1971 was a watershed moment in cricket history because it saw the first one day international match between England and Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground. The third Ashes Test in Melbourne had been a total washout, with not a single ball being bowled in the first four days. The previous two Tests, however, had been so tedious and timid that the Guardian was moved to warn: ‘One more draw on the pattern of the first two could call the whole of international cricket into question.’ However, in Melbourne, the heavens opened and rain fell for three days, threatening to cost the MCG £80,000 in lost revenue. It was clear that something had to be done.
Then someone suggested holding a one-day cricket match at the MCG on Tuesday (the fifth day of the rain-soaked third Test)-assuming the weather forecasters were correct in predicting the storm’s end. The game could be played “on Gillette Cup lines,” with each team having forty eight-ball overs to score as many runs as possible.
Rothmans announced that they would sponsor the game, even agreeing to pay £90 for the Man of the Match. So, ninety-four years after the ground hosted the first ever Test match, an Australia XI and an England XI competed in the inaugural one-day international on 5 January 1971. Despite the fact that the game was played on a Tuesday, a crowd of 45,000 packed the MCG, eager to see some cricket and intrigued by the new format.
The players were sceptical of the venture, particularly the Australians, who had less experience with limited overs cricket than the English. ‘Everyone thought it was a Mickey Mouse game, just a little bit of fun.’ surely cricket fans didn’t expect it to be the start of something as big as one day cricket,’ Australian batsman Doug Walters reflected in an interview years later. Australia won the toss and chose to bat first against England. The tourists scored 190 runs, falling four balls short of their allotted forty overs. The English were clearly unsure how to approach the game. Geoff Boycott scored 8 points on 37 balls.
A crowd of 45,000 gathered at the MCG to watch the new format. The reaction to the event was subdued. Everyone agreed that it was a nice little filler, a chance for the players to stretch their legs, the audience to see some cricket, and the MCG to collect AUS$33,000 in gate receipts.
1975 WORLD CUP
There were no fancy gimmicks in this event, which was sponsored by Prudential and featured eight countries (the six Test-playing countries of England, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, and the West Indies, as well as Sri Lanka and South Africa). The players wore white, the ball was red, and the game started at eleven o’clock sharp. Nobody knew who the favourites were because only eighteen matches had been played in four years of international one-day cricket. But it was clear from the start that only four teams had realistic chance of winning the cup: the West Indies, England, Australia, and New Zealand.
England’s first match was against India, and the hosts crushed their visitors with ruthless disdain. Dennis Amiss hit 137 off 147 balls as England totaled 337 from their sixty overs. Sunil Gavaskar played the only style he knew, accumulating 36 runs from 174 balls as if batting for a draw in a Test match, because India had no idea how to respond. The strike rate remains the slowest for any ODI innings over 20 ever. India’s innings ended on 132 for two from sixty overs, and they were soon on their way home.
Pakistan, too, pushed both Australia and the West Indies to the brink of defeat in their pool matches. The English were routed in the semifinals by Gary Gilmour, the Australian paceman taking six for 14 in a devastating spell of bowling. After being all out for 93, the English fought back and reduced Australia to 39 for six. Then Gilmour did with the bat what he’d done with the ball, snuffing out English hopes with 28 from 28 balls.
That set up a final against the West Indies, who easily defeated New Zealand in their semifinal. The stage was set with a full house and another hot shirt sleeved day, capping off the meteorological miracle that has blessed every single moment of this competition with blue skies and sunshine. The West Indies batted first, cheered on by hundreds of Caribbean fans gathered at the foot of the Tavern Stand, blowing whistles, banging cans, and dancing in delight as Clive Lloyd saved his team.
With his team in trouble at 50 for three, the colossal West Indian captain loped to the wicket. ‘How often has he contradicted his studious appearance with violent thoughts?’ Lewis pondered as he sat back and watched Lloyd lower Australian heads with a series of mighty blow. In only 82 balls, he scored a century. Lloyd’s century, along with Rohan Kanhai’s half century, propelled the West Indies to a dizzying 291.
Australia chased hard but not well enough, and they had no one to desecrate the West Indian bowling attack as Lloyd had done their own. But there was no shame in falling 17 runs short of a total inspired by a magnificent batting display. Lloyd was named Man of the Match, and the Prudential Trophy was presented to him by HRH Prince Philip, President of the MCC.
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