GAME OF CHAMPIONS
Australia v West Indies, 20 December 1975
Adelaide Oval’s first one-day international - 43 years ago - seemingly could not have been more appealing. But “only” 14,168 fans turned up.
The clash pitted world champions the West Indies against Australia, the best Test side on the planet, just six months after the rivals had fought out a tense, chaotic World Cup final thriller, the Calypso kings scrambling to victory by 17 runs at Lord’s.
But Australia still had not fallen in love with the one-day game and this was the only limited-overs international of a summer that saw Greg Chappell’s talented side win the Test series 5-1 in front of bumper crowds. Former England Test great and cricket expert of the time Frank Tyson even described the game as a “relatively inconsequential exercise”.
Local favourite Ian Chappell thumped 63 and, according to Australian Cricket magazine, “revenge couldn’t have been sweeter” as the Australians “got home by five wickets in a romp with the luxury of eight overs to spare”. Yet the West Indies still are remembered as the first world champions and only the most fervent Aussie fans would recall the final “rematch” at Adelaide Oval.
And how times have changed. Chappell won the Man of the Match award “carrying a bonus of $300”, while the Australians “took out the $1,800 prize for the winners”. And the game consisted of 40 eight-ball overs a side.
Future Test legend Viv Richards produced some “lively batting” to top-score with 74 but Max “Tangles” Walker snared the last three wickets from six balls to finish with 4/19, West Indies bundled out for 224. Aussie newcomer Gary Cosier held “a steepling return catch” from dangerous Windies opener Gordon Greenidge (41) and followed up with an unbeaten 25. Promoted for the MCG Boxing Day Test, the South Australian earned a place in Test folklore by becoming just the 11th Australian to score a century on debut.
Greg Chappell snared two wickets and scored 59, while left-handed opener Alan Turner made 46 as the Aussies sauntered home, Cricketer labelling the lopsided contest “a real anti-climax”. But Ian Chappell had given his loving home fans something to cheer about, Cricketer noting “the innings of the day came from Chappell who, once he had his eye in, began tonking the West Indian bowlers mercilessly over the short square Adelaide boundaries”.
ROD’S OVER AND OUT
Australia v New Zealand, 23 November 1980
The one-dayer between Greg Chappell’s Australians and Geoff Howarth’s New Zealanders hit the heights because of one unforgettable over. The scorebook read 6-4-6-4-6-out as wicketkeeper Rod Marsh lashed out in a final-over flurry off medium-pacer Lance Cairns that gave the Aussies a shot at an unlikely victory after they had been kept in check by a tight Kiwi attack.
Opener John Dyson compiled 69 from 120 balls but it was hard work against medium-pacer Ewen Chatfield, who snared 5/34, and champion allrounder Richard Hadlee, whose 10 overs cost a meagre 25. Australia was battling at 8/191 when Cairns lumbered in for the final over to Marsh. His first offering was thundered over mid-wicket and into the crowd in front of the Victor Richardson Gates. A lofted off-drive down the ground crashed into the pickets, a long distance away, before a towering six hit the eastern gates turnstiles on the full. The fourth ball of the over was hoisted to mid-wicket for four, then another six crashed into the crowd of 11,129, standing and cheering in typical Adelaide heat, Australian flags waving. Mike Coward wrote in The Advertiser Marsh had “endangered lives and property” but it ended in anti-climax when Marsh’s final lusty blow was caught in the deep by John Bracewell, who might have been suffering from a sore neck watching balls sail over his head. Marsh had provided the Aussies a lifeline with 44 from 30 balls but the match also ended in anti-climax for local fans, New Zealand scrambling to victory in the last over with three wickets in hand, opener John Wright having top-scored with 60 from 128 balls. It was obviously a different game back then, with more testing wickets, less powerful bats, boundaries that weren’t roped off and scores rarely exceeding 300.
While Cairns was on the receiving end at Adelaide Oval, the power-packed Kiwi actually outgunned Marsh by pummelling six mighty sixes from 10 unforgettable balls in a one-day final against the Aussies at the MCG in 1982-83. Wielding his unusually-shaped Excalibur bat, he famously flicked pace legend Dennis Lillee one-handed over the square-leg fence.
Australia v Sri Lanka, 28 January 1985
“It was the Australia Day holiday but the Australian cricketers went to work and the Sri Lankans took the day off.” So wrote Alan Shiell in The Advertiser as the Aussies pulled off a remarkable 232-run win against Sri Lanka. Skipper Allan Border blasted an unbeaten 118 and shared an unbroken 224-run stand with Dean Jones, who couldn’t believe his luck to be left unbeaten on 99. The talented 23-year-old Victorian had the last three balls of the innings to score the single needed to reach his ton. Frustrated at having hit paceman Rumesh Ratnayake straight to mid-wicket for no run two balls in a row, it all came down to the last ball. Jones tried to glance a ball down the leg-side, missed and Border, wanting to get whatever run he could to add to an impressive tally that ended up on 2/323, scampered through. “It’s a wide … ooh, and he hasn’t got the strike, they shouldn’t have run,” roared excited commentator Bill Lawry. “They’ve crossed on a wide, would you believe that? Dean Jones on 99 crossed on a wide and loses the strike.” Jones watched the final ball from the bowler’s end, stranded on 99. While Jones narrowly missed his ton he got closer to a century than the entire Sri Lankan side, which was bundled out for 91.
DAWN OF A NEW ERA
Australia v India, 26 January 1986
Australia had been having as tough time of it. The Aussies had been thumped by the Windies, distressed Test skipper Kim Hughes stepping aside after a humiliating defeat at Adelaide Oval and under new skipper Allan Border they had been beaten 3-1 for the Ashes in England. Now they had even been copping it in a home Test series at the hands of New Zealand. But how quickly things were about to change. Border’s side was on the cusp of a wonderfully exciting era but who at Adelaide Oval would have believed the one-day side about to tackle India would the following year win the World Cup in India?
A youngster had been promoted to the Aussie line-up who was about to make a big difference. Highly-skilled 20-year-old New South Welshman Steve Waugh had just weeks earlier made his ODI debut after earning a baggy green cap for the Boxing Day Test. It didn’t take long for the knowledgeable Adelaide crowd to realise here was a pretty special talent. Waugh top-scored with 81 from just 75 balls with four fours and two sixes and with support from chirpy allrounder Greg Matthews, who made 44, Australia reached 8/262.
Champion Indian opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar displayed his style and skills in reaching 77 before he was caught behind by local favourite Wayne Phillips from the bowling of Bruce Reid. The lanky left-arm paceman - also in his first summer of international cricket - stood tall to claim 5/53 from his 10 overs as the Aussies bowled India out for 226.
Australia’s side for an Australia Day celebration involving 28,236 fans featured six players who would be key members of the World Cup-winning team of the following year - skipper Border, Waugh, David Boon, Geoff Marsh, Craig McDermott and Reid.
DONE LIKE A DINNER
Australia v New Zealand, 27 January 1986
Australia was on the right track. It had shown that in its impressive Australia Day win against India and it had qualified for the World Series Cup finals, comfortably on top of the table. But that didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing. The day after the Aussies had scored 8/262 against champion allrounder Kapil Dev’s India, they were bundled out by New Zealand for a miserable 70. The Advertiser headline, showing there possibly still was some resistance to short-form cricket, screamed “Nightmare in Pyjama Game”. Just as well for the 22 from SA wicketkeeper-batsman Wayne Phillips, batting at No. 7 because next-highest score was David Boon with 10. Richard Hadlee made the ball sing with 3/14 after the Kiwis had reached 7/276, left-handers Bruce Edgar and John Wright both making 61. The Advertiser was left feeling sorry for the short-changed Adelaide Oval fans who were “done like a dinner” because of the “pitiful, awful, embarrassing” display from the local batting line-up. But Australia beat India 2-0 in the best-of-three finals. And the Aussies’ first World Cup triumph was little more than a year away.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Australia v New Zealand, 7 December 1997
“Fever Pitch under Lights Fantastic,” declared The Advertiser front page. “Adelaide Oval turned on a spectacular show - sunset included - for Australia’s cricket debut under its new floodlights. 30,049 - the Oval’s biggest crowd in 11 years - packed the grandstands and terraces to see the Aussies snatch victory with just two balls to spare, tailended Andy Bichel edging a four to clinch a three-wicket victory.”
The retractable lights had come up to reveal a stunning sight and a thrilling match to match it. Spinning sensation Shane Warne claimed three wickets as the Kiwis tallied 7/260 before stylish Aussie opener Mark Waugh reeled off a vintage century and hard-hitting Michael DiVenuto reached 77. But befitting such a historic clash, there were thrills and spills into the final over. Then the retractable lights were gone. But there were bigger days - and nights - ahead for the magnificent Adelaide Oval we now know.
Sri Lanka v England, 23 January 1999
The Sunday Mail front page said it all. Cricket in Crisis, it declared. ‘Chucker’ outrage, it screamed.
The Aussies weren’t involved in this Adelaide Oval ODI but the contest had just about everything. There was controversy and drama in equal portions, plenty of runs scored, with a couple of centuries, and a nail-biting finish, ending in a one-wicket victory with just two balls remaining.
But the game nearly didn’t reach its thrilling climax. Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga walked his players from the Oval, willing to boycott the clash after star off-spinner and later world record-holding Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan was called for throwing.
Umpire Ross Emerson, at square-leg, called Murali, whose bowling action had been shrouded in controversy but had been cleared by the ICC. He had been called for throwing seven times in three overs by Darrell Hair at the MCG Boxing Day Test in 1995, then Emerson had called him in the Sri Lanka-West Indies one-dayer at the Gabba in January 1996. So when he came on to bowl in Adelaide there was an ominous feeling, commentator Tony Greig declaring, “Right, well, this is the moment everyone’s been a little bit nervous about”. His concern proved justified soon enough, with Murali no-balled in his second over. A heated argument followed between Ranatunga and Emerson.
The Sri Lankan skipper instructed his men to leave the field and the game hung in the balance for 14 minutes, Sri Lanka’s team manager Ranjith Fernando and match referee Peter van der Merwe involved in earnest discussions at the boundary and the Sri Lankan Cricket Board in Colombo telephoned. The crisis talks cooled the tensions - somewhat - the game continued, Murali bowled leg-breaks, removing the risk of being no-balled again, and Sri Lanka scrambled to the narrowest of wins. Graeme Hick’s unbeaten 126 lifted England to an imposing 3/302 but Mahela Jayawardene won the man-of-the-match award for his 120. Muralitharan finished with 0/46 from seven overs. Back to bowling his off-spin, he went on to take 534 ODI wickets and a staggering 800 in Tests. And even in this controversial Adelaide Oval encounter he had the last say, hitting the winning run in a record-breaking run chase.
And Emerson’s international umpiring career was over.
FAST AND FURIOUS
Australia v India, 26 January 2000
Superstar one-day openers Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist had India on the back foot from the start, two of the most dynamic limited-overs players this country has seen combining for a 163-run opening stand. Gilchrist fell to leg-spin great Anil Kumble eight short of a deserved ton but Waugh went onto another three-figure score, making 116 from 131 balls and adding 100 for the second wicket with Ricky Ponting (43) for good measure.
In the season Brett Lee stormed onto the scene with a wicket in his first over of Test cricket and first-up figures of 5/47 against India, the tearaway quick also snared a stunning five-wicket one-day haul as the Aussies stormed to a 152-run win at Adelaide Oval.
After Australia’s 5/329, Indian fans were looking to masterful Sachin Tendulkar if there was any chance of a fightback victory. But Lee picked him up for 18 slashing to third man where Stuart MacGill on the boundary rope plucked a sensational catch on the run. Next ball Lee beat Hrishikesh Kanitkar for pace and trapped him leg-before. He also clean bowled Kumble with a stunning inswinging yorker and No. 11 Debasis Mohanty was bowled seemingly before he brought his bat down. “That was pacy, I tell you,” declared iconic commentator Richie Benaud, as Lee snared 5/27 and India was bundled out for 177.
A GAME OF INCHES
Australia v England, 26 January 2014
Close sporting contests often become games of inches, where a slice of luck here or there can make all the difference. Well, the Australia-England clash at the Oval on the 2014 Australia Day holiday became a game of millimetres. The luck in a low-scoring thriller went the Aussies’ way and they completed a 4-1 one-day series win.
England needed eight off the last nine balls with two wickets in hand to salvage something from a miserable tour, No. 6 Ravi Bopara battling hard for 25 from 43 balls and holding the key to a last-gasp win. Keeper Matthew Wade was standing up to the stumps to paceman Clint McKay, Bopara played and missed and Wade fumbled the ball - onto the top of leg bail. The replay was shown over and over as Bopara’s foot hovered close to safety. But he was out of luck - by mere millimetres. When No. 11 James Tredwell swung at Shane Watson and only managed a fine edge, Wade safely held on to this one and Australia escaped with a five-run win.
In tough batting conditions on an under-construction, new-look Adelaide Oval, George Bailey top-scored for Australia with 56 from 74 balls, while Joe Root battled hard for 55 for England.
OUR CUP RUNNETH OVER
World Cup quarter-final, Australia v Pakistan, 20 March 2015
Australia’s charge towards its historic fifth World Cup triumph in the summer of 2014-15 almost was derailed by a fiery, dangerous spell from Pakistan left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz.
The Aussies weren’t expected to be tested too severely in the Cup quarter-final against Pakistan and their fearsome pace attack of Mitchell Johnson, Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood quickly had local fans looking forward to a semi-final showdown with powerful India. Man-of-the-match Hazlewood snared 4/35 as the Pakistanis were bundled out for 213 but any thoughts of a walkover were thrown out the window when the ball was tossed to Wahab.
Intimidating Wahab, inspired as a youngster by the heroics of left-arm speedster Wasim Akram in Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup triumph, produced a spell of Akram calibre, bowling with such ferocity and aggression he threatened to pull off a Cup boilover of his own.
Wahab had copped his fair share of Aussie taunting as he battled to an important 16 late in the Pakistan innings. He was in no mood to either forgive or forget as he launched his express-paced spell, knocking over superstar opener David Warner and skipper Michael Clarke to have Australia teetering at 3/59.
Shane Watson’s career had looked over when he was axed by selectors earlier in the World Cup and he could have been excused for longing for a relaxing retirement as Wahab had the ball flying around his ears and at his body. As if that wasn’t enough, there Wahab was right in his face after following through, sarcastically clapping, smiling, even blowing kisses at the under-siege Aussie allrounder. It was gripping theatre and Adelaide Oval soon was rocking to the booing, chanting and cheering more often associated with a Showdown clash of fierce AFL rivals Adelaide and Port Adelaide. Watson was reeling on the ropes and, after he had battled to six, he skied a sizzling Wahab short ball to fine-leg, only for Rahat Ali to put him down. It was the turning point of a game that had been on a knife-edge. Australia went on to win, seemingly convincingly, by six wickets with a whopping 16.1 overs to spare. Luckless Wahab was shattered after his spell of a lifetime ended with just 2/54 in a losing cause, Watson completing a courageous unbeaten 64 in one of the great innings of his career. Steve Smith (65) and Glenn Maxwell (44 not out) played their part and history beckoned for the Aussies.
Australia v Pakistan, 26 January 2017
Australia Day cricket at Adelaide Oval is one of South Australia’s greatest sporting traditions, crowds flocking to the iconic venue for a day of celebrations. And those celebrations are heightened when a South Aussie shines … and when the home side makes it Australia’s Day.
That’s what happened in the 2016-17 summer when Redbacks skipper Travis Head made a stunning century and Australia racked up 7/369 to claim a convincing win against Pakistan.
The Pakistanis hoped it wouldn’t prove too costly when second slip Azhar Ali dropped David Warner off Mohammad Amir’s first ball of the match. But at the start of the 42nd over, they still hadn’t taken a wicket!
Electrifying Warner and Head opened with a stunning stand of 284, with Warner eventually the first to go, caught at backward point after blasting 179 from 128 balls with 19 fours and five sixes. He fell just six short of Shane Watson’s record Australian score, the partnership just two short of the world record set in 2006 by Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya and Upal Tharanga.
Head came within striking distance of batting right through the innings, falling in the 47th over for an outstanding 128 from 137 balls as the Aussies reached 7/369. But they still had work to do. Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan lifted Pakistan to 1/140, with Babar set to become the first Pakistani to score a century against Australia in Australia since the great Zaheer Abbas way back in 1981. They reached 312 in the final over but left-arm pace ace Mitchell Starc proved too hot to handle, snaring 4/42.
Last summer Head was on track for another ODI century on his home ground when he reached 96 in a three-wicket win against England. But he was caught trying to find the boundary to reach his ton, pulling paceman Mark Wood straight to Eoin Morgan at mid-on. Head’s average in one-day internationals at Adelaide Oval stands at 112. Is it too much to hope he can maintain, or even improve, that record against the South Africans?