Rather than herald the demise of 50-overs-a-side cricket, Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes tonight's first Twenty20 international could prove the starting point of a one-day international revival.
A full house is expected at Auckland's Eden Park for the Twenty20 clash between Australia and New Zealand, which precedes a five one-day, three-Test tour. And while many believe the 20-overs-a-side game's evolution to international level will erode the brittle foundations of one-day cricket, Ponting thinks otherwise.
"If you have a look at what one-day cricket has done for Test cricket, I think it's been very positive," Ponting said. "Who would have ever thought you could score 400 runs in a day of Test cricket, going back even 10 years? That's all a result of one-day cricket and how good the skills of batsmen have become.
"I think you'll see Twenty20 cricket have the same effect on one-day cricket. Everyone's talking about the old one-day game being a bit old and a bit boring, (but) the more Twenty20 cricket you play, the skills will get better and that will rub off in the 50-over game. You will see bigger scores being made in that. If there are bigger scores being made in 50-over cricket, it will be attractive again."
In the short term, Twenty20 cricket poses several problems for Ponting. Having played the 20-over game briefly at English county level last season, the Australian skipper conceded yesterday that he was uncertain what tactics he would use tonight.
With Matthew Hayden still in doubt following a recent bout of pleurisy, the hard-hitting Andrew Symonds could join Adam Gilchrist at the top of the order against an NZ side without off-spinner Daniel Vettori.
"I haven't captained a game yet and I'm going to put my thinking cap on on the plane and work out what I'm going to do, what the field restrictions are and all that stuff," Ponting said before leaving Australia yesterday. "Someone like Andrew Symonds is pretty well suited to this game. He's done pretty well in England at it.
"There is every chance it won't be the stock-standard batting line-up we usually see in one-day cricket."
Ponting and New Zealand opener Scott Styris both identified tonight's match as an important opener to Australia's six-week tour.
Styris said: "We want to get the momentum up and running against these guys from the first time we confront them. We want to win the one-day series and then move that on to the Test series and the best way to do that is to get on top early and not let them settle into our conditions."
Ponting was not sure of Twenty20 cricket's future at international level. But from what he has seen in English domestic cricket, the Australian captain is supportive of the concept. "It probably is reliant on how these couple of games go off," he said. "All we can do as players is embrace the game, do the best we can and try to put on the best display of cricket."
- ALEX BROWN