On the Front Foot: It's not really the 3,000th ODI as England play catch-up

So, the match between England and Australia at the Rose Bowl the other night was the 3,000th one-day international. That is some landmark. Or is it? The trouble with this big(ish) piece of history is that it needed several minuscule pieces of history to be achieved. Perhaps this is always the case with history; the little sketches make up the large picture. But the calculation was made by including all those ODIs which do meet the criteria for being so exalted in anything but name. Hong Kong, for instance, have played four ODIs according to the official records, all in the Asia Cups of 2004 and 2008. And nobody has yet made more than 36 in a single innings. The ICC World XI count for four more; then there are the conglomerate sides: East Africa, who appeared in the first World Cup, an Asia XI and an Africa XI. Take these away and there would be some way to go to 3,000. Whatever the number, it came as a surprise to note that between them Australia (742) and India (746) have played in nearly half of all the ODIs ever staged. And that 15 players have appeared 300 times, more than 10 per cent of the total. England, bless them, are still playing catch-up. They have now played 531 one-day matches, having appeared in the first of all in 1971 (a famously rushed, accidental job when the Melbourne Test was washed out). Their leading player, Paul Collingwood, has played in 179 matches, which puts him in joint 77th place on the world list with Adam Parore of New Zealand, who retired eight years ago.

Crowe in Colly's sights

The blessed Collingwood also became England's leading ODI run-scorer during the second match of the NatWest Series on Thursday when he overtook Alec Stewart. His 4,693 runs put him 62nd overall, some 13,000 behind the leader, Sachin Tendulkar. Still, he has other great names in his sights now, with the New Zealander Martin Crowe only 11 runs ahead and Gordon Greenidge of West Indies and Alastair Campbell of Zimbabwe also ready to be toppled. Incidentally, while it might be kidding to suggest Campbell as a great, he and two other Zimbabweans, Andy and Grant Flower, scored more ODI runs than Collingwood.

Asia's no hotbed of cricket

Another blow is delivered to the subcontinent's status as the hotbed of cricket. Crowds for the Asia Cup in Dambulla were pitiful. Until the final, won comfortably by India against the hosts Sri Lanka, the stadium, a modern, custom-built ground – admittedly not as spectacular as the rock fortress of Sigiriya 10 miles away – was deserted. If cricket was really so huge, would not a small town like Dambulla (pop 67,000) have treated the Asia Cup as their Olympic Games? The World Cup played over seven subcontinental weeks next year is anticipated in this quarter with relish.

Ponting loses his head

Good old Ricky Ponting is a bit miffed. Challenged innocuously about whether England, leading 2-0 in the NatWest Series, now had the bragging rights, the little Tassy terrier said: "If that's what you think, take a look at the head-to-heads and see who has got bragging rights. ODI, Tests and Twenty20. Tell me who has got the bragging rights?" Well, true, Australia have won 132 Tests to England's 99, 59 one-dayers to 40 and the teams are tied 2-2 in T20. But in every format, England have won the most recent tie and as Ricky knows, you are only as good as your last match. If England win the next Test (Brisbane, November) it would be their 100th victory. And dare it be suggested that they will? It dare.