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One day cricket on limited time
The weekend began with another poor advertisement for the ailing format of one-day cricket and ended with more esteem for its natural successor, Twenty20.
On Friday night in Melbourne Australia thrashed West Indies by 125 runs in their final one-day match to secure a 5-0 series whitewash. A crowd of just 15,538 were in attendance at the 100,000-seat MCG.
On Sunday night in Hobart Australia scored an easy 38-run win over West Indies in the first of two Twenty20 matches between the sides. The attendance figure was 15,575 – just 1,144 short of the 16,719 ground record.
The touring sides have been woeful this summer, but it doesn't hide the fact that the 50-over format's days are numbered.
The first limited overs cricket matches were played by English county teams in the Midlands Knock-Out Cup in 1962, a tournament won by Northamptonshire. The format was 65 overs per team.
The inaugural Cricket World Cup was played in 1975 in England, with matches consisting of 60 overs per team. The number of overs was reduced to 50 per team at the 1987 World Cup, co-hosted by India and Pakistan.
That was 23 years ago and it is time for the short form of cricket to evolve again, which has been made all the more easy with the ready-made replacement of Twenty20 already a winner with fans.
Ricky Ponting, Australia Test and one-day captain, cited the glut of matches and high ticket prices among the reasons for small crowds at 50-over matches this summer.
"Playing 10 one-day internationals, by the end of the summer, I think people were over cricket," Ponting said.
Increasingly time-poor lifestyles are also a factor. Fans no longer want to sit around for eight hours, much of it in the hot sun, only being kept awake by early and late over flourishes.
Twenty20 is also more conducive to TV audiences. Watching an entire one-dayer on the box is a bit of a stretch, but your spouse or partner may allow a three-hour couch potato session in front of the cricket for a Twenty20 match. Heck, they might even get into it themselves.
The 2010-11 Australian summer will see a five-Test Ashes series followed by two Twenty20 matches and seven one-dayers against England. Travelling fans and a fiery antipodean rivalry should see inflated crowd figures at all of those fixtures, but the real one-day barometer reading should be taken in spring.
Sri Lanka arrives on Aussie shores for one week only from late October to early November, and will play one Twenty20 and three one day matches against Australia.
A comparison of crowd figures from the T20 at the WACA and the one-dayers at the MCG, SCG and the Gabba should make for interesting reading, given fans will likely be saving their pennies to see the old enemy later in summer.
Cricket World Cups of the 50-over variety have been locked in until England 2019, with Australia to host in 2015 and India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to joint-host in 2011. That's not to say the format couldn't be changed by the ICC over the next few years.
My feeling is cricket fans will continue to vote with their feet and remote controls, hastening an end to the 50-over format of the game.
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