World Cup Vignette

King leaves Richards in the shade

West Indies were struggling at 99 for 4 in the 1979 final when their last front-line batsman came in and set the roof on fire

Ninety minutes into the 1979 World Cup final against England, West Indies were struggling. 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 partnership, but surprisingly, Richards was mostly a spectator as King slaughtered the England attack at the other end.
As he reached the middle, Richards offered King some advice with lunch on the horizon. "Hey man, take it easy. We have plenty of time." King, though, 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?"
King cut his first ball from Ian Botham for four and then set about attacking the part-time bowlers. "There was a silly little smirk on his face as he ran in to bowl," Richards recalled of Botham. "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. But it was after the break when King really got going, twice smashing Wayne Larkins for six in an over and then clipping Boycott off his toes for another big hit. Mike Brearley, England's inspirational captain, admitted that he felt helpless. "I knew there was nothing more we could do."
Brearley 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, and he was still in the nineties when King departed. King had blasted 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. The remaining batsmen only contributed five of the last 48 runs, as Richards unleashed his own barrage at the death.
"I scored 138," Richards said, "but it was Collis who came in and took charge."
This article was first published in 2014