January 5, 1971 was a watershed moment in cricket history because it saw the first one day cricket 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. Then the match officials made the decision to play a one day encounter with two innings and 40 overs each.
Rothmans announced that they would sponsor the game, even agreeing to pay £90 for the Man of the Match. Despite the fact that the game was played on a Tuesday, a crowd of 46,000 gathered at the MCG to watch the new format of cricket, eager to see some cricket and intrigued by the new format.
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. Surely cricket fans didn’t expect it to be the start of something as big as one day cricket.
The first cricket test match was played between England and Australia 94 years ago in 1877, and the first one day cricket match is being played between the same two sides in 1971. Bill Lawry won the toss and decided to put England in. England XI scored 190 runs in 39.4 overs on the sluggish, wet Melbourne wicket, with John Edich serving as the innings’s cornerstone with a scorching 82-run performance becoming the first man to score fifty runs in an ODI cricket.
England could manage only seven boundaries in all. The two Australian spinners made a significant difference in that game. Keith Stackpole recorded 3 for 40, and right-arm off-break bowler Ashley Mallet recorded 3 for 34.
In response The Australians were far more aggressive than their English rivals. With Bill Lawry and K Stackpole as their two openers, Australia got off to a fairly steady start in their innings. Ian Chappell hit five fours and the first ever six in an ODI. Ian Chappel and Doug Walters had a fantastic partnership of 66 runs at a consistent run rate despite losing 2 wickets in 51 runs.
Doug Walters won the game for Australia with a 51-ball 41 that had six boundaries. Basil D’Oliveira of England gave up 21 runs in one over. Australia successfully knocked down the target in 42 balls (5.2 overs) and with five wickets remaining with wicketkeeper Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell at the crease. John Edrich was declared first Man of the Match in first one day cricket match.
The two countries England and Australia immediately welcomed the overwhelming success of the first ever one day cricket match. 46,000 people packed the stadium to see the game, much to the amazement of the board. The board realised then that the one day international cricket format might be a huge success. After this unexpectedly successful experience, ODIs began to thrive and were eventually incorporated permanently into cricket. Four years after the first ever Odis World Cup was held in 1975.
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