Perth centuries show value of the 50-over format

Brett McKay Columnist

By , Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    The great Mark Twain misquote reads, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” and I reckon one-day cricket must feel this way too, sometimes.

    Twenty20 cricket was invented in England and first played at a first-class level in the northern summer of 2003.

    Roughly three minutes after the completion of the first ever game, the first report of 50-over cricket’s demise was penned. Perhaps.

    For a format on its death bed, one-day cricket has proved remarkably resilient to be still going 13 years later!

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    Tuesday’s first ODI in Perth between Australia and India was intriguing for several reasons. For one, more than 90 overs had been bowled before we saw a sixth wicket fall. Australia lost two more in the last seven overs of the match, by the end of which cricket fans in the west were exiting the WACA having seen 8-619 for the day.

    It’s no wonder India batted first.

    Secondly, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma’s second-wicket partnership of 207 in a losing game had me thinking it had to be a record. Turns out it wasn’t even close.

    Kohli and Sharma’s stand was actually the 12th double century partnership in a losing game and comes in at number nine on the list. And for whatever it’s worth, nine of the 12 losing double hundred partnerships have come since 2000.

    But it wasn’t even the highest partnership for the day, in the end. George Bailey and Steven Smith’s third-wicket partnership of 242 was narrowly pipped by Bailey’s ‘Floppy Gold’ as the highlight of the day.

    Like Kohli and Sharma, Smith and Bailey came together very early in the innings. And all four batsmen were able to do something that would be very rare in limited-overs cricket if – as many believe is inevitable – the 50-over game went the way of the Thylacine of the Dodo.

    They all built an innings.

    Now if you’re thinking this is a familiar theme from me, you’d be right. And you need to blame Will Sinclair for its re-emergence. After the Smith-Bailey stand came to an end, Will made a poignant point on Twitter:

    “That was masterful. Can’t believe people are complaining it was boring. Great stuff Smith and Bailey. Masterful,” he said.

    “Considering they were two for rock-all, it’s an outstanding partnership of innings-building. What more could you want!” I returned.

    Will: “It’s why ODIs remain superior to T20 at an international level – time to recover and build an innings.”

    Me: “Might be time to revisit an article on this very topic I wrote a few seasons back…”

    And so here we are.

    Three years ago – nearly to the day – I made similar observations after Phillip Hughes made his second ODI century in just his fifth match, against Sri Lanka in Hobart. Less than a fortnight earlier, he’d made a century on ODI debut in Melbourne.

    Of the Hobart innings, I wrote:

    “Hughes’ own innings could neatly be broken up into three blocks. His first fifty was raised in 82 balls, the second fifty came at a neat run-a-ball as the confidence started coming back, and the last unbeaten 38 from just 22 deliveries.

    “As far as one-day innings go, Hughes’ 138*… might even be as well compiled an Australian one-day innings in the last 12 months or so.”

    And later: “Cricket Australia could do a lot worse than to put Hughes’ innings onto DVD and send it to every junior coach in the country. This innings, kids, is what you should be looking to emulate when you need to bat for any length of time.”

    The Perth innings of Sharma, Kohli, Smith, and Bailey could all be viewed similarly. All four of them took their time to get set and steadily accelerated as the innings went on.

    Sharma finished 171* from 163 balls, but his fifty came in 63 balls, and his century in 122. Kohli’s 97-ball 91 included a 61-ball fifty and a strike rate that hovered either side of 90 throughout. Smith and Bailey took 55 and 60 balls respectively to bring up their fifties, and Smith would be the only one of the four to raise a ton in less than 100 balls.

    All four were just about the ideal one-day innings, and Sharma’s and Kohli’s certainly didn’t deserve a five-wicket loss.

    Think about those four innings, and consider how those same scores would be made in a Twenty20 game.

    Travis Head’s New Year’s Eve hundred was outstanding, but it was hardly subtle. He went at a run-a-ball to 24* and then just started picking balls to hit. On 45* from 38 balls, he went 4-6-4-6-6-1 to jump to 72* from 44.

    From 83* from 50 balls he went 6-6-6 to win the game and raise his hundred in style from 53 balls. It was a well-clubbed innings, don’t get me wrong. And it certainly got the job done.

    Usman Khawaja’s Big Bash League opening weekend ton for the Sydney Thunder will remain one of the knocks of the summer, and is actually one of the few ‘built’ T20 innings I can recall.

    It featured a gradual acceleration, rather than sudden hyperspeed: 25* in 18 balls, 50* from 37, 77* from 51, to finish 103* from 66 balls. I’m sure the way he built that innings was a significant factor in him winning his ODI recall.

    But would it happen if the 50-over format disappeared? I’d have extreme doubts.

    Being able to bat for hours and building innings and partnerships – and indeed, bowling in partnerships to build pressure – is one of the great reasons the full one-day game is so enjoyable to watch. It’s an art that would become extinct without the great benefit of time that the 50-over format provides.

    Twenty20 can be the cash cow and the place for the entertainers. But the one-day game will always remain the home of the craftsmen.

    (And thanks, Will!)

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.