Steve Waugh wondered if August 16, 2000 might be remembered as the day when cricket changed for ever - and just in case it was, he hit a hundred to be remembered by. Four days later, when South Africa squared the first official one-day international series played indoors, Australia's captain might have been quite content for cricket's latest innovation to be little more than a footnote in the game's history.
Played beneath the roof of Melbourne's Colonial Stadium, and accompanied by the kind of razzamatazz that appears compulsory on such occasions, the Super Challenge formed the second leg of a six-match home-and-away programme. Each series, however, had its own sponsor and trophy. In April, the South Africans had won 2-1. In Melbourne, after losing the first game, they fought back characteristically to tie the second and win the third. It was their usual team effort: whereas Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan hit hundreds for the Australians, only two South Africans reached 50 throughout. What kept them in the series was the way they put the Australian batting under pressure, and the home side's failure to meet the challenge.
The Australians saw the indoor experiment as a novel way of bringing cricket to the people in winter - and people to cricket. The overall attendance was 94,278, which was in line with expectations if some way short of the stadium's potential: the capacity for a cricket game was 48,000. The South Africans looked to the series to serve a higher purpose than mere revenue generation. Interest in cricket was at an all-time low in the Republic in the wake of Hansie Cronje's disgrace. It was hoped that success in Melbourne, following on from the Test team's dramatic comeback in Sri Lanka, would give the game's image a much-needed boost.
That batsmen did not ultimately dominate the series was no reflection on the high-quality drop-in pitches prepared by Les Burdett. The outfield, having hosted Australian Football League and rugby union games, was a little damp and soft, but the short square boundaries swung the balance back towards the batsmen - as well as bringing out the best in two athletic fielding sides. The umpires had been told to declare the ball "dead" if it hit the roof, but there was never a likelihood of that.