Harry Normanton recalls his favourite match at the Cricket World Cup: West Indies’ incredible one-wicket win over Pakistan in 1975.
Andy Roberts leans nonchalantly on his bat, long white sleeves rolled up, top three buttons undone. Behind him, Wasim Bari stands with hands on hips, looking faintly baffled. He is wearing enormous red wicketkeeping gloves, seemingly designed to handle nuclear material rather than cricket balls.
After a moment, Roberts settles into his stance, and Bari into a preposterously wide-legged crouch, gloves flat to the ground, as though readying himself for a game of leapfrog. The bowler trundles in and floats in a length delivery on off stump.
Roberts dabs it into the leg-side and hurtles off. His partner, Deryck Murray, is through in a flash. Roberts crosses the crease and keeps on running. He veers towards long-on, bat parallel to the ground, pumping like a piston.
And as Roberts hares towards the boundary, hundreds of people hurtle in the opposite direction, spilling over the advertising hoardings, sending long shadows across Edgbaston’s parched outfield.
The video ends there. I don’t know what happened next.
I don’t know because I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even watching it on the telly. No, I didn’t watch it until more than 40 years after the event. On YouTube. I know.
I have an inexplicable connection with the West Indies cricket team. Or maybe it is explicable. I read Beyond a Boundary when I was 20 and was so taken that I managed to persuade a teacher at university to let me spend six months writing about the 1963 West Indies tour of England.
The eleven that took on Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup did not bear much resemblance to my team of 1963. Gone were Worrell, Sobers and Griffiths, replaced by Lloyd, Richards and Roberts.
But two did survive: Rohan Kanhai, an adventurous right-handed batsman, and Deryck Murray, the wicketkeeper. The latter was hero of the hour on that sunny day in Edgbaston, carrying the West Indies from a seemingly irretrievable 203-9 to their target of 267 with two balls to spare.
A brief summary of how we got here. Pakistan, minus captain Asif Iqbal (haemorrhoid operation) and Imran Khan (Oxford exams wait for no man), opted to bat in a game they had to win to have a chance of qualifying for the semis. They posted 266 in their 60 (!) overs, led by half-centuries from stand-in captain Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammed and Wasim Raja.
In reply, West Indies struggled. The opening trio of Greenidge, Fredericks and Kallicharran were all dismissed cheaply by a fired-up Sarfraz Nawaz to leave them teetering on 36-3.
And when a young whippersnapper named Javed Miandad, making his ODI debut a couple of days shy of his eighteenth birthday, winkled out Clive Lloyd, they had lost their seventh wicket and were still more than 110 runs shy of their target. West Indian hopes seemed to have been extinguished.
But no one told Murray. Batting at seven, the wicketkeeper played with assurance and purpose, even as wickets fell around him. And in No.7 Andy Roberts he found an unlikely accomplice. Together they pulled off the first great World Cup heist.
The YouTube video, split into two innings, lasts only fifteen minutes. It doesn’t really do justice to that monumental tenth-wicket stand.
But I love it. It’s a glimpse of a different world, the dawn of the World Cup. Everyone is wearing whites. There’s not a helmet in sight, although some batsmen do indulge in floppy hats. The fielding is endearingly rubbish. The exclamation, “What a great catch by Parfaz Mir!” roughly translates as, “Oh my God, someone’s held on to one!”
And most of all, I love the excitement. Edgbaston is packed with fans of both teams, and a significant portion of the crowd is on its feet for most of the match.
As Murray and Roberts edge their way towards the target, the atmosphere grows more and more frenzied. By the final over, on the cusp of victory, West Indies’ supporters have completely lost it. The camera shows them leaping up and down, waving their arms, overcome with wonder.
Having grown up with the crippling anxiety and seemingly inevitable disappointment of supporting England in the World Cup, this video brings solace. World Cup cricket can be brave, unpredictable, and wildly exciting. It can even bring delirious happiness.
Your turn, England.