Overcast conditions and grassy pitch with a slight tinge of dampness – The Headingley track in 1975 World Cup semi-final between two of the cricket’s biggest rivals was the ‘wildest-dream-come-true’ moment for the Australian and English bowlers. Toying with the batsmen could not get easier and the boy from Waratah, Gary Gilmour, toyed around a tad more than the others.
Australian captain Ian Chappell elected to field first after winning the all-important toss. The English batting line-up were put to face the music of deadly triplet in Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson and Max Walker.
This was just the third one-day international for 23-year-old Gary ‘Gus’ Gilmour. The left arm pacer was a relatively unknown name in the international circuit and it all changed post 1975 WC semi-finals.
Ian Chappell put his faith in Gary Gilmour and decided to give him the new ball. Gary ‘Gus’ Gilmour did not take long to get started and dismissed both English openers for a single digit score. He caught Dennis Amiss leg before wicket and dislodged the stumps of Barry Wood.
It was the start of something special. Somewhat of a day of reckoning for the English. Gilmour bowled 12 straight overs and finished with the figures of 12-6-14-6. Gary Gilmour became the first bowler to take six wickets in an ODI. He swung the ball at the snap of his fingers. Inswing or the outswing – Gilmour spilled magic with ease. Out of his six wickets, he got four of them trapped leg before wicket. England were eventually bowled out for a paltry 93.
In reply, English bowlers came out strong. Australia found themselves dire in straits. The scoreboard showed Australia 39 for 6 as the hero for Australia with the ball came out to bat. Gary Gilmour and Doug Walters steadied the ship for Australia. Gilmour kept the score ticking and scored a 28-ball-28 not out while Australia entered the finals in the inaugural edition of World Cup.
This was a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ moment for Gary Gilmour. The 23-year-old left arm pacer did not stop there and took a 5-fer against Windies in the finals, however, it came in a losing cause. Gilmour only played one more ODI after the 1975 World Cup final. “As a cricketer he was the most talented player of my time, a guy who had extraordinary talents in every facet of cricket,” Steve Bernard said on Gary Gilmour. “In hindsight he probably didn’t reach the heights that he should have, based on his cricket ability, but the guys who played with him and against him will recognise he was a fantastic player, who was dynamic in anything he did in cricket.
“When he was on he was unplayable. He bowled a swinging ball, he could hit the ball a mile, throw it like a bullet and he was a fantastic catcher either close to the wicket or in the outfield – a supreme cricketer. He was a very popular person, Gus, a bit of a larrikin and very much liked by everyone. He didn’t take life all that seriously, played for the enjoyment of it.”
The 23-year-old boy from Waratah stepped up at the biggest stage of them all and wrote his name in World Cup folklore for the Baggy Green.