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The 1994-95 World Series, the first in the competition's 16 seasons to include a fourth side - Australia A - drew a mixed response from the players, public and critics.
The crowds by and large warmed to the idea, and if the purpose of the move was to generate extra interest, given the potentially weak drawing power of international newcomers Zimbabwe, then it succeeded. It also gave the home selectors an extra chance to assess emerging talent - they largely ignored the claims of experienced players, most notably Dean Jones, who reversed his decision to retire from international cricket in the hope of being picked.
But among the England and senior Australian players the concept was far from popular, with Mark Taylor arguing that it was wrong to ask an Australian crowd to choose between two home sides. No doubt the senior team feared an embarrassing defeat, but ultimately it was the credibility of the organisers that suffered. The A team matches were not recognised as one-day internationals by the International Cricket Council and the World Series finals became unofficial internationals contested by two sides from the same country. England and Zimbabwe, when they agreed to the idea, could hardly have envisaged players being swapped between the two Australian teams during the competition, as happened three times. The elevation of Paul Reiffel, the A side's best bowler in the qualifying matches, to the senior side for the finals, only for him then to be made twelfth man, was the final straw for some. The A team was dropped for the tournament in 1995-96.
Even allowing for team-tinkering, Australia were worthy winners. Their consistent batting was backed by fast bowler Craig McDermott, who was named International Cricketer of the Year. The A team's fielding was often breathtaking, and it managed to unearth Greg Blewett, a player full of self-confidence. England, plagued by injuries, were at a low ebb, and Zimbabwe, save their solitary success over England, never scored enough runs.
Notes: Matches in this section were not first-class. ICC ruled beforehand that matches involving Australia A should not be regarded as official internationals.
Match reports for
2nd Match: Australia A v Zimbabwe at Perth, Dec 4, 1994
5th Match: Australia A v Zimbabwe at Adelaide, Dec 10, 1994
6th Match: Australia v Australia A at Adelaide, Dec 11, 1994
7th Match: Australia A v England at Melbourne, Dec 13, 1994
10th Match: Australia v Australia A at Brisbane, Jan 8, 1995
12th Match: Australia A v England at Sydney, Jan 12, 1995
1st Final: Australia v Australia A at Sydney, Jan 15, 1995
2nd Final: Australia v Australia A at Melbourne, Jan 17, 1995