Viv Richards had things under control. Then came a man who set the roof on fire
86 v England, final, 1979
An hour and a half into the 1979 World Cup final and West Indies had their backs against the wall. Stuck in by England, they had slipped to 99 for 4 when Collis King, the last of the frontline batsmen, came out to join Viv Richards. What followed was a breathtaking onslaught that turned the match on its head. And for once Richards played the role of virtual spectator, as King slaughtered the England attack.
As he reached the middle, Richards offered him some advice with lunch on the horizon. "Hey man, take it easy... we have plenty of time." King was having none of it. "Smokey," he replied, "I ain't gonna let Geoffrey [Boycott] get this, man. In the league there would be no mercy, so why should this be any different?"
On the morning of the game Bob Willis had withdrawn with an injury and so England gambled on playing four bowlers, looking to Geoff Boycott, Wayne Larkins and Peter Willey to make up the extra 12 overs between them. It was not as mad as it seemed, given that Boycott had taken 1 for 24 off nine overs in the semi-final. But against two batsmen hell-bent on attack it was an invitation to slaughter. Their 12 overs ended up costing 86 runs.
King ignored Richards' advice, cut his first ball from Ian Botham for four and then set about the part-time bowlers. "There was a silly little smirk on his face as he ran in to bowl," Richards recalled of Boycott. "It soon vanished as the ball kept disappearing round the ground." After a couple more attempts to calm King down, Richards just stepped back and let him get on with it. "I let him tear into the bowling rather than the two of us going berserk... I worked around him while the fire raged."
At lunch, West Indies were 125 for 4 with King on 19. After the break he really got going, twice smashing Larkins for six in an over and then clipping Boycott off his toes for another. Mike Brearley, England's inspirational captain, admitted that he felt helpless. "I knew there was nothing more we could do." He attracted some criticism for using his fill-in bowlers at this stage, but as Clive Lloyd later noted: "I don't think any bowler would have bothered King, the mood he was in that day. By the time has was out, I knew the match was ours."
King's blitz was ended when he smacked Phil Edmonds to Derek Randall on the square-leg boundary, but the match had turned. Richards had reached the nineties when King was still short of his own 50. He was still in the nineties when King departed. He had made 86 from 66 balls, and had played only one mistimed shot - a top-edged hook off Botham. The pair had added 139 in 77 minutes of carnage. With England's bowlers wilting, Richards then took up the assault, bringing up his hundred in the next over. The remaining batsmen only contributed 5 of the last 48 runs as he unleashed his own barrage at the death.
"I scored 138," Richards admitted, "but it was Collis who came in and took charge."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.