For the second time in the space of eight months, West Indies proved themselves the outstanding limited-overs side in cricket when they won the triangular Benson and Hedges World Series Cup in Australia by beating England twice in the best-of-three final. Their victory, in the end, was as emphatic as it had been the previous June at Lord"s when the same eleven players defeated England in the final of the World Cup.
West Indies stumbled in the first of the final matches, in Melbourne, two run outs almost certainly costing England their chance of victory. England finished 2 runs short. That scare behind them West Indies quickly made sure the third scheduled final match would be unnecessary by overwhelming England in the second final at Sydney two days later. Here Greenidge and Richards made light of the task of scoring the 209 runs their side required to capture the first prize of £16,000.
The outcome of the triangular tournament, in which each side played the other four times in a qualifying round with the two most successful teams going into the final, was largely a battle between West Indies" heavy artillery and England"s professional, limited-overs expertise based on containment and the ability to frustrate batsmen. The West Indian fire-power, usually supplied by Greenidge and Richards, generally won the day. Strangely, however, West Indies encountered difficulties whenever they came across the Australians, who bowled for wickets instead of adopting the run-saving line and length approach of England. Lloyd"s team, having lost three of their four qualifying matches against Australia, all at Sydney, had had to rely on beating England to reach the finals.
Winning the limited-overs competition gave Lloyd as much pleasure as taking the Test series against Australia, although for different reasons. He felt their triumph confirmed he was leading the best side to emerge from the Caribbean, not only for their ability but also for their determination to fight back when events had gone against them. This had not often been a feature of West Indies" sides on tour. Events certainly went against them at the start of the tournament, when they were beaten in their first two games on successive nights under the Sydney floodlights. They lost the first match against Australia by five wickets and were beaten off the last ball - with every England fielder on the boundary including wicket-keeper Bairstow - the following night by England. With their own difficulties against the Australians, West Indies had to rely on England beating Australia and so clearing the way for West Indies to reach the finals. England did not let them down, winning all their four games against Australia to top the final qualifying table with eleven points.
The failure of the Australians to qualify for the finals was a major disappointment for the home crowd, the Channel Nine television company for which the competition had been specially tailored, and the Australian cricket authorities who were relying on an Australia-West Indies final to attract the crowds and help pay the costs of staging a twin tour. Yet the Australians had everything in their favour, especially in being able to select from any player in the country - unlike the World Cup in England for which every side is limited to a squad of fourteen players. It meant the Australians were able to call on in-form players in the event of injury.
In the event the Australian selectors used their advantage unwisely, calling on twenty players and seeming unable to make up their minds as to the most suitable type of bowlers for the competition. In addition their captain, Greg Chappell, made it clear he disliked such a defensive form of cricket. He attempted to win his matches without resorting to negative bowling or spreading his fielders around the boundary, and his inexperience in playing the limited-overs game showed at vital moments when he had fielders in positions where they could not prevent a single or stop a boundary.
Reaching the final was a notable achievement by the England players. Only one of them, Underwood, had previous experience of playing under floodlights and special practice sessions had to be arranged to allow the rest of the party to sample the different conditions, especially the awkward period when the natural light fades and the artificial lights are still unable to make an impression.
Throughout the series Willey played a leading rôle for England. Boycott played a magnificent innings of 105 in Sydney and only Richards of the West Indians scored more runs in the competition. Richards played two more innings than Boycott, the latter not having been considered for England"s first match because the selectors thought his approach too slow. His performances in the one-day games were a revelation. Although Underwood was eventually dropped from the one-day internationals after suffering against the West Indies batsmen, off-spinners Willey, Miller (before his injury) and Emburey played their part in England"s run. So, too, did wicket-keeper Bairstow, who played some important innings when the pressure was on. Brearley"s overall leadership and tactical appreciation often made the difference between winning and losing.
Match reports for
9th Match: England v West Indies at Melbourne, Jan 12, 1980