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Collis, the forgotten King

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Collis_King_West_Indies_CricketThe 1979 World Cup final is better remembered for Viv Richards’ powerful 138*, but it was another special innings on that day at Lord’s that really knocked the stuffing out of England. Collis King swatted 86 runs of 66 balls. Such was his onslaught that mighty Richards played second fiddle during their 139-run stand.

Wisden rhapsodized, "An amazing display, he drove, hooked and pulled with astonishing power and accuracy." After the Richards-Collis show, West Indies put a mammoth 286 on the board, which was enough to win their second World Cup in a row. Born on June 11, 1951, Collis Llewellyn King performed in his short career when he was needed the most.

England captain Mike Brearley won the toss and sent West Indies in. Though England were short of Bob Willis, thanks to an injury sustained in the semifinal, Botham, Hendrick and Old all found movement in the air and England began well enough against a side splendidly endowed with capable hitters. Soon WI slipped to 99/4 and Collis King arrived at crease to join Richards.

Until that moment, his international record was modest and there was no great reason for England not to assume King would depart as quickly as the men he replaced. England wicket keeper Bob Taylor later reckoned, "We thought we had one end open, when King came out to bat”.

 

By that time Richards was set and he had things under control so he advised King to play sensibly, "Hey man, take it easy...we have plenty of time." King was having none of it. "Smokey," he replied, "I ain't gonna let Geoffrey [Boycott] get this, man. In the league, there would be no mercy, so why should this be any different?"

King ignored Richards' advice, cut his first ball from Ian Botham for four and then set about the part-time bowlers. As Willis was injured and England played an extra batsman in Larkins, Brearley had to call on Boycott, Gooch and Larkins as his fifth bowler. It was an invitation to slaughter against two batsmen hell-bent on attack.

"There was a silly little smirk on his face as he ran in to bowl," Richards recalled of Boycott. "It soon vanished as the ball kept disappearing round the ground." After a couple more attempts to calm King down, Richards just stepped back and let him get on with it. "I let him tear into the bowling rather than the two of us going berserk...I worked around him while the fire raged."

After the lunch break* the game changed course. King smashed Larkins for two sixes into the second tier of the Mound stand to bring up his half century. The local West Indians clustered in the Mound stand came into full voice, celebrating boundaries like Cup-winning goals and spilling onto the playing arena in jubilation. Boycott was dispatched off his toes for another six in the same section of the crowd. "I knew there was nothing more we could do”, admitted Brearley later.

King’s blitz ended when he was caught on square leg boundary, trying to smash Phil Edmonds for another six. 77 minutes, 86 runs from 66 deliveries, 10 fours and 3 sixes. This was the story of King that day.

While King moved from 50 to 86, even the incandescent talent of Richards faded from view, lingering in the 90s throughout. The pair had added 139 runs in 77 minutes of carnage. With England's bowlers wilting, Richards then took up the assault, bringing up his century in the next over. The remaining batsmen only contributed 5 of the last 48 runs as he unleashed his own barrage at the death.

England lost the match by 92 runs and West Indies retained their title. Clive Lloyd later marveled at King's hand. "By the time he was out, I knew the match was ours." Richards sensed it too. "What I just saw, I was going to finish." As he wandered back to the crease he sensed "a feeling of being revived".

Click here to view the Scorecard of 1979 World Cup Final.

*At that time matches were 60 overs and lunch used to happen at 1:00 PM local England time.

 

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