted less than two hours and faced 85 balls, but he slammed 102 out of 149 runs scored during his stay.

The West Indians middle- and lower middle-order hit out, and they reached 291/8. But that was not because of Gilmour but despite him. He finished with 5/48. And during that frantic chase, he got a quick 11-ball 14.

Gilmour finished the tournament with ridiculous figures of 24-8-62-11. There were also 42 runs scored at over a run a ball. No one, not even Mohinder Amarnath or Aravinda de Silva or Shane Warne, has produced such outrageous performances in the semi-final and final of the World Cup.

What happened to Gilmour? 

Gilmour played just one more ODI, against West Indies at Adelaide later that year. He did not bat (which meant he never batted outside the World Cup) and picked up 2/48. His 5 ODIs fetched him 16 wickets at 10.31.

His Test numbers – 483 runs at 23, 54 wickets at 26 – were not poor either. However, a persistent foot problem and supreme disdain towards physical exercise hastened the end of his career. His first 9 Tests had fetched him 44 wickets at 21; the last 6, 10 at 50.

He passed away in 2014.

Tournament record: Matches 2 | Runs 42 | Ave 42 | SR 108 | W 11 | Ave 5.63 | Econ 2.58 | 1 c

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