England set for one-day overload

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The Independent Online

To stage a series of seven one-day matches in England in September seems crazy. When the last of the septet against Australia is played in Durham spectators may need advice from Sir Ranulph Fiennes on how best to kit themselves out for the expedition to the cricket.

The sporting temperature will have shifted too. There appear not only to be too many games but they are also being played at the wrong time of the year: the intemperate seven.

Closer examination reveals that the fixtures schedulers might have pulled a masterstroke. The series will assume – should a ball be bowled in any of the matches starting at The Oval tomorrow – a round-Britain victory parade for the Ashes winners, with two visits to Lord's, scene of the triumph which started it all, for good measure.

It is also followed immediately by the Champions Trophy in South Africa. England and Australia will embark for it the day after they have played at the Riverside. So, in its way the series is ideal preparation for a major one-day tournament (the winning of which is an England and Wales Cricket Board objective).

By the time the Champions Trophy is under way, England and Australia should know their best teams and what style of cricket suits them. It raises the grim spectre, of course, that England could have played a long series of home matches and be eliminated from a global tournament at the other side of the world in the same month.

After the Champions Trophy there is still more one-day cricket. England will return home for a short break before setting out for South Africa on 1 November for their winter tour, which starts – wait for it – with seven limited-overs games. If it is all too much it gives England a real chance to bed down. There can never have been so concentrated a run at the short form of the game over three months.

There is a precedent for late-season ODIs in England. In 2004, the Champions Trophy was held here. The final on 25 September, which England lost in the dark, was gripping. Otherwise the entire affair was miserable.