West Indies were the odds-on favourites to retain the World Cup when they took on England in the final at Lord’s in June 1979. They survived an early wobble to post 286 for 9, thanks to Viv Richards’ magnificent 138. In reply, England had reached 183 for 2, but Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott had taken up almost two-thirds of the 60 overs in a first-wicket stand of 129, and the required rate was creeping towards double figures.
In the 48th over (it was a 60-over match), Joel Garner came back for his second spell from the Nursery End. At the best of times, he was hard to play because at 6ft 8in, his arm was coming from high above the sightscreen and out of the trees above the stands. Add into that the late-afternoon gloom and England’s task became almost impossible. “We were grateful to England for their tactics,” Garner recalled. “By the time they [the openers] were gone, it would have taken a superhuman effort to retrieve the situation.”
The superhuman effort did come, but from Garner himself. His line and length were immaculate from the first ball, as he fired in a succession of spearing yorkers. He bowled Graham Gooch for 32 and then four balls later, blasted through David Gower’s defence. Colin Croft soon bowled out Derek Randall, and Ian Botham’s attempt to smash the ball out of the ground only ended with Richards holding a smart running catch at long-on in front of the Tavern, leaving England at 192 for 7.
In the next over, Garner ruthlessly polished off what remained of England’s tail, bowling Wayne Larkins and Chris Old, and having Bob Taylor caught behind, all for ducks. In 11 balls, Garner had taken 5 for 4, and England had lost their last eight wickets for 11 runs. “Garner broke the back,” Clive Lloyd said. “It was just wonderful.”
Garner’s 5 for 38 remain the best bowling figures in a World Cup final. As West Indies celebrated their second title, the seamer took off his size-15 boots and hurled them from the dressing-room balcony into the crowd in front of the pavilion.