Australia v England ODIs – MCG: In the Shadow of the BBL

In the shadow of the BBL, the one-day series between England and Australia kicked off at the MCG on Sunday. Two days prior, 44,316 people turned out to Etihad Stadium on a Friday night to watch the second Melbourne BBL Derby of the season.

 

Getting 44,316 to Etihad isn’t far off putting a man on the moon, but it was no flash in the pan. A week prior, the same fixture drew 48,086 to the MCG.

 

At least international one-day fixtures get some chance of beating the shadow. Our domestic one-day tournament is now played before anyone’s mind has really turned to cricket, in the darkness of September and October.

 

The “carnival” format brings back memories of schoolboy cricket. In any case, Western Australia beat South Australia to claim the season’s first silverware. Shaun Marsh was named the best player.

 

Two and a half months have passed and that form has done little to bring the older Marsh brother into short-form national calculations, though it aided his Test recall. Andrew Tye will debut in the canary yellow on the back of strong BBL form. No such luck for Glenn Maxwell.  No one knows which form in which format matters leading into these ODIs. Maxwell may as well go back to making hundreds in the backyard at Mum’s – the selectors might pay them more heed.

 

Meanwhile, England’s white-ball skipper, Eoin Morgan, is already talking about the road to a home 2019 World Cup. That tournament is 18 months away. Ask the Australians selectors, and their goal would be largely the same. One-day cricket seems to have followed soccer, rugby and every Olympic sport into thinking patterns governed by four-year cycles.

 

So, the question looms – what exactly are these ODIs worth?

 

For England, they may be seen as a chance to salvage something from this tour. That said, rocking up and winning ODIs after losing the Ashes is somewhat like rocking up to a date two hours late but making sure you bring flowers.

 

For one budding Australian entrepreneur, the ODIs amount to another chance to ridicule Stuart Broad. Outside Punt Road, said genius, who I suspect has never stood in the same room as the quick, sells “Broad is a wanker” t-shirts. I don’t bother to stop and tell him that the wanker in question isn’t even in England’s squad.

 

Morgan wins the toss and sticks the Australians in. The top two tiers of the MCG, not designed for days such as this one, are largely unoccupied.

 

Aaron Finch takes Chris Woakes for a pair of boundaries to open his innings. Mark Wood, absent from the Ashes largely due to injuries in the build-up, greets David Warner with deliveries of a less jovial nature.

 

The first whistles past his ears at 139.8km/h. The fifth is a brute which Warner can only fend straight up in the air. Where was this when it counted?

 

That question perhaps best sums up the whole affair and continues to do so as Wood makes Smith look hurried for the first time all summer. The Australians look to see the speedster off and attack elsewhere, but slip to 3-78 when Head departs. Mitch Marsh is required as saviour once more.

 

He obliges, as Finch continues to cut brutally and loft the spinners beautifully. The pair put on a ton, milking the spinners to within an inch of their lives through the middle overs.

 

Finch brings up his own milestone by clubbing Rashid over wide long-on. His helmet and gloves are removed and raised before the ball lands.

 

He can’t go on with it and slaps Ali to deepish midwicket, where Bairstow completes a rare catch in the outfield. Mitch Marsh moves to fifty. I wonder if he must now be considered “in-form”. He kills my thought by demonstrating to every batsman everywhere how not to play a wrong un. His bat and his pad part like the Red Sea and Rashid’s googly googles into the top of leg-stump.

 

Marcus Stoinis has work to do to push Australia past 300. He accepts the task and plunders 60 off 40 balls.

 

As he whacks away, the Member’s try and fail to kill the Mexican wave three times over. They finally succeed on the fourth attempt. Australia set the English 305 to win.

 

Looking positively luminous back in the canary yellow, Mitchell Starc opens for Australia from the Member’s End.

 

Unfortunately, Jason Roy is opening for England.

 

Jonny Bairstow joins him. The Test keeper has spent most of the Australian innings in new pastures out on the leg-side fence. He spent most of his down time trying to rescue beach balls from the security vultures, with limited success.

 

He takes a busy 12 off Cummins’ opening over, and then Roy takes over. In three overs, England race to 0/33.

 

The tourists lose two wickets and find themselves at 2-60, Bairstow tickling to Paine and Hales toeing a pull to midwicket. Root enters and doesn’t exit. The pressure is lifted off him by Roy, who throws the kitchen sink and then some at everything he can get near.

 

A whipped four through wide mid-on takes him to his half-century from just 32 balls. When the powerplay ends, England sit at 2-87. Their task is now a simple one. Milk the middle overs effectively and win.

 

Roy is out early in his 90s, but the DRS reprieves him. He’s outside the line of the off-stump. He goes on to bring up his hundred off just 92 balls.

 

The same question lingers anew – where was this when it counted?

 

The party tricks start to come out. Roy reverse sweeps Zampa to the fence, and then very deliberately French cuts the returning Starc between his legs for another boundary.

 

Root also looks comfortable. The records start to tumble once Roy passes 150. Viv Richard’s record for the highest ODI score at the MCG by an overseas batsman goes first. Then, Mark Waugh’s record for the highest ODI score for any player at the venue. Finally, Roy passes Alex Hales to register the highest ODI score by an Englishman.

 

As Roy passes each mark and an English victory starts to look a formality, the crowd of 37,171 disperses, ready for bed, work, Monday. By the time he is finally out hooking for 180, the crowd must’ve halved. He raises his bat to an emptying MCG.

 

England get home comfortably, with Root not out on 91.

 

There is no doubt the result matters to the combatants, and the runs matter to Roy. But as the crowd flocked out in the face of one-day history, it seemed obvious that the public are now firmly in the grip of the newer, prettier toy.

 

This one-day series has the makings of a cracker. But a cracking one-day series doesn’t last in the memory quite like a cracking Test series. Thoughts of what might’ve been for England during the Ashes will linger. The BBL will roll on and these ODIs will do the same in the shadows.

 

 

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. G’day Jack.
    Lovely writing; Ferrari-like nice lines.
    “Rashid’s googly googles into the top of leg-stump.”

    What is it that makes a ODI game interesting?
    What is is that makes a Test match interesting?
    In each case, there are limits to what they can provide.
    And not every game can be a memorable one.

    It probably comes down to context. “The Ashes”. The Test XI. Walking in the shadows of history.

    I reckon over the years, there have been quite a few ODI moments to have stuck in the mind. But mostly because of World Cup tournament-level urgency (from Australian viewpoint: that Sth Africa run-out, “you just dropped the World Cup,” A Gilchrist walking, MA Starc bowling BB McCullum, etc..)

    Without the same level of gravitas/ history around the canary yellow as applies to the baggy green, the ODI game presently needs something extra over a Test match.

    Context probably is very important.
    Maybe an opportunity to pump up the history of the canary yellow.

  2. JBanister says:

    Thanks ER.

    Precisely – this could’ve been a classic, but for the somewhat dead atmosphere and the lack of appreciation for Roy’s feats.

    You’re correct – all those moments have the World Cup as the common denominator, though. Sadly, that sums the whole thing up. I think ODI cricket is destined to become a World Cup format.

  3. Jack, we went to the game and for what was an amazing run chase the whole things was as dull as dog shit. The atmosphere was like being caught in a perpetual 80s radio station with occasional gimmicks to amuse the easily amused. These ODIs are meaningless as are T20s.
    Cheers
    TR

  4. JBanister says:

    Yep – the gimmicky 80s station + crowd stuff was cringeworthy.

    There is just so much cricket now – which begs the question of how much it can matter. There is a limit, sadly, and I think it’s been reached.

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Excellent write-up Jack.
    I’m optimistic about the future of ODI’s. Under the son to be introduced world ODI league, there will be less, more meaningful games. Of course all based around the World Cup, which remains a wonderful showpiece. We will see what it will be like as soon as next Summer, with ODI’s played before the Tests.
    If every game can be given greater context, there will be no arguments about being too much cricket.

  6. Thanks Luke.

    Yep – I think the shake up is good. But for me it’s now a format that exists so we can have a World Cup. I think having it out the way of the BBL, if that is indeed the plan, will potentially help a great deal.

    The middle overs, however, do tend to lose momentum and I wonder if there aren’t rule changes to circumvent the “single down to long-on” every second ball for thirty overs (slight exaggeration, but you get my drift).

  7. Stainless says:

    Jack
    Your piece prompted me to re-read one of my own from six years ago about the state of cricket scheduling, promotion etc. http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/decision-pending%e2%80%a6/ It’s astonishing how little has changed and how the authorities seem happy to allow the three forms of the game to continue to cannibalise one another.

    I’m pleased if there is an effort underway to give some structure and meaning to ODIs. God knows, it’s needed. But even so, I think the other two forms of the game face some similar challenges. Test cricket seems to be floundering except when games can be packaged up as “events” – think Boxing Day, Pink Test, Adelaide day/night. And notwithstanding that I actually see some interesting tactical elements in T20, it seems that it’s still being promoted as anodyne “entertainment”.

    The obvious dangers are that there is precious little attention being paid to the actual cricket. Without this what is going to keep the punters returning to these events/entertainments when they can experience all the incidental stuff anywhere

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