14 days to World Cup: Unlikely heroes emerge to save England

It was a crucial game on a track tailor-made for swing bowlers. In the end, it was decided by one few saw coming.

Published: 16th May 2019 01:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2019 01:58 PM   |  A+A-

By the time he was done, he finished with figures of 12-6-15-4. | Twitter

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Unlikely heroes. Those who emerge when you least expect them. They are often lauded not for the untimely nature of their acts but also because they manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat when you least expect it.

The final group A game of the 1979 World Cup between England and Pakistan at Leeds was all about unlikely heroes.

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After both England and Pakistan had won their first two matches in convincing fashion, the final group game would not only decide the group winner but also ensure that they didn't have to face the mighty West Indies until the final.

On a cloudy day at Headingley and a greenish track, Pakistan elected to field first. It was all going according to plan for the visitors as two wickets fell early. Although Geoffrey Boycott and Graham Gooch tried to steady the ship, England just kept losing wickets at regular intervals.

At 118/8, the hosts were in dire straits. And it took an unlikely hero to rescue them. As career-best ODI score of 24 by fast bowler Bob Willis helped them play out their 60 overs and eventually finish with 165/9.

While the pitch was a swing bowler's paradise and England had enough in their arsenal to make a game out of it, the total was still a mediocre one. And it needed a great effort with the ball.

While Bob Willis and Ian Botham were expected to make major inroads. Another unlikely hero emerged to get them off to a great start with the ball. 

Mike Hendrick had the new ball and he made it sing. He got rid of the top three and by the time he was done, Botham chipped in as well and Pakistan were left reeling at 34/6.

Boycott, who had seen his fair share of great fast bowlers, remarked that Hendrick was always a "mechanical, mean bowler". 

"With the semi-attacking, semi-defensive fields, he just bowled every ball in the same spot. He bowled absolutely out of his skin for 12 overs and nobody could play him. The ball was jagging all over the place," he said about his Hendrick's spell.

By the time he was done, he finished with figures of 12-6-15-4. And the game was all but over. 

Although Asif Iqbal scored a fifty and the lower order did their bit, it was always going to be too much. But with Imran Khan and Wasim Bari batting sensibly it looked as though the impossible might be possible after all.

And that is when another unlikely hero emerged for England. Boycott is known for his skills with the bat but he was unlikely to put the fear of god into any opposing batsman as a dibbly dobbler.

But it was he who came into the attack and got rid of the last two wickets to bowl Pakistan out for 151 and seal a thrilling 14-run win in a low-scoring game at Headingley in a game filled with unlikely heroes.

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