Johannesburg: Cricket came late to the concept of a World Cup. It was not until 1975, 98 years after the first Test match, that the inaugural World Cup took place. By then football's World Cup was 45-years-old. But an event initially regarded as a bit of light relief has now become cricket's biggest global money-spinner, the World Cup the cornerstone of a $ 550 million commercial rights deal. Before the World Cup, international cricket had revolved around Tests, the longest form of the game, played in series between two countries.
A World Cup of sorts had taken place in England way back in 1912 when the then three major cricket nations - England, Australia and South Africa - took part in a combined Test series. But rain ruined several matches and the tournament was most notable for the performance of Australia leg spinner Thomas Matthews who took two hat-tricks, one in each innings, against South Africa. The expansion in the number of Test nations after the First World War meant a similar tournament to the Triangular was never seriously considered. It was in 1963 that the seeds of the present World Cup were planted when English administrators launched a domestic Limited Overs knockout tournament in a bid to recoup finances lost from declining attendances at county championship matches.
The new competition proved successful with spectators and treasurers alike, even if some players regarded One-day games as "Mickey Mouse matches" compared with the serious business of first-class cricket. In 1971 a washed out Test match led to the first One-day International between Australia and England at Melbourne, the home side victorious by five-wickets. Two years later women cricketers staged a World Cup, in England, the event bankrolled by millionaire British businessman Jack Hayward.
England beat Australia to win the tournament - a feat their male counterparts have yet to emulate. Meanwhile One-day cricket was growing in popularity. And the less congested international schedule of the 1970s, with England the only country where any top- flight cricket took place during the northern winter, left space for a multi- national One-day event. The International Cricket Council (ICC), responding with unusual speed, created the World Cup. The unusually hot summer English summer of 1975 provided the ideal backdrop for the 60 over event, climaxed by a superb final at Lord's on June 21, the longest day in the British calendar. West Indies captain Clive Lloyd made a brilliant 102 against an Australia attack featuring legendary quicks Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee. The Australian reply was notable for three brilliant run-outs by a young Viv Richards which derailed Ian Chappell's side.
When Thomson was caught off a no-ball, hundreds of West Indian fans ran onto the field mistakenly thinking their side had won. In the chaos that followed Thomson and last-wicket partner Lillee kept running, the umpires eventually awarding three runs. Lillee and Thomson edged Australia close to victory before the latter was run out, West Indies winning by 17 runs. That match secured the World Cup's place in the cricket calendar and four years later the teams reassembled in England for the second edition. West Indies was by now the pre-eminent power in world cricket. Its dazzling batting line-up was allied to a pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner - perhaps the most fearsome unit cricket has seen.
It duly reached the final where it faced England. The hosts' tough task was made even more difficult when fast bowler Bob Willis withdrew injured on the morning of the final. Despite that handicap England, after winning the toss, made a good start and reduced West Indies to 99 for four. But Richards, then the world's best batsman, was still in and on his way to a crushing unbeaten 138. But he was briefly overshadowed in a fifth wicket stand of 139 by the unsung Collis King. He made a 66-ball 86 featuring three sixes and 10 fours, King cashing in on the fact that England had to split Willis' 12 overs between part-time bowlers Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch and Wayne Larkins.
Set 287 to win, the England openers, captain Mike Brearley and Boycott, both made half-centuries. But England was always behind the rate and none of their other batsmen made more than Gooch's 32. Garner, bowling from a height of approximately 8ft, took five for four in 11 balls, five England batsmen in all out for nought. West Indies won by 92 runs, Lloyd lifting the trophy just as he had done four years earlier.