Opinion: Cricket's forgotten format shows signs of life

OPINION: The current Blackcaps vs England series has been a shot in the arm for the much-maligned format, reminding fans why the Goldilocks of cricket can be just right.

After the West Indies and Pakistan were talked up and then promptly swept aside, watching two heavyweights go toe-to-toe in a classic five-match series has been brilliant.

Perhaps the perceived weakness of one-day cricket is also its strength. Detractors will argue that it takes too long, and moan about the dreaded accumulation period through the middle overs.

But the leisurely burn of an ODI is akin to chucking your roast in a slow cooker and letting it develop over the course of a day instead of whacking it on high in the oven once you’re home from work.

This series has been a cracker so far. We’ve seen superb hundreds from Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow. World-class leg-spin from Ish Sodhi and Adil Rashid. Quality catches. Mitchell Santner’s surprised everyone with his batting. Ben Stokes has delivered. And no one will forget the sight of a one-legged Ross Taylor belting New Zealand to a tense victory in Dunedin.

Games have hung in the balance, changed in the space a delivery, and gone down to the last over.

There have been plenty of twists and turns for fans to enjoy through the series' four games so far.
There have been plenty of twists and turns for fans to enjoy through the series' four games so far. Photo credit: Photosport

It’s also been incredibly refreshing to see a range of wickets dished up. The slow and challenging pitch at the Cake Tin gave us the chance to see batsman grinding and fighting it out on something that didn’t resemble State Highway 6. One-day cricket should produce games where 320 and 220 can both be competitive scores.

There’s no doubt Twenty20 is the money maker, and the format of the game that is best at attracting new fans and sponsors. It is highly-skilled and innovative. It’s a mass-produced product that has become front and centre of cricket’s shop window.

Yet it’s also the reality television of cricket. Something that is always there, wholeheartedly entertaining, but not mentally challenging. 

It’s important that we don’t forget about one-dayers. It’s easy for their qualities and gripping storylines to be drowned out in the noise.

This series has been a reminder to everyone about the perks of one-day cricket. The Blackcaps were finished in Dunedin at 2/2 until Williamson and Taylor rebuilt the innings. England were out of it a couple of hours later, until a couple of overs of death bowling brought them back.

That is the strength of a 100-over contest.

The game is given room to change and develop, for teams to crash and burn and then recover, for fans to experience a full order of emotions.

One competitive and thrilling series isn’t going to catapult ODIs back into relevance. There’s still plenty of work to be done to keep the format alive and kicking.

However, these four matches have easily been the highlight of the summer so far, and that’s something that deserves to be noticed.

Bring on the decider in Christchurch.

Henry Rounce is a Newshub sports reporter/producer.