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Two Nation One day Series

In the Back Seat Now
By S. Zeyaur Rehman

In the initial years, one-day internationals were an appendage to the test series. During any tour, a couple of limited overs matches were organized after the serious business was over. Even after the successful organization of the World Cups the one-day fever had not caught up, though it had started picking up momentum. It was only after the Packer circus, i.e. with the introduction of colored dresses and night cricket, that one-day cricket made it big. It had everything fun, excitement, climax, was less time taking and most importantly, was big business.

One-day internationals slowly became an integral part of the itinerary and were being taken seriously. Their popularity can be judged from the fact that by mid 80ís, more than half the number of tours had more number of one dayers rather than tests. In fact there were quite a few tours, which featured only one-day internationals.

Now these one-day series have taken aback seat, edged out by tri-angular series and tournaments, for the same business reasons. Most of the hosts prefer a tri-angular series to a conventional bi-national series. It is only in the absence of a third, team that they fall back on the two nation series, which is still good enough to generate ample interest and money. 

The first two-nation affair of the year was the New Zealand-West Indies series. It is a big revelation of changing times that the former undisputed champions were beaten comprehensively. In its hey days, the West Indies had an 80 percent success record. Volumes have been written on the decline of the Caribbean cricket and rightly so because it was indeed sad to see the giants tamely surrendering 5-0.

Though one dayers were conceived and nurtured in Australia, it is in the Sub-continent where it has actually thrived. It is here that their tremendous potential of one dayers was recognized and realized. The thrill and excitement of the one-day matches was matched by the colourful and enthusiastic fans and that is why Asia accounts for a lionís share of organizing one-day internationals. 

The retrogressive tendencies in Pakistan cricket had been showing for some time and it finally came to the fore, when Sri Lanka defeated them 3-0 on their own home soil. Pakistan looked completely out of sorts and the defeat highlighted the need for a change, which fortunately took place and has ever since done them a world of good.

India too had returned tattered and bruised from the Australian tour. It is not only phenomenal but also proverbial, the manner in which the Indians transform their game at home. In an Ďapparently well contestedí series, they beat South Africa 3-2, which included a game, where they successfully chased a 300 plus score. The lurid details of the matches is a different story.

There was a lull in the bi-national series for quite sometime. But nobody missed one-day matches as there were sufficient tri-angular series going on in various corners of the globe. 

The next series was a historic one in its own right. Another wind of change, yet another effort to make things better and typically enough, it was once again an Australian idea.

The first ever indoor cricket series was played between the top two nations, Australia and South Africa. Remarkably enough the teams shared the honors evenly leaving everybody the winner. The second match of the series was a tie that left the score at 1-1.

Characteristically, the scene shifted to the sub-continent yet gain for the England-Pakistan series. The tour had been conducted with great care and caution and every effort was made to conduct thing in the beast possible way. Englandís thrilling victory in the first match, chasing a total of 304, was too much for the unnatural pose of Pakistan cricket. Bedlam broke lose at Karachi but luckily, Pakistan replied strongly to win the last two games and save one and all. 

In a parallel series across the border, India continued its unbeaten run in one-day internationals at home, beating Zimbabwe 4-1. The batsmen performed well, the youngsters came good on time and the lone Zimbabwe victory was because of some quality cricket by the visitors. 

The parting gift of the year was the New Zealand-South Africa series. It is a tribute to the Proteas class that despite its best efforts, the Kiwis could not prevent a 5-0 rout. South Africa was more than a match for a much improved New Zealand side, with its batsmen bowlers, allrounders and fielders firing all cylinders. 

That sums up the year. I would like to reiterate the leverage that the tournaments have managed on the two nation series. This year saw eight tournaments in comparison to seven two-nation series, and I think that makes the picture clear.

It would be foolish to make an independent analysis of the teamís performances in the these tournaments and series as if they were two different genres. That would be misleading, to say the least. Neither are these two Ďformsí so different that they bring forth unreliable results. 

Although there would be certain discrepancies, but on an average, teams performing well in the tournaments are the ones winning the series. 

More or less the ranking remains the same. After a holistic analysis of all the one day matches played in the year, in both the categories, the honors in descending order would be: Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England, India, Zimbabwe, West Indies, Kenya and Bangladesh.