“And there was Richards once again, sprinting from cover, picking the ball up, turning and throwing without breaking a step. The stumps were hit again. Greg Chappell ran all the way back to the pavilion”
291 was formidable. The asking rate was a shade under 5, but no side had ever made that many batting second in England till then.
Yet, the Australians were the best side of the world. And Ian Chappell’s men wanted to win this tournament, dearly so.
At 81 for 1, with a steady run-rate hovering around 4.5, the odds were pretty even. Alan Turner had scored heavily in the tournament, and looked as solid as ever. Keith Boyce had dismissed Rick McCosker early with a leg-cutter, but Ian Chappell had come in and struck the ball well. Boyce had put down a blisteringly difficult return catch from the Aussie skipper, and fortune seemed partial to the Australians.
And then it was Clive Lloyd, the majestic hundred under his belt, who came in to bowl his medium pacers.
Chappell pushed him to the leg side. There was a slight hesitation before the batsmen started running.
That was when Viv Richards swooped down on the ball.
A 23-year-old Richards. A 7-Test old Richards with an average of 37, skewed heavily by one solitary innings of 192. A 5-ODI old Richards with a highest score of 15 not out in that format, and an average of 12.66.
Hardly anyone had any inkling of the stature he would grow into. The gait was just being constructed. The charisma was still rudimentary. A work-in-progress Richards.
But, there was talent, and there was speed. Miraculous speed. From mid-wicket, he sprinted in, scooped the ball up, and threw underhand with a flick of his wrist. The stumps were broken. Turner was on his way for 40.
Now it was a tale of two brothers, Greg Chappell, the best batsman of the world, joined his elder brother, the captain.
Two resounding boundaries from the bat of the younger Chappell. Followed by a neat leg-glance from the older for a single. The hundred was up in the 24th over. The target very much gettable.
At 115, Andy Roberts ran in. Ian Chappell pushed to the off. The cover point rushed in but misfielded, there was a confusion of calls, but then the brothers ran. And there was Richards once again, sprinting from cover, picking the ball up, turning and throwing without breaking a step. The stumps were hit again. Greg Chappell ran all the way back to the pavilion.
But Ian Chappell was not giving in. A drive down the ground off Roberts got him his fighting fifty. Doug Walters pulled and cut Vanburn Holder for two fierce boundaries. 162 for 3 in 38 overs. The Australians were well on course. Ian Chappell on 62.
Lloyd ran in again. One man stood within what would be called the circle today on the on side. The selfsame Richards, quite deep in widish mid-wicket.
Lloyd’s delivery pitched on Chappell’s toes. The stroke was a fluent on drive. The batsmen set off, but then Chappell realised who lurked there. Richards, zooming in, fumbled. “Never run on a misfield,” runs the adage. But Chappell ran, once again. Richards pounced on the escaping ball, turned and threw in one action, his throw veering towards the non-striker’s end. Lloyd broke the stumps. And Ian Chappell trotted in dejection for a few yards and then there was the bat tucked between his arm and the torso in the traditional pose of the dismissed batsman.
Three wickets, three run outs, removing the cream of Australian batting. The match was all but won.
It went on for a while, they were Australians after all. It included a desperate and dramatic final wicket partnership, which took Australia within touching distance. That was before Murray’s throw from behind the stumps caught Thomson out of his ground, and the fifth run out of the innings brought the curtains down.
But, for all practical purposes, the match was won by the three Richards moments.