The very first World Cup attracted nearly 160,000 spectators to its 15 games--culminating in a ferocious final at Lord's between the two teams judged to be the world's best. Batting first, the West Indies scored 291, led by captain Clive Lloyd's 102 from just 82 balls. Any hope Australia had of beating that total were erased by the mercurial fielding of young Viv Richards, who ran out three batsmen. A 41-run partnership between Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson almost revived Australia, who were ultimately defeated by 17 runs.
In the four years after '75 Richards became known as one of the game's greats. In the World Cup final (again played at Lord's) he showed why, hitting 11 fours and three sixes (one off the last ball of the innings) in his total of 138 not out. England's response began well, with openers Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley scoring 129; but once the West Indian pace bowlers broke through, the remaining English batsmen were skittled. Their total fell 92 runs short of the West Indies' 286; the last five wickets were taken by giant Joel Garner in the space of eleven balls.
Could the West Indies make it three wins from three World Cups? Set a mere 183 by India, few would have bet against Lloyd's men. But the dismissal of Richards for 33--caught in the Lord's outfield by Indian captain Kapil Dev--caused panic among the dual title-holders, who were routed by the Indians to be all out for just 140.
In the first World Cup held away from England, hosts India and Pakistan were beaten to the final by the oldest of cricket's international opponents. Before 90,000 spectators at Calcutta's Eden Gardens ground, England seemed to have Australia's 253-run total within reach when captain Mike Gatting was caught off the bowling of Australian captain Allan Border. England never recovered, losing by just seven runs.
England's third final in five World Cups again ended in defeat, this time under lights at Australia's Melbourne Cricket Ground. The turning point was a dropped catch by England's Graham Gooch; Pakistan captain Imran Khan went on to score 60 more runs to push his team to 249. England were bowled out for 227--23 runs shy of victory.
Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga won the toss and sent Australia in to bat at Lahore--a bold move, as all previous Cups had been won by the team batting first. His decision proved masterful; heavy evening dew made bowling difficult for the Australians, especially legspinner Shane Warne, who had trouble gripping the slippery ball. Aravinda de Silva scored 107 not out (including 13 fours), and with support from Ranatunga Sri Lanka easily overtook the Australian total of 241 with 22 balls to spare.