1. Australia 2. West Indies 3. India
Administrators from India, Australia and Malaysia spoke of building new markets for the game as the major reason for contesting a limited-overs series in Kuala Lumpur, but that was only half true. The unveiling of the ICC's Future Tours Programme in May 2006 had brought with it a grey area that did little to cool players' union fears about an unwelcome increase in the number of limited-overs matches. Participating nations were given a minimum number of commitments but no maximum, and there was no regulation to prevent bilateral series being extended to include a third team.
The first tournament to receive an unscheduled upsize was India's series against Australia in Malaysia, sponsored (like the Abu Dhabi Indo-Pakistan series earlier in the year) by the Indian construction company DLF. West Indies were invited to share in the millions of dollars that would flow from the event's coverage into India. Confirmation of the participants and the venue came only a month before the first match, and the squeezed timeframe resulted in an international ground springing up almost overnight in the outer Kuala Lumpur suburb of Kinrara. About 45 minutes' drive from the city centre, the Kinrara Academy Oval was fitted out with floodlights, a press box and television studio, seating for 4,500 spectators, and two pitches, tended by Les Burdett, the Adelaide Oval's curator. Within sight and sound of a nearby mosque, it was somewhat reminiscent of Sharjah: local officials hoped for an annual event.
The tournament itself provided a mildly fascinating two weeks of cricket from three sides in various stages of preparation for the imminent Champions Trophy, and other challenges beyond. Eventual winners Australia brought a bulbous squad of 18, then surprisingly sent home the 24-year-old left-armer Mitchell Johnson, along with Mark Cosgrove and Phil Jaques, in a preplanned squad-trim the day after Johnson had shown off his talents by blasting out four Indian top-order batsmen in eight balls. His replacement for the remainder of the tournament was Brett Lee, who showed the benefits of a four-month break by bowling as fast and well as ever. Few of his team-mates were as fluent, however, and Ricky Ponting went close to receiving a ban by showing dissent towards an umpire for the second time in as many tours. West Indies again exhibited the frailty that has characterised their cricket for the past decade, but offered a few hints to suggest they would be a serious World Cup challenger on home turf, relying on a combination of explosive batting in the first 20 overs and some shrewd medium-pace when they bowled.
The Indians also showed signs of bowling and fielding progress under Greg Chappell, only to blow those gains with undistinguished batting on a surface that grew more difficult with each match. Their absence from the final resulted in a paltry attendance, confirming that cricket still had much to do to capture the attention of the wider Malaysian community. Ponting, however, was perfectly happy with the anonymity. When asked if he had enjoyed not being chased by autograph hunters, he said: "It's been great, and there should be more tournaments played in venues like this for that very reason!" So much for developing the market.
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