With the 40th anniversary of One-Day cricket just around the corner, former Australian wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh recalls the world's first ever ODI match. With a glint in his eye, Marsh rolls back the years to that memorable encounter between England and Australia on Jan 5, 1971.
He says that the match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) as an exhibition game because rain had washed out a Test between the two sides. No one at the time believed they would be making history.
"The thing I remember most is that we won the game and it was no big deal as it was an exhibition game as the Test was washed out. There was no sense of history making," said Marsh.
Batting first, England got off to a so-so-start with the young Geoff Boycott getting ensnared by Australia pacer Alan Thomson for just 8 as the visitors stumbled to 21/1. But then a steady partnership between the other opener John Edrich and Kdeith Fletcher took England to 87 before off-break Ashley Mallett had Fltecher caight by Greg Chappell.
The top and middle order was gradually undone thereafter with Marsh playing his part. He effected the run-out of Basil D'Oliveira for 17 and then took a catch to dismiss the Colin Cawdry for just 1. The latter order wasn't able to put up much of a fight and England crumbled to 190 all out in 39.4 overs. Edrich top-scored for his side with 82 off 199 balls while spin-twins Mallett and Keith Stackpole, took 3 wickets a piece.
Present day commentator Bill Lawry, opened the batting in Australia's reply with Stackpole. The former made 27 and the latter managed 13 before England had them out, making the score 51/2. But steady middle-order work from Ian Chappell (60 off 103 balls) and Doug Walters (41 off 51 balls) took the game away from the tourists. Even though English off-spinner Ray Illingworth struck back with 3 wickets, Greg Chappell (22 off 29 balls) and Marsh (10 off 18 balls) finished off the match in the 35th over to give their side an emphatic 5-wicket victory.
The popularity of ODI cricket hit a crescendo in the 1970s and Marsh saw the growth of the format from close quarters in that era. The first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup in 197just added to the fanfare. But Marsh believes that the format really took off after the advent of World Series Cricket (WSC) in 1978, which Kerry Packer had engineered.
"From a playing perspective I don't think it became much sought after throughout my career. The public probably got to know it well after the first World Cup but it really took off during and after WSC," reckoned Marsh.
The introduction of coloured clothing, white ball and cricket at night through WSC added a new dimension to the format.
"The coloured clothing etc changed the demograhics of the spectator audience. It introduced more young people and more women to the crowds. It became a social event," said Marsh.
Over the years the format has seen a number of modifications to playing conditions. The introduction of 20 overs of power play added to the excitement of the format with restrictions on number of players allowed to field outside the 30 yard circle.
Marsh believes all this has helped in the growth of the format. "Teams will always try something new for example Sri Lanka blasting away in the first 15 overs (in ICC Cricket World Cup 1996) changed the way the game was played," said Marsh.
The former Australia wicketkeeper picked South Africa's mammoth chase of Australia's score of 434 in 2005-06 at Johannesburg as the best ODI game of all time.