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“But let us return to the World Cup, where Hendrick got the wickets when it mattered. He bowled the spell of the tournament, in the Pakistan match, a contest curiously forgotten but, without a doubt, one of the best in World Cup history”

When it comes to the 1979 World Cup, Mike Hendrick is usually remembered as the bowler against whom Viv Richards had shuffled to the off-side to waft the ball over square-leg for six in the final. It was the last ball of the final, and Richards had decided to sign off in style. England never recovered from the Richards (and Collis King) onslaught.

But he had hit Richards on the pad first ball; he still believes he should have had him: “I could not believe it and neither could Viv. And Viv looked at me and I looked at him and he just pursed his lips. And as I walked back to my mark, the lads on the balcony have seen a replay and they’re all giving me the thumbs up. So he should have been out first ball.”

Hendrick finished with figures of 2/50 that day, from 12 overs – figures as unspectacular as the man himself. But those wickets ensured he finished as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.

In the tournament opener against Australia, he had given away just 24 off 12 overs – but did not get a wicket. And against Canada, where Bob Willis and Chris Old ran riot, Hendrick was busy being Hendrick once again, with 8-4-5-1. An epitome of boring efficiency, if there has been any.

Also read: Valiant heroes in World Cup: 1975 – Gary Gilmour

You can hardly improve on Marcus Berkmann’s description of the man: “Hendrick was as gloomy and exhausted as a bowler can get without passing out … Once he even grew a gloomy beard, presumably in a last-ditch attempt to depress the batsman into nicking the ball. But the batsman never did nick the ball. So Hendrick trudged back and started again.”

Hendrick played for Derbyshire, probably the least glamorous county of them all. He can also boast of some bizarre achievements. For example, no one has taken as many Test wickets (87) without a five-wicket haul – this, despite his average being better than those of John Snow, Darren Gough, Ian Botham, and James Anderson.

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When Jeff Thomson terrorised the English batsmen in 1974-75, breaking toes and thumbs and smashing the box, Hendrick – a rank tail-ender – walked out to face him. He did not own a thigh-pad, so he simply inserted a towel down his trousers, and, as an extra layer, a handkerchief in his pocket. But despite all that, Thomson knocked the bat out of his hand with the first ball he bowled at him.

But the most famous Hendrick incident took place on his Test debut, when he bowled a 56-over-old ball at Madan Lal, who was also making his debut. The ball swung in from the off, knocked out the off-stump, then grazed the middle-stump without disturbing it, then felled the leg-stump. One wonders whether poor Madan Lal had suspected sorcery when he turned back.

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But let us return to the World Cup, where Hendrick got the wickets when it mattered. He bowled the spell of the tournament, in the Pakistan match, a contest curiously forgotten but, without a doubt, one of the best in World Cup history.

Pakistan picked five seamers – not all express, but they bowled seam nevertheless – for the match. Mike Brearley’s England opted for four – a definite error. As things turned out, Phil Edmonds, their lone spinner, would get only 3 overs, while Geoff Boycott took 2/14 with his seam.

Pakistan restricted England to 165/9. It could have been worse, had Bob Taylor and Willis not added 43 for the ninth wicket. Barring Asif Iqbal (3.08), every single Pakistan bowler conceded 2.67 or less.

No team had defended anything under 266 till then in a World Cup. And things looked worse for England after Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad added 27 in 29 minutes.

But Hendrick continued, unperturbed. He found his rhythm, moving the ball around either way. He got Majid first, caught Botham; two balls later he trapped Mudassar Nazar leg-before, and then he cleaned up Sadiq. And he had Haroon Rashid caught at slip shortly afterwards.

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From 27 for no loss Pakistan had slumped to 34/6. Asif (51) fought back, adding 52 with Wasim Raja and another 28 with Imran Khan. Then Imran added another 30 with Wasim Bari. Pakistan needed another 21.

But this was Headingley, so England found the most obvious saviour. Boycott took out the remaining two wickets. Never again till 1992 would any side defend a lower total in the World Cup.

New Zealand were chasing 222 for a maiden berth in the final for a win. Hendrick got Jeremy Coney early. Then he returned as Warren Less (23 in 20 balls) and a dangerous Lance Cairns (14 in 6) were threatening to take the match away. Hendrick had Cairns caught, then bowled Lees, and New Zealand lost by 9 runs.

What happened to Hendrick? 

Hendrick started the next year on a high, with a hat-trick for Derbyshire against the touring West Indians. He also had a very productive benefit season for Derbyshire next year. And while he failed in the Tests, his 5/31 against Australia at The Oval was the first ODI five-wicket haul by an Englishman.

Then he surprisingly lost form altogether, and by 1981 he was out of the side. He went on a rebel tour to South Africa that winter and later moved to Nottinghamshire.

He later coached Ireland and worked as bowling coach for Derbyshire, Zimbabwe, and Nottinghamshire.

Tournament record: Matches 5 | W 10 | Ave 14.90 | Econ 2.66 | 3 c

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