Dream spells in crunch encounters

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Vijay Parthasarathy

Slam-bang cricket is loaded in favour of batsmen the supposed logic being, when there are fours and sixes to be plundered, why set out a competitive pitch and kill the fun? The best bowling performances in one-day cricket, then, are often produced in the final stages of a World Cup, when conditions conspire with talent to set up a match-winning effort.

Gilmour's glory

Gary Gilmour, six for 14, Australia vs. England, 1975 semifinals, Headingley: Gary Gilmour's career was brief, and, in hindsight, will be defined by two stellar turns that came three days apart, during the 1975 World Cup.

The Australian left-arm swing bowler Gus with the long hair and extended sideburns had been 12th man in the early stages of the tournament. Against England in the semifinals, he was unexpectedly asked to share the new ball with Dennis Lillee, ahead of Jeff Thomson. "I only found out as we were going out on the field," Gilmour was to say later. "You never knew with Ian Chappell what was going to happen until it happened."

Chappell knew what he was doing. The sky over Headingley was overcast and Gilmour made the ball dart back into the right-handers. "They kept shouldering arms and the ball swung back in and did the rest," he said. "I wanted to bowl and bowl. I didn't want my overs to run out."

Demolition job

That morning Gilmour grabbed six for 14 in an unchanged spell of 12 overs. (Matches in those days were 60 overs-a-side affairs). Bowling from the Football Stand end, Gilmour single-handedly reduced England to 36 for six; after nine overs his figures read six for 10. Five of the batsmen perished to big in-swingers; Tony Greig fell to the delivery moving away, caught by Rodney Marsh leaping wide, his gloved right hand sticking out.

In 2002, when Wisden compiled a list of the 100 greatest one-day bowling performances, Gilmour's six-for was rated as the finest of them all.

Gilmour took five wickets in the final, but in the end his side lost by 17 runs. Gilmour finished his career having only played five one-dayers, partly because in an increasingly professional sport he was proving an anachronism. "I couldn't play under today's conditions, what with the travelling and training and scientific aspects. It's not a sport any more; it's like going to work," he once said. "I'd clock on for a sickie."

Garner wrecks England

Joel Garner, five for 38, West Indies vs. England, 1979 final, Lord's: Chasing 287, England was trundling along, on the back of a soporific 129-run opening partnership between Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley. Although the run rate was beginning to climb, at 183 for two England was still in with a chance. But then the 6 foot 8 inch tall Garner Big Bird took five for four in eleven balls, bowling Graham Gooch and David Gower in the same over, and England was shut out.

Akram swings the final

Wasim Akram, three for 49, Pakistan vs. England, 1992 final, Melbourne:

The 1992 edition will be remembered as Imran Khan's Cup, but the win in the final was set up by Wasim Akram's second spell. Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb had revived England's World Cup dream after Mushtaq Ahmed, in a mesmerising spell, had pitchforked its top order.

But Akram, who had broken Brian Lara's toe with a huge in-swinging yorker earlier in the tournament, returned to break the 72-run partnership with a quick ball that swung in and then straightened to beat the bat and take Lamb's off-stump.

Chris Lewis was bowled next ball, and victory for Imran's men was secure.

England, thrice finalist, is yet to win the Cup.

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