Magazine article The Spectator

The Top World Cup Moments

Magazine article The Spectator

The Top World Cup Moments

Article excerpt


The first World Cup, 32 years ago, was short, sweet, joyous and genial -- just eight teams competing over two glorious English heatwave weeks, an enchanting fortnight topped by (still) the most memorable final.

Remember how Clive Lloyd (pictured) and his irresistible West Indians (and a callow, stringbean Viv Richards) finally beat Ian Chappell's Australians (starring Lillian Thomson) just before the Nine O'clock News at a sunbaked, rafter-packed Lord's after fully 10 hours of tremendous whiteknuckle cricket on the longest day of the year? What a ravishing premiere, never again such refreshing, inaugural innocence.


As 'inventors' of the one-day format, by seigneurial right England staged the first three World Cups, but even by this second tournament the rest of the world had caught on and caught up and in the final, on another sublime midsummer's day at Lord's, the West Indies asked England to chase 286 -- but 37-year old captain Mike Brearley (below), and his stately opening partner Boycott (38) primly patted and pottered far too long over 129 for the first wicket (Boycott taking 17 overs to reach double figures), leaving Gooch, Gower, Randall, Larkins and Botham time only to perish in a frantic, collective, seething swipe.


Again a perfect English June -- and at last a dragonslaying turn-up when, in a group match, the captain of Zimbabwe, an unknown and inscrutable pro with Rishton in the Lancashire League, scored a blistering, undefeated 69, then inspired some superb fielding as he took four crucial wickets to leave the fuming Australians 13 runs short.

His name? Duncan Fletcher. In the final, more giant-killing when the West Indies, on an overconfident strut for a third successive triumph, were ambushed by India's textbook line-and-length, military-medium bowling.

The fireworks parties all round India would last till October.


Gooch's thunderous batting for England reverberated through the tournament -- Mark Waugh in 1996 and Sachin Tendulkar in 2003 would equal its resonance. In the semi-final against India on a Bombay turner, Gooch calculatedly relied on the sweep shot to nullify (and infuriate) India's left-arm spinners: it remains the most bespoke World Cup innings I remember. …

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