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Jon Hotten

I saw Richards in his prime

Watching Garner, Richards and King punish England left a young fan awestruck at Lord's

Jon Hotten
Oh to see the king in summer  •  Getty Images

Oh to see the king in summer  •  Getty Images

Ooh, the '70s. Hipsters, groovers, scenesters, bubble-permed rock gods in big-ass flares, auteur movies, blissed-out, bedenimed surfer boys and sun-kissed girls on roller skates…
Yeah, well, sort of…
In the haze of memory, the world's cheesiest decade has synthesised into something superfreaky and glowing with nostalgia - Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice is perhaps the apogee of this reinvention of its wigged-out wildness, and like most cultural reinterpretations it's probably half-accurate.
Cricket in the '70s can be cast in the same golden light: Thommo the Terror, Lillee's moustache, the Scoop, the Jumbo, button-up shirts, Supercat at cover, and slinky-hipped King Viv sashaying out of the pavilion and into the middle, chewing gum and taking his own sweet time.
They knew how to put on a World Cup in the 1970s, that's for sure. It lasted a fortnight, for a start. My recall of the first, in 1975, is barely there (I was a nipper myself back then, still in single figures), nothing more than a pixellated vision of a final that ended in thrilling chaos with Lillee and Thomson running about 18 as the crowd charged on to Lord's and Dickie Bird flapped his arms and fretted as only he could.
But the second is a different story because my dad got us tickets for the final of what was then called the Prudential Cup: England v West Indies, Lord's, June 23, 1979. Our seats were at the top of the Compton stand. Sixty overs per innings, both sides in whites and not too many selectorial concessions to the "specialist" player - probably because there weren't any specialist players.
England went for some extra batting, with Ned Larkins coming in at No. 7, and West Indies pulled a masterstroke with the inclusion of the mercurial allrounder Collis King, but essentially these were the Test XIs. Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott were to open for England; West Indies would field Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner.
Play began at 11am and stopped for lunch and tea, just as Test matches did. It may have been the World Cup final, but it was also just the 74th ODI ever played. (They had begun in 1971, which gives an idea of how infrequently they were staged.)
I remember being desperate to get home so that we could see the first showing of the highlights that night, and watch Richards walk across his stumps and flick that last-ball six off Mike Hendrick into the Tavern
Memory is a mysterious and suggestible thing. I have clear visions of the view of the game that we had, and sharp recollections of Garner running in from the Pavilion End after tea and detonating Graham Gooch and David Gower in short order. I recall the shock of West Indies' total - 286, which back then seemed vast in such a short game. And even though Brearley and Boycott began England's reply by putting on 129 - Boycott taking 17 overs to reach double figures - it never felt remotely possible that they would get there. I remember, too, our dash down the stairs and on to the field to gather under the pavilion for the presentation: no fireworks back then, just the cup on a wobbly table hastily erected on the dressing-room balcony.
But when I think of the West Indies innings, especially the famous partnership between Richards and King, the pictures in my head are those from the TV coverage, shown so often since. I remember being desperate to get home so that we could see the first showing of the highlights that night, and watch Richards walk across his stumps and flick that last-ball six off Mike Hendrick into the Tavern. No one did that back then.
Tuesday's New Zealand-Pakistan game was ODI number 3598, and the weight of understanding from the subsequent years and matches bears down on the scorecard from that day. West Indies' scoring rate, which had seemed so dizzying once King and Richards caught fire, was 4.76 runs per over. And when Brearley was dismissed, England's chase, which felt so utterly unachievable, was for another 158 from 22 overs with nine wickets in hand. Those stats are as indicative as any of how far we have come, of how much has changed.
The Wisden Almanack reports that West Indies got £10,000 for winning. England received £4000 as runners-up. That would probably just about pay the roaming charges on KP's mobile.
To paraphrase Harold Pinter:
"I saw Richards in his prime,
Another time, Another time…"

Jon Hotten blogs here. @theoldbatsman