Forgotten Classics December 18, 2014

The hold-up at Headingley

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi
Mike Hendricks' nagging seam bowling helped England defend a low total against a powerful Pakistan line-up in the 1979 World Cup

Wasim Bari rated Mike Hendrick (extreme right) as the best bowler of the time on English soil © PA Photos

One hundred and sixty-six from 60 overs. That was Pakistan's target against England in the teams' final group match in the 1979 World Cup. Both teams had qualified for the semi-finals, but the low-scoring affair, on a difficult pitch, turned out to be a thriller. Mike Hendrick had thrown Pakistan into disarray with four wickets in eight deliveries. From 27 for 0 Pakistan slipped to 34 for 6. Their captain, Asif Iqbal, rebuilt the innings and left it in the able hands of Imran Khan to finish the job.

But Mike Brearley, the England captain, intervened twice, and his moves were decisive both times.

It was a cloudy morning in Leeds. Asif Iqbal asked England to bat and that decision proved an immediate success. Mike Brearley and Derek Randall were back in the dressing room with only four runs on the board.

Asif Iqbal We were playing at Headingley, where the conditions were ideal for fast bowling. There was cloud cover and a greenish tinge on the wicket. The decision to put England proved to be right because we bowled them out very cheaply - without Sarfraz Nawaz.

Geoff Boycott It was my home club, Yorkshire, Headingley. It was a poor pitch. We looked at it before start of play: it looked like a corrugated roof, up and down.

Play 01:34

Wasim Bari First over off Imran, I caught Brearley. Take your catches early and the bowler's tail is up.

Graham Gooch and Boycott tried to repair the damage, but Majid Khan's low offbreaks forced a slide. He took 3 for 27 from 12 overs.

Boycott The ball moved all over the place and it went up and down. Majid, wonderful batsman, got three wickets! The ball hit me shin high. I played back and it kept low. It was a very difficult pitch.

Iqbal On a pitch where we expected seamers to get wickets, Majid got three: Boycott, David Gower and Ian Botham.

At 118 for 8 it looked like England were out of the match. Then Bob Taylor and Bob Willis put on 43.

Bari It was very frustrating. That [partnership] was the turning point in a low-scoring match. The wagging tail really annoyed us.

But a total of 165 should not have been too much to overcome for Pakistan's batting, which was formidable.

Iqbal Initially we felt since the England tail had managed to get some runs the conditions had improved to bat on. We thought 166 was gettable.

Boycott We thought 165 was going to be tough because everybody had struggled. Batsmen were fighting like hell to get runs.

Mike Hendrick Headingley, when it is like that [overcast], the pitch is quite bowler-friendly. But we didn't think the England total was enough and knew we would have to bowl well to make chances and take chances.

Mike Brearley turned the game on its head © Getty Images

Pakistan's openers, Majid and Sadiq Mohammad, calmly took them to 27 before all hell broke loose. Bowling from the Grand Stand end, Hendrick had Majid caught by Botham at second slip. Two balls later, he trapped Mudassar Nazar lbw with a legcutter. Two wickets in three balls and Pakistan were 27 for 2. He started his next over by bowling Sadiq first up. Then he had Haroon Rashid nick one to Brearley at first slip. Four down for 30. Hendrick had four wickets in eight balls, 4 for 15 runs. It was to be the second-best analysis of his career.

Hendrick My plan was to bowl straight. That is what I did. I was not a great swinger of the ball. I would usually hit the seam regularly. The lacquer might have come off the ball a little, and I was bowling straight. If things were working, I really did not try anything else. I must have got them in two minds. Usually I got wickets that way: caught slip, lbw or bowled. They were all bloody good deliveries. When I got those four wickets it really did knock the stuffing out of Pakistan for a while.

Boycott Mike Hendrick was always a mechanical, mean bowler. He could bowl the perfect length around the off stump and give you nothing. With the semi-attacking, semi-defensive fields, he just bowled every ball in the same spot. He bowled absolutely out of his skin for 12 overs and nobody could play him. The ball was jagging all over the place.

Iqbal When we started, Majid and Sadiq looked comfortable. We were thinking it was a good start. But once wickets started to tumble suddenly there was panic as we lost a cluster of wickets for really short amount of runs. Hendrick was bowling exceptionally well, but we knew he would not bowl endlessly, and we thought it was not too big a score to chase.

Bari I will rate Hendrick as the best bowler in his time on English soil. Geoff Arnold and Hendrick were extremely good in English conditions. Leeds is never easy. He never left the offside corridor and put us on the back foot by getting early wickets. The top batsmen all got out very cheaply, and that put us in a defensive mood.

But Iqbal fought back. The only batsman to score a half-century in the match, he put on 52 with Wasim Raja and 29 with Imran Khan to keep England on the edge.

Iqbal When you are a captain, you play more responsibly. And when the chips were down I seemed to play much better. I had a partnership with Wasim Raja, and we thought if we could hang on we would get home.

Hendrick: "My plan was to bowl straight. If things were working I really did not try anything else. Usually I got the wickets that way: caught slip, lbw or bowled" © PA Photos

Boycott Slowly and surely we got into the game, but Asif Iqbal threatened to win it for Pakistan with a half-century, playing superbly as the ball got older.

Hendrick I had bowled against Asif in county cricket. He had a disciplined approach, left well, did not try and dominate or play any expansive shots. You see they were chasing only a little score and there were loads and loads of overs.

Bari It was tremendous batting from Asif Iqbal. With him, Imran and Wasim Raja still around, we had hope.

With Pakistan needing about 50 runs, Brearley moved himself to first slip and threw the ball to Willis.

Iqbal Mike Brearley came into the slips and gave the ball to Bob Willis. I got a delivery which was virtually unplayable. I gloved the ball and it went straight to Brearley. It was a brilliant move to position himself in the slips.

Even as I was walking out I remember thinking, as long as Imran is there and he can get support from the lower order, we could still win. At the back of my mind was the partnership between Willis and Taylor and that kept me confident that our tail could also get runs.

With Pakistan 20 runs short, Brearley once again made a masterful move, this time throwing the ball to an unknown bowler.

Boycott It got tight. Mike Brearley knew that we were going to have to get some overs out of Phil Edmonds, our solitary spinner, or the occasional bowler like Graham Gooch and myself. But it was not a pitch where you wanted to bowl a spinner, because it was not going to turn.

If a spinner bowled, Imran was going to go after him, because he was going to be the easiest to hit. Runs were priceless. You could not afford a couple of really bad overs where the ball whistled around.

In the end Brearley threw the ball to me. I bowled with me cap on, back to front, from around the wicket, little medium-slow swingers. It was tough because Imran was batting with the tailenders. Fortunately I bowled mostly to Wasim Bari and Sikander Bakht, who were not good batsmen. I just put them under pressure. Eventually I trapped Bari, inside edge onto to the pads and the ball bobbed up and Bob Taylor caught it. Bari was nearly winning the match in the company of Imran.

The pitch was such that top-order batsman Majid Khan's gentle offbreaks seemed unplayable to the England batsmen © Getty Images

Bakht, the last man in, did not fancy me bowling inswingers into him round the wicket. He was getting edgy and nervous. I told Mike Hendrick to go further back at mid-off. He could not resist in the end, could Sikander Bakht. He tried to whack me over the top but holed out to Hendrick.

Hendrick Geoff always fancied his bowling. He always thought he was a good bowler. I remember Bakht winding up and smacking this ball. I was in only a couple of yards off the boundary edge. I had to take a real good leap to catch it as it was going to go over my head. I was at full stretch and caught it.

Bari I was batting No. 10. In the end I was facing Boycott, a part-time medium-pacer. When a non-regular bowler comes in the temptation [to hit] is always there. I thought that was the time to go for runs. Mike Brearley, always a very clever tactician and sharp captain, outfoxed me by getting Boycott in to bowl. He realised I could lose my concentration.

An infuriated Imran gave Bakht a public dressing down

Iqbal Those two - Bari and Bakht - getting out [to Boycott] was criminal. Getting out to a regular bowler is fine, but at that stage of the match, when Imran is batting, for both of them to get out… especially Sikander Bakht played an irresponsible shot, caught in the deep.

Boycott Imran went mad. He just stood there at the other end. Speechless. He was nearly winning them the match. He was 21 not out. There were still three or four overs to go and they just needed 14 runs. Bakht should have just blocked and left everything to Imran. We were running around in absolute jubilation. It was a thrilling match, as low-scoring games tend to be.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on December 24, 2014, 19:35 GMT

    Memorable match. I was a small kid and listened the radio commentary of that match.

  • No featured comments at the moment.