Cricket's first 'traditional' one-dayer is 40 today

Nov 28, 2018, 11:29 IST | Clayton Murzello

Recalling the first international match held under floodlights of a traditional cricket ground - at the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 28, 1978

Cricket's first 'traditional' one-dayer is 40 today
A massive 50,000-plus crowd watch the Australia vs West Indies International Cup World Series Cricket game at the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 28, 1978. Pic/Getty Images

Exactly 40 years ago, the first floodlit match to be played on a traditional cricket ground, was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground where Ian Chappell's Australians clashed with Clive Lloyd's West Indians in the World Series Cricket (WSC) International Cup.

Packer and his team made a big effort in getting the SCG to host his one-day gig, and quite naturally he wanted to make it a big success. There was a good amount of build-up and promotions at the ground involved the sale of magazines. In Gideon Haigh's well-researched book, The Cricket War, he reveals that 5000 white balls were gifted to early entrants to the ground.

And of course, there was beer flowing. Under the headline 'The night the lights went on,' in a WSC magazine, Brad Boxall wrote: "One bronzed and beer-gutted gent was heard complaining after the dinner break that he'd run out of cans, because he 'only brought 48' which he assured was 'pretty silly' ".

Dennis Lillee, who rocked the West Indies with his four-wicket burst at the SCG on November 28, 1978
Dennis Lillee, who rocked the West Indies with his four-wicket burst at the SCG on November 28, 1978

The lights were turned on at 6 pm. The crowd went crazy and players like Michael Holding were more than just excited. Earlier in the day, the sound of 'Lil-lee, Lil-lee was too much for the great fast bowler to ignore. He cleaned up the West Indies top order – Gordon Greenidge, Richard Austin, Vivian Richards and Lloyd. And Greg Chappell's five scalps included Lawrence Rowe, Jim Allen, Deryck Murray, Bernard Julien and Joel Garner. Max Walker claimed Andy Roberts as the West Indies were bowled out for 128. Richards, while trying to hook Lillee, chopped one on his stumps and departed with a duck against his name.

"There was not much of a crowd for the first half, but when the lights came on, it was different. As far as back as you could see, there were people waiting to get in and then Kerry (Packer) instructed the men at the gates to just let the crowd in. Kerry wanted to see people in the stands and he got what he wanted that night," Sir Andy Roberts told mid-day.com yesterday.

The fast bowling great from Antigua said he had figured in many more memorable games in his decade-long international career, but this one stood out for the atmosphere that prevailed at the SCG. "The floodlights were taller than the ones now and they lit up the entire area near the SCG as well," recalled Roberts.

Australia had to get only 129, but no run chase can be a stroll when the bowling attack comprises Roberts, Julien, Colin Croft and Garner. Greg Chappell opened with Bruce Laird and was sent back for 22 by Garner. Brother Ian (19) battled on, but was caught behind by Murray off Roberts. That was before he displayed a grimace as Laird was adjudged run out for 15. Local boy Ian Davis, otherwise an opening batsman, came in at No. 4 and hit three fours on the bounce off Julien. He stayed not out on 48 as Australia got home by five wickets. The 50,000-plus crowd couldn't have asked for more.

Australian wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh was ecstatic. "We're bloody back… they (crowd) love us," he is believed to have said and Ian Chappell in the documentary Rookies, Rebels and Renaissance, said that his players felt that they were 'THE' Australian team that night at the SCG.

Dr Rudi Webster, the then manager of the West Indies team, reckoned the Sydney game was nothing short of a spectacle for him. "We were not playing in front of large crowds before, so this game was refreshing. I remember watching it with the group Chicago's lead singer Peter Cetera and later with Lance Gibbs (former West Indies off-spinner). Lance looked up at the black Sydney sky and was convinced it would rain. I assured him that it wouldn't and that was how the Sydney sky looked at night," recalled the Grenada-based reputed sports psychologist.

Commentator and WSC advisor Richie Benaud too knew how special this game was. After the match, he and wife Daphne raised their wine glasses to Packer and said nothing. The atmosphere had said it all.

Brief scores
West Indies 128 all out (CG Greenidge 41, CH Lloyd 21, J Allen 21; DK Lillee 4-13, GS Chappell 5-19) lost to Australia 129 for five (GS Chappell 22, IC Davis 48 not out; J Garner 2-18) by five wickets.
Man of the match: Dennis Lillee

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