The first ever One-Day International took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1971, a last-minute replacement for a washed out Ashes Test.
It would be more than 18 months before any further ODI cricket took place, but this time the matches were part of the official schedule for Australia’s tour of England in 1972. The three-match Prudential Trophy series formed part of an expansion of limited overs cricket that summer. The Gillette Cup, played over 60 overs per innings, had been part of the English cricket season since 1963 and would be marking its tenth Lord’s final that year. The John Player sponsored 40-over Sunday League had made its appearance in 1969. 1972 also saw the introduction of the Benson & Hedges Cup, played over a 55-over format, featuring a group stage with the counties split into four pools before semi-finals and a second Lord’s showpiece in July.
With the Prudential Trophy scheduled to begin towards the end of August – a week after the Test series had ended in a 2-2 draw – the 55-over format was also adopted. England claimed victory in the first match at Old Trafford, but Australia arrived at Lord’s for the second game with memories still fresh of Bob Massie wreaking havoc in the Test Match some weeks before. Brian Close – controversially sacked as England captain five years earlier – returned to skipper the side for the series in place of Ray Illingworth, and he led the charge as England were put to bat by the visitors.
After the early loss of Geoff Boycott, Close struck seven fours and a six as he raced to 43 from 40 balls, taking England to 69 for 1 after an hour’s play. But when the 41 year-old was run out, it struck a fatal blow to England’s momentum. The rest of the top-order simply couldn’t get going and it was only thanks to a lively seventh-wicket partnership of 77 between Tony Greig and Alan Knott, and a final flourish from last man Geoff Arnold, that England managed to reach 236 for 9. It never looked like being enough. Despite 3 for 35 from John Snow, England couldn’t manage to contain Australia’s batsmen. 52 from opener Keith Stackpole, together with 50 from Paul Sheahan and contributions from both Chappell brothers saw Australia home with five wickets and more than three overs to spare.
England went on to win the final match at Edgbaston to seal a 2-1 series win. More importantly, the series had proved a huge success with audiences. ODI cricket was here to stay, and the Prudential Trophy and its successor the Texaco Trophy would be a regular fixture in English summers for the next 25 years.