New Delhi, June 22 -- India were up against an almost pompous English side that had won five of their six group matches by colossal margins. Nobody had expected Kapil Dev's team to get this far. There were little to zero expectations of an upset. England's renowned bettors gave India a better chance of upsetting West Indies in the final. But nobody was betting against the hosts, a strong side led by Bob Willis.
There goes a story that former England captains Geoff Boycott and Ray Illingworth were discussing obstacles the Old Blighty could face against the West Indies in the final - a day before the semifinal. Such was the disregard for India. "It is true. We were a little overconfident.
But we knew India had some good players," says Allan Lamb, part of that famed English batting line-up.
Electing to bat, England rode on a strong opening stand of 69 between Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare. Both fell to Roger Binny's seam movement.
Soon, Mohinder Amarnath removed the dangerous David Gower. Then came Lamb's turn to rescue England. At that stage, the southpaw was averaging 48.78 in ODIs and was perhaps the best in the world in limited-overs cricket.
His strike-rate was a shade under 80 - very impressive for those 60-over days. And he had been the best bat for most of the event.
England went from 106-2 at one point to 213 all out. That collapse was triggered by Lamb's run out, memory of which is still fresh for the South Africa-born batsman.
"The turning point was when Gatting ran me out (Yashpal Sharma was the fielder). We had a bit of a misunderstanding. That dismissal is still fresh in my mind."
"The minute that wicket fell, there was a change in the body language of the Indian fielders."
Lamb felt India deserved to win. "They bowled and fielded brilliantly. Everyone knew they were underdogs, but that didn't matter to them. We just didn't put up runs on the board, and they deserved to go through."
After the win, England fans, upset at the result, took on Indian fans in a bout of fisticuffs. "They were hysterical. We took it on the chin as a team," says Lamb. Gower pronounced after the game: "India have learnt the value of fielding in the one-day game."
Yashpal's attentive fielding that day was a momentary piece of brilliance that made India think like world champions.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.