5 January 1971: The first one-day international cricket match

On this day in 1971, Australia beat England by five wickets in the first ever one-day international cricket match.

The game of cricket has been around in one form or another for at least 450 years, and has become England's national game. A game that traditionally has taken up to five days to complete, which often has no clear winner, and which can't be played in the rain or under bad light in a country notorious for its wet and gloomy weather.

But on this day in 1971, something happened that changed the face of the game. To the delight of many, and to the horror of many others, the first ever one-day international cricket match was played.

The third test of the Ashes series between England and Australia, at a cold and wet Melbourne Cricket Ground, was washed out, with no play possible in the first three days. So, to recoup some of their losses, and to give the spectators something to watch, the Australian Cricket Board (headed by legendary batsman Don Bradman) and the MCC agreed to put on a one-day match on what would have been the fifth day of the test.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

A 40-over match, with eight balls per over, was agreed. And, somewhat to the surprise of the organisers (the caterers had been told to allow for 20,000 people), 46,000 people turned up to watch.

England batted first, and were all out for 190 off 39.4 overs. John Edrich made the first one-day international half-century, and the highest score of the game, hitting 82 runs. Australia won by five wickets, however, with 42 balls remaining.

In a demonstration of just how trifling the cricketing establishment thought the game was, the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack of 1972 didn't carry a report of the match. The Times, however, did have an inkling of the importance of the occasion. "So successful was the one-day cricket match played here today", it reported, "that one is bound to wonder what it may lead to."

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.