Henry Blofeld: One-day mode interrupts England's Test momentum

Out come the pyjamas as limited-over circus comes to town, injecting cash but siphoning continuity
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Barring misadventures of absurd or miraculous proportions on the last day at Old Trafford, England will, at long last, have won another Test series. They have been encouragingly sure-footed in Test match mode since those first three dreadful days of the series at Lord's. This will leave them feeling confident about the approaching four-match series against India.

Barring misadventures of absurd or miraculous proportions on the last day at Old Trafford, England will, at long last, have won another Test series. They have been encouragingly sure-footed in Test match mode since those first three dreadful days of the series at Lord's. This will leave them feeling confident about the approaching four-match series against India.

Yet the circumstances of contemporary cricket is against them. At the end of today's cricket, the white clothes return to the bottom drawer and out come the multi-coloured pyjamas. India and Sri Lanka will be similarly attired and the whole circus will gallivant around the country for two and a half weeks.

We will go from Chester-le-Street to Bristol calling in at the six Test match grounds on the way. It will be a needful and, one hopes, an amusing dose of cash-till cricket which will help make up the financial shortfall in the Sri Lankan and Indian Test series. It will end with the final at Lord's on 13 July.

Out too, will come the one-day disciplines, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Maiden overs and dot balls will be anathema to players who, in the time-honoured way, will be opening the faces of their bats and running the ball furiously to third man, for slip cordons will have disappeared. Gully shuffles off to backward point and, in no time at all, cover point is back sweeping up on the boundary. The one-day mode takes over.

Not only that, the one-day specialists come back in. Nick Knight, too suspect outside the off stump when slips and gullies abound, will be at the top of the order. Mark Ealham may be filling the all-rounder's spot although it is a long time since he made runs with any consistency. Gloucestershire's off-spinner, Jeremy Snape, fielded brilliantly at backward point in a few matches in India, although Neil Fairbrother's day is done, Owais Shah is badly off the boil and, alas, Ben Hollioake will not be there either.

Duncan Fletcher, the coach, has found it harder to knock England's one-day lot into shape than he has the Test side. The saddest aspect of this incursion of the limited-over game is that it will break up the Test side which has just begun to play well together and for each other.

Mark Butcher who is in such brilliant form, was not picked for the one-day matches last winter, but it would be a massive blow for common sense if he was sent back to Surrey now. This would give him four weeks in which to click his heels in the hope that the tap would still be in full flow when India comes to Lord's for the First Test on 25 July.

It is difficult to be sure about one-day specialists, and especially Mark Ealham-like bits and pieces players. Those who play Test cricket the best are surely the most likely to be able to adapt successfully to the needs of the abbreviated form of the game. Successful one-day improvisation must be founded on the proper technical base which brings rewards in Test cricket.

Also, it helps keep going some sort of continuity, which is so hard to maintain with the constant to-ing and fro-ing to the one-day game and back. Over the next nine months this is more than ever going to happen, for the programme is almost absurdly hectic.

No sooner will the Test series against India have finished than the one-day side descends on Sri Lanka for the ICC's one-day competition between the Test playing countries. Less than a month after that jamboree, the Test side will be in Australia for another tilt at the Ashes. Before that is over, Australia's interminable annual triangular tournament will have begun.

The players will hardly have got that out of their hair before they have to pack their bags and head for South Africa and Ali Bacher's World Cup. Fourteen countries will be involved and the baggage trains will criss-cross the country like so many demented yo-yos.

That gilt-edged competition will last for nearly two months and then Fletcher and Nasser Hussain, if it is still that pair in office, will have not much more than a couple of weeks to try and gain some rest and their minds around next summer's seven Test matches and 10 one-day internationals here in England and we are back where we started. Talk about a disruptive treadmill – but the money keeps rolling in.

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