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World Cup Flashback: When the Ashes rivals met on the world stage for the first time

The Ashes rivalry between Australia and England has always been intense and it continues to be so, even today. However, another dimension was added to their rivalry with the inaugural edition of the World Cup in 1975.

The two sides met in an intense semi-final clash during the tournament. Stakes were high as both sides were desperate to progress to the final stage. Australia got the early advantage in that match as they won the toss and put England to bat on a green and damp Headingley pitch. The seam bowlers were expected to have a say on such a deck and the strong breeze on that particular day was going to make life even more difficult for the batsmen.

Australia wanted to make full use of the conditions and that’s why they drafted in a 23-year-old left-arm swing bowler, Gary Gilmour, for the match. That was going to be his first match of the tournament and he had only featured in two ODIs for Australia before. So, Gilmour was quite inexperienced and throwing him into such an important clash could have backfired big time. However, what he did next went on to be one of the best performances ever recorded in World Cup history.

Gilmour started off with full lengths and accurate lines over the wicket and England’s opening batsmen, Dennis Amiss and Barry Wood, looked to be all at sea against him. He swung the ball both ways and the batsmen had no clue whatsoever about how to deal with it.

He had four batsmen, Amiss, Keith Fletcher, Frank Hayes and Alan Knott, trapped lbw with deliveries that swung into them. Wood, on the other hand, was dismissed by a superb yorker from Gilmour and it was an in-swinger once again. However, the only time he got a wicket with his outswinger was when Tony Greig failed to counter the swing and was caught behind the wicket by Rod Marsh, who flew to his right to take a superb catch. In fact, it was Marsh who deserved more credit for that dismissal than Gilmour. Nevertheless, Gilmour finished the
match with superb figures of 6/14 and the most fascinating part about his spell was that he bowled his entire quota of 12 overs unchanged.

It was the first six-wicjet haul in ODIs ever recorded and it went on to be the best bowling figures in World Cups until Winston Davis bettered it with figures of 7-51 against Australia in 1983.

Gilmour’s superb spell, along with support from Dennis Lillee (1/26) and Max Walker (3/22), meant England were bowled out for a paltry total of 93 runs inside just 36.2 overs. Gilmour would have liked to go back to the pavilion and relax while watching Australia’s batsmen chase the target down with ease. However, his work for the day wasn’t done yet.

History suggested that England were not going to give up easily and they showed their fighting spirit by reducing Australia to 39/6 in what was supposed to be a fairly easy chase. John Snow and Chris Old were the bowlers who brought England back into the match and suddenly, they could see a realistic chance of winning.

However, it was destined to be Gilmour’s day. He walked out to bat with a positive mindset and showed tremendous confidence for a lad playing only his third ODI and also his maiden World Cup game. Gilmour started counter-attacking and the English bowlers were taken aback. The result was a run-a-ball knock of 28, which included five hits to the fence, and a seventh-wicket partnership of 55 runs along with Doug Walters (20* off 43 deliveries) that helped Australia in registering a thrilling victory over England.

The match may have lasted for a short while but the momentum of the game kept swinging from one side to another every now and then. There were numerous heart-in-the-mouth moments with so many wickets falling in such a short period of time. It was not a match for the faint-hearted but it was definitely a memorable one for the fans, Australia and the young Gilmour in particular.

Prasenjit Dey is freelance cricket journalist based out of Kolkata, India. Cricket runs through his veins and writing has always been his passion. He is now a part of both worlds, trying to make a difference by writing on the nitty-gritty of the game.

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