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Triangular tournament in Australia

A history of the VB Series

Martin Williamson and Will Luke

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The three captains pose ahead of the inaugural Benson & Hedges World Series in 1979-80 © WCM
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The idea of a tri-nation one-day tournament sprung out of the settlement between the Australian Cricket Board and Kerry Packer. As part of the deal, a one-day event was created for Packer's Channel Nine.

1979-80
Winners West Indies 2-0
Runners-up England
3rd side Australia
The inaugural tournament was a disaster for the ACB and the broadcasters who relied on Australia reaching the final to cover costs. West Indies, who had won the World Cup seven months earlier, were easily the best side, and England, with only one player who had played under lights before, did well to reach the final. Mike Brearley upset the crowds even more when he exploited a loophole in the laws by putting all ten fielders - including the wicketkeeper, on the boundary when West Indies needed ten to win in a qualifying game. That was soon outlawed.

1980-81
Winners Australia 3-1
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side India
The third final (this was the first year where it was best-of-five) produced one of the most controversial ODIs ever when Trevor Chappell bowled an underarm delivery with New Zealand needing six to win off the last ball. The man who instructed him to do that - his brother Greg - was slammed in the media but still won the Player of the Series. The preliminary stage had each side playing one another five times - TV got its extra product but the tournament took on a bloated feel.

1981-82
Winners West Indies 3-1
Runners-up Australia
3rd side Pakistan
West Indies again won the B&H World Series without ever really being stretched, with Australia edging out Pakistan on run rate despite losing three of the five preliminary matches played between the sides. West Indies won the best-of-five finals 3-1.

1982-83
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side England
A close preliminary stage was won by New Zealand courtesy of five straight wins in the middle while Australia squeezed into the final when they beat New Zealand on superior run-rate in their last match - defeat would have meant England would have knocked them out, also on run rate. But the two finals (back to best-of-three) were disappointingly one-sided as Australia won by six wickets and 149 runs.

1983-84
Winners West Indies 2-1
Runners-up Australia
3rd side Pakistan
For the first time the finals went to a decider but West Indies secured their third B&H title with an easy win over the hosts. The flaws of the drawn-out preliminary stage were highlighted by the dire performance of Pakistan who won one out of their ten matches and lost most of the others by hefty margins, rendering the last few games utterly meaningless.

1984-85
Winners West Indies 2-1
Runners-up Australia
3rd side Sri Lanka
The Australians must have started wondering about the wisdom of bringing West Indies over as they won their fourth title in as many appearances, losing only one of their 13 matches. The three-match final went the distance as Australia won the opener thanks to a brilliant hundred from Allan Border, but West Indies were too superior to be denied after a close second game. Sri Lanka managed only one win in their ten preliminary games.

1985-86
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up India
3rd side New Zealand
With West Indies absent, Australia won the B&H World Series with victory over world champions India whose batting let them down in the finals. New Zealand would have been in the final had their own batting not collapsed in the latter stages leading to them losing their last two games.

1986-87
Winners England 2-0
Runners-up Australia
3rd side West Indies
The surprise was not that West Indies didn't win, but they didn't even reach the finals, losing three of the last four group matches as their batting failed to ignite. Australia topped the group, England cantered to victory in the first final before edging the second with Ian Botham winning one with the ball, the other with the bat. The group stage was reduced to eight matches for each side - a welcome relief as a month earlier these countries had played each other in a one-day series at Perth.

1987-88
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side Sri Lanka
A slimmer competition thanks to the plethora of other matches to mark Australia's bicentenary, and that was no bad thing as once again Sri Lanka failed to perform with one win in eight outings. Australia won the final easily, and their only defeat in ten matches was by one run to New Zealand in the second game.

1988-89
Winners West Indies 2-1
Runners-up Australia
3rd side Pakistan
Once again, Pakistan's poor performance made the preliminary stages fairly pedestrian. They won twice in eight matches, and both those after four straight defeats had rendered the victories almost meaningless. The first final was one of the best as Australia squeezed a two-run win, but West Indies inflicted heavy defeats on them in the second and third games to secure their fifth B&H crown.

1989-90
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up Pakistan
3rd side Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka maintained their dismal record with another poor display which brought one win in eight games, taking their B&H record to three victories in 26 matches, and that again made the group stages a fairly tedious procession. The finals weren't much better as Pakistan's batting failed, and were it not for some powerful hitting by Wasim Akram, they would have been humiliated.

1990-91
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side England
England, fresh from an Ashes drubbing, never found any form but still would have reached the finals had they won any of their last three games, all, by a scheduling anomaly, against Australia. New Zealand were a distant second to the hosts and the finals never threatened an upset.

1991-92
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up India
3rd side West Indies
Australia warmed up for the World Cup which followed immediately after with another B&H title but it did them no good as they went on to crash out of the big event. In fact, none of these sides reached the last four. India pipped West Indies to the finals with a win in the final preliminary match.

1992-93
Winners West Indies 2-0
Runners-up Australia
3rd side Pakistan
World champions Pakistan's poor form in the B&H continued as they won once to make an Australia-West Indies final inevitable from early on. In five appearances up to 1992-93 they reached the finals only once, and in three of those outings they were outclassed. They did, however, tie a match against Australia. West Indies won the first final when Curtly Ambrose blasted the Australian tail away with 5 for 32 and survived a batting collapse in the second.

1993-94
Winners Australia
Runners-up South Africa
3rd side New Zealand
One of the best tournaments to date, not only with a down-to-the-wire preliminary stage but also finals that went to a decider. Any permutation of finalists was possible with two matches to go, but Australia bounced back from defeat by South Africa to beat New Zealand in the last game. South Africa won the first final before Australia's bowlers strangled them in the second and third matches.

1994-95
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up Australia A
Other sides England, Zimbabwe
This was the first in the competition's 16 seasons to include a fourth side - Australia A - and it drew a mixed response from the players, public and critics. The credibility of the venture, designed to compensate for two weaker sides, disappeared when it became clear the Australia A matches would not be classified as ODIs, and the whole thing became farcical when players started swapping between the two squads, culminating in Paul Reiffel being pinched by the senior side for the final only to be made 12th man! Much to the organisers' embarrassment, Australia A pipped England into the final on run rate, and came within one ball of winning the first match.

1995-96
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up Sri Lanka
3rd side West Indies
At the fourth time of asking Sri Lanka came to the party, showing the form which was to lead them to World Cup glory two months later. They edged out West Indies courtesy of wins in their last two preliminary matches, but were second best to Australia in both finals.

1996-97
Winners Pakistan 2-0
Runners-up West Indies
3rd side Australia
Carlton & United's first year of sponsorship coincided with Australia failing to reach the finals for the first time since the inaugural competition in 1979-80 and also Pakistan's first win at the seventh time of asking. West Indies, who topped the preliminary points table, were a disappointment in the final as they were bowled out for 179 and 103. Australia, meanwhile, lost five of their last six matches

1997-98
Winners Australia 2-1
Runners-up South Africa
3rd side New Zealand
Australia, for the first time, fielded a specialist one-day team; Mark Taylor and Ian Healy, both mainstays in the Test side, were axed, and Steve Waugh became captain. Australia waltzed to the finals against South Africa, but were upset in the first match as Allan Donald ran riot. They came back, though, to win the series 2-1, a feat Waugh likened to Australia's unforgettable back-from-the-dead World Cup win against West Indies at Mohali in 1996.

1998-99
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up England
3rd side Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka weren't often at their best in this series - their confidence blighted by the no-balling of Muttiah Muralitharan by umpire Ross Emerson in the eighth match of the series. England, whose performances tailed off as the series progressed, moved into the finals against Australia, but fell short in the first match by 10 runs. Australia's dominance continued in the second final where, after posting 272 for 5, they dismissed England for a paltry 110. Glenn McGrath, jointly named man-of-the-series with Graeme Hick after his record 27 wickets, took 2-26 after Darren Lehmann had made 71 at almost a run a ball. It was Australia's 12th home series in victory in 20 years.

1999-2000
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up Pakistan
3rd side India
India's poor form in this series - they managed just one victory, thanks to Sourav Ganguly's 141 - led Sachin Tendulkar to complain of the tightly-packed schedules. Australia, on the other hand, swept through the tournament with ease, losing just once against Pakistan in the series' opening game. Pakistan made it through to the finals and, in the first match were, at one stage, 28 for 5. Were it not for Moin Khan's swift 47, the margin of defeat might have been uglier than six wickets. The second match was a positively brutal display by Australia who launched themselves to 337 for 7.

2000-01
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up West Indies
3rd side Zimbabwe
Australia followed their 5-0 whitewash of the West Indies in the preceding Test series with a 10-0 victory in the one-day series. The West Indies lost five of their eight group games, even losing one to Zimbabwe - in pursuit of 139, they were 31 for 8 by the 17th over which rather sums up the competition Australia were faced with. Ian Harvey almost single-handedly won the first final for Australia, with a brilliant innings of 47 from 33 balls, followed by bowling figures of 2 for 5 from six overs. Mark Waugh clobbered 173 in the second final, the highest score by an Australian in a one-day match, taking Australia to a total which ought to have given the West Indies heart failure. That they reached 299, easily their best score of the series, showed their ability and spirit - but it was too little, too late.

2001-02
Winners South Africa 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side Australia
The competition's third sponsor - Victoria Breweries - took over and although Australia ended the preliminary matches with the same number of wins as South Africa and New Zealand, they failed to make it to their own final for just the third time in 23 years. Changes were inevitable, and the poor show ended Steve and Mark Waugh's one-day careers. Shane Bond was the chieftain among wickets with 21, including 15 in the top six. Having done all the hard work, New Zealand left their worst performance for when it mattered most: crumbling limply to 190 against South Africa in the first final.

2002-03
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up England
3rd side Sri Lanka
Despite only winning three of their preliminary matches, England made it through to the final ahead of Sri Lanka who managed to lose six of their eight games. James Anderson, an unknown before this series, made his name in an England shirt with 13 excellent wickets. England however - who were humiliated in the Test series preceding the one-dayers - were humbled in the first final as Australia reached their target of 118 in the little matter of 12 overs and two balls - a day-night match which didn't even last long enough for the SCG lights to be turned on. At least the second game was closer until Brett Lee sealed the series with 5 for 30.

2003-04
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up India
3rd side Zimbabwe
Although fiery and gung ho in the initial matches, India ran out of steam before the finals, in which they were hammered by a relentlessly efficient Australia. The preliminary stage was rendered a procession once it became clear that a weak Zimbabwe side - who failed to win any of their eight matches - were never likely to threaten.

2004-05
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up Pakistan
3rd side West Indies
The format again changed slightly with the group stage reduced from eight to six matches a side, a welcome alteration after the previous season's tedium. Australia and Pakistan contested the finals, but West Indies were a disappointment with only one win in their six matches. Pakistan held a 2-1 lead going into the finals, but Australia again proved too strong and won both matches in solid rather than spectacular fashion.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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