Sri Lanka are on England’s Green and Pleasant Land to start the Test summer, although at first glance, it appears a little difficult to get over excited. I have a confession; I feel totally cricketed out after the winter.
England’s tour of South Africa was enthralling; New Zealand and Australia provided a compelling Test series against the backdrop of Brendon McCullum’s retirement; the Big Bash was an enjoyable side show; the World T20 was, I thought, superb. But I just haven’t been able to get into the IPL this year.
That’s not a slight on the IPL. I think it’s a good tournament and I’m relieved to see more national boards embracing it and sending their players to play in it more freely (I’m looking at you, ECB). But there has just been too much T20 of late. It has been on incessantly since December. That’ll be six months of non-stop T20 by the time the IPL concludes.
They say variety is the spice of the life.
The saturation of T20 cricket has left me yearning for the cathartic effect of Test match cricket. At least, I hope it will be cathartic. I’m sure it will be cathartic…
The sight of heavily cladded batsmen shouldering arms to a red ball has seemed a distant dream of late. But then the County Championship commenced in April. Even that has not had the brightest of starts though, with, at the time of writing, 87% of games having ended in a draw.
It sort of feels like the entire cricketing world has collapsed into some sort of self-induced coma. I really hope that the resumption of Test cricket has that cathartic effect I’m searching for.
So, I’m reliant upon Sri Lanka to provide the compelling cricket my heart desires.
The build up to the tour has been completely overshadowed by the shocking retirement of James Taylor due to a heart defect. It is a morbid reason for a position in England’s middle order to have become open.
The merry-go-round at the top of England’s order has also become rather tedious. I’m running out of fingers on which to count the number of opening batsmen Alastair Cook has had. He changes partners more often than [insert your own punchline here, I can't so all the work - the ingredients are there]. Just please stick with Alex Hales so we don’t have to go through this again.
Will Nick Compton retain his place at number three? A paucity of alternatives should ensure that he gets another crack of the whip.
And who, then, will replace the unfortunate Taylor? I would like to see James Vince given a shot in England’s middle order.
Cook, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have all been in superb form in the early season and Sri Lanka will struggle to bowl through them, whilst at the same time, their own side is hugely, at least in English conditions, inexperienced – the recent retirements of a cast of modern day greats has, as one would expect, left them a little short of quality.
That’s why it’s difficult to get overly excited about this series. Even Sky Sports have been low-key in their build-up to the series. Sky Sports don’t do low-key.
But this series represents a return to some sort of cricketing equilibrium. And that alone is enough to get at least mildly excited about.
By Miles Reucroft