Cricket: World Cup born in Melbourne

THREE CONSECUTIVE wet days at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 31 December 1970 to 2 January 1971 led, inadvertently, to an extraordinary upheaval. The Third Test between Ray Illingworth's and Bill Lawry's sides was abandoned without a ball being bowled and a conference took place between Sir Donald Bradman and Bob Parish representing the Australian Board of Control, Sir Cyril Hawker, the president of Marylebone Cricket Club, the treasurer, Gubby Allen, and the manager of the England side, David Clark.

They agreed to reschedule the Test Match for three weeks later and, which was very avant garde for such a traditional gathering, decided that in place of the match which had been abandoned, a one-day limited overs international would take place on what would have been the Test's final day, 5 January.

It was the very first one-day international with 40 eight-ball overs per side and Australia won by five wickets, scoring 191 for 5 in 34.6 overs in reply to England's 190 all out in 39.4 overs. The Australian Keith Stackpole, recalling the game yesterday, said that at the time it seemed a good bit of fun but not much more. What made everyone involved sit up and take notice was that 46,006 spectators, who paid $33,894 for the privilege, passed through the turnstiles.

Cricket's administrators are almost invariably seen as old farts but the cast at the conference I have mentioned above was far from that. Although nothing was reported at the time, the conference also discussed other issues eventually to assume great importance.

One-day cricket had already proved itself extremely popular in England where it had brought much-needed financial assistance to the game. A private discussion which had taken place between Bradman and Allen was now revealed to the other three in the room.

Their suggestion, which was to remain completely confidential, was for a cricket World Cup to be created which would involve all the Test-playing countries competing on a round-robin basis in limited overs matches. The plan was to hold the tournament in England where the long evenings would mean the matches could be completed in one day.

In January 1972, a secret meeting was held in Melbourne between representatives of the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Australian Board to discuss matters of mutual interest. Bradman and Allen were the key figures on either side and, after the two of them had had a private meeting, all three of those who had flown over from Lord's met with three members of the Australian Board. No minutes were taken.

Australia were to visit England in 1972 and although the itinerary had been worked out three years beforehand, changes were suddenly proposed and, most importantly, an offer was made from the recently formed TCCB for the Australians to play three one-day internationals at the end of August at Old Trafford, Lord's and Edgbaston. The lure was pounds 2,500 a match for the tourists.

Thus the first Prudential Trophy was played out in 1972 amid increasing excitement and public interest. England took the series 2-1 after winning the deciding third match by two wickets in as exciting a finish as one could wish for. The players, the public and, most important of all, the sponsors, were hooked - all because of three wet days at Melbourne 20 months earlier.

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