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Cricket World Cup history: Richard Hadlee, the one-man army

542   //    25 Jun 2019, 21:21 IST

Richard Hadlee
Richard Hadlee

In 1975 Richard Hadlee was just beginning to make his mark as a bowler of class. He did not have a distinguished first World Cup, taking three wickets in as many matches. He was still just Dayle Hadlee’s younger brother, and the cricketing world didn't know what a superlative paceman he was yet to become.

Richard Hadlee’s best performance in the inaugural tournament came in the crucial match against India. A win in this encounter was vital in order to clinch a place in the semi-finals.

Richard first snapped up Sunil Gavaskar off the bowling of brother Dayle. Then he nipped a blossoming second-wicket partnership between Farokh Engineer and Anshuman Gaekwad, trapping the former leg-before. He ended Gaekwad’s resistance too, having him caught by Brian Hastings.

Later he figured in a resilient 39-run sixth-wicket stand with skipper Glenn Turner which brought New Zealand to the threshold of victory. Turner saw the side home in the company of Dayle Hadlee with just seven deliveries to spare. Richard Hadlee had played a useful part in this triumph and served notice of things to come.

The 1979 World Cup witnessed the tremendous control over line and length that Richard Hadlee became renowned for. He was extremely difficult to score off, and his late movement in the air and off the wicket, both ways, had the batsman guessing.

He was a canny bowler and this was apparent as he conceded just 24 runs off his 12 overs to an emerging Sri Lankan side. As a bonus he claimed a late wicket, the team from the Emerald lsle being dismissed for 189 in 56.5 overs. 

Hadlee was India’s nemesis once again. He dismissed Gaekwad for the second time. Coming back, he had a determined Gavaskar caught behind. In 10 overs he conceded just 20 runs as the Indian innings stuttered.

The big test was against the West Indies and Hadlee, though he took the wicket of Desmond Haynes, conceded 41 runs in 11 overs. With the bat, which he wielded left-handed, he was in fine form. As the Kiwis slumped rapidly to defeat in the face of a pace onslaught, Hadlee top-scored in his first innings of the tournament. He hit 42 off 48 balls in a vain bid to upset the champions.

In the semi-final the accuracy of Hadlee was again cause for concern for the English. He removed Geoff Boycott early, and gave away only 32 runs off his 12 overs, of which 4 were maidens. New Zealand made a great bid to overhaul England’s score of 221 for eight in 60 overs, but failed by only 9 runs. Hadlee was bowled by Ian Botham for 15 as his side began to slide.


By 1983 Hadlee had become one of the foremost bowlers in the world. In the opener versus England his legendary line and length were on show again, and a mere 26 runs were taken off his 12 overs, four of which were scoreless. He also took the wicket of arch-rival Ian Botham. 

In the crucial Pakistan game, Hadlee destroyed the top-order with a superlative exhibition of swing bowling, even as he was thrifty as usual. He trapped Mohsin Khan leg-before and knocked back the stumps of Zaheer Abbas. Lance Cairns had Mudassar Nazar caught behind. All this happened before Pakistan had scored.

When Hadlee dismissed Imran Khan for 9, the scoreboard read a miserable 22 for four. Pakistan did not recover from these jolts and were beaten by 52 runs. Hadlee’s analysis read 9-2-20-3. 

Hadlee proceeded to destroy Sri Lanka too. He trapped Sidath Wettimuny leg-before with one that cut back. Then he virtually ran through the side. He bowled skipper Duleep Mendis through the gate as he swung the ball in sharply, hitting the off-stump. At the same score he had the 19-year-old Arjuna Ranatunga leg-before for a duck.

Bowling with the wind, Hadlee was devastating and he dismissed the last two batsmen, Asantha de Mel and Rumesh Ratnayake. Hadlee finished with his best World Cup analysis of five for 25 off 10.1 overs with 4 maidens. This was Hadlee in prime form, and he bagged the man-of-the-match award.

He was now on a high, and while conceding only 32 runs in his 10 overs against England he claimed three wickets towards the end. He also played a fine innings of 31, his 70-run seventh-wicket stand with Jeremy Coney being instrumental in posting an exciting two-wicket win with just one ball to spare.

As the Kiwis faced Sri Lanka again, Hadlee’s bowling was as miserly as ever. He gave away a mere 16 runs in 12 overs, claiming one wicket, but could not prevent the Lankans from snatching a three-wicket win. 

New Zealand seemed to suddenly run out of steam and lost a thrilling and crucial match to Pakistan by 11 runs. Hadlee took just one for 61 off 12 overs as the Kiwis failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time. It was also Richard Hadlee’s last appearance in the World Cup, for he did not make the trip to the Indian sub-continent in 1987, declaring that he did not relish playing there.

But the 1983 tournament was a happy one for Hadlee personally. He topped the bowling averages at 12.85 and claimed 14 wickets while conceding just 2.76 runs per over.

Hadlee was a man for all seasons. An incisive fast-medium bowler who broke the 400 Test wickets barrier, he kept the batsmen on a leash with his wicket-to-wicket bowling and pinpoint accuracy. He was a master of the swing and cut, moving the ball ever so late, and just enough to deceive the batsman.

Hadlee received knighthood even while he was still playing Test cricket. 

His batting often did not live up to the billing. In this department Hadlee lagged behind the other illustrious all-rounders of the time - Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev. But Sir Richard was one of the all-time greats as a bowler, and on many occasions a one-man attack for New Zealand.

Richard Hadlee’s World Cup record:

Matches 13, Highest Score 42, Runs 149, Average 16.55, Strike-rate 61.06, Catches 3

Wickets 22, Average 19.13, Best 5/25, Economy 2.88

Also read - Highest strike rate in world cup

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