SK Flashback: Classy stroke-makers on show in a high voltage West Indies vs Pakistan Semi-Final

The dazzling strokeplay of Majid Khan (above) and Zaheer Abbas against the Caribbean fearsome foursome of West Indies delighted the crowd in the World Cup 1979 semi-final.
The dazzling strokeplay of Majid Khan (above) and Zaheer Abbas against the Caribbean fearsome foursome of West Indies delighted the crowd in the World Cup 1979 semi-final.
Indra Vikram Singh

The Semi-Final of the 1979 World Cup showed why the West Indies were the unchallenged kings of cricket at the time. It also revived memories of the thrilling contest between the two teams in the previous World Cup. Pakistan were a brilliant side in their own right, packed with a galaxy of superb stroke-players and a world-class pace attack. They were fully capable of engaging the West Indies in gripping battles.

There could, however, be little doubt that the conquerors from the Caribbean islands packed bigger guns than anyone else. A good start became the rule, rather than the exception, with one of the greatest-ever pairs of opening batsmen in their ranks. Once again Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes seized the initiative with a terrific assault on Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz. They raised 50 in 11.5 overs, and 100 off 22.2 overs. Remember, those were not days when ‘hitting over the top’ was the norm in the early overs, nor were there fielding circles herding the fielders in.

Skipper Asif Iqbal had to turn to the slower pace of the non-regular bowlers so that the ball would come less readily on to the bat, thereby inhibiting strokeplay. He and Majid Khan were now little more than slow-medium but extremely experienced and accurate. Asif did the unthinkable, having the rampaging Greenidge caught behind. Greenidge had scored 73 out of the opening stand of 132. But having Vivian Richards replace Greenidge is hardly a consolation. Richards was in no mood to relent and, after Haynes was out, teamed up with his captain Clive Lloyd to hand out a lashing. By the time they were dismissed, the score stood at 236 for four.

Asif Iqbal had taken all the wickets while Majid bowled a very tight spell, conceding only 26 runs off his 12 overs. It was cricket of a very high order. Imran and Sarfraz returned for a burst at the later batsmen. Collis King played some characteristically belligerent strokes as the West Indies finished at 293 for six.

The West Indies pace attack in those days was one of the best - if not the greatest - in history, boasting of the likes of Roberts, Holding, Croft, and Garner. Even so, the early loss of Sadiq Mohammad did not dishearten Majid and Zaheer Abbas. Majid, ever-relaxed and seemingly having ever so much time to play his shots, and Zaheer the dazzling stroke-player, master on the off-side, put the fearsome bowling to the sword.

Runs flowed off the bat with surprising ease, and as 166 runs were added, there remained another 118 to win with 20 overs left. Tony Cozier noted: "Suddenly, the West Indies appeared to realise the need to tighten their game. Lloyd instructed Croft to bowl a leg-stump line." Immediately, Colin Croft had the brilliant Zaheer caught at the wicket. Soon he had Majid as well, and at the same score trapped the potentially dangerous Javed Miandad leg-before. Croft had taken 3 wickets off 12 deliveries at that crucial stage.

Pakistan slumped from 176 for one in 40 overs, to be all out for 250 in 56.2 overs. The West Indies had stamped their supremacy, but the valiant Pakistanis showed that they could embarrass the best.

West Indies: 293 for 6 wickets (60 overs), Pakistan: 250 all out (56.2 overs) (CWC 1979)

Edited by Satvik Pandey


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