Outside Edge: Excitement generated by Buttler & Co means more than mere victory

Win over New Zealand proved England fans can be excited by one-day games

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England’s terrific win over New Zealand on Tuesday may have demonstrated several important points about a new era for the team. But most significantly it proved that English cricket fans have the capacity to be excited by a one-day international.

Let’s be frank, it has regularly seemed in doubt in recent years. England’s woes at the World Cup were all the more dispiriting for the sense that many people at home didn’t much care. After all, there was the Ashes – real cricket – to look forward to.

Perhaps there is something of the chicken and egg about all this. If fans seem uninterested, it is harder for players to be motivated. Whatever they say about always being proud to pull on the England jumper (white, blue or red), it is surely easier to be keyed up when there is a vast, cheering crowd. And if players perform poorly, what encouragement is there for those who might think about buying a ticket?

By this morning many may already be thinking of England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia, as well as the Australians looming on the horizon. But that should not detract from the fact that Buttler’s blitz, Root’s brilliance and wickets for Finn’s pace and Rashid’s wrist-spin in the opening one-dayer got people talking this week. That is crucial if England are to become a one-day force.

Better scheduling would help. A midsummer series against New Zealand is all well and good but a post-Ashes best-of-five against the Aussies will take us into mid-September. It’s like having multiple appetisers after a large main course when all you really want is a lie-down.

The disappearance of the triangular tournament remains a mystery to me. With two sets of tourists here each summer it makes logistical sense, and can offer a thrilling prelude to the main Test event. Think back to 2005, when interest in the Ashes was given an advance boost by a rip-roaring T20 and a tri-series also involving Bangladesh, in which the final was tied.

Such tournaments don’t always work out brilliantly. But surely it’s better than a damp squib ODI trying to compete with autumnal weather and the dreaded football.

The long-term view starts  to pay dividends for Surrey

I was chided a year ago by Surrey chairman Richard Thompson when I suggested that the club’s lack of progress was a source of irritation to fans. He tweeted me to say the county was intent on a long-term revival, which was to be based on the excellence of a group of young players.

In all the debate over Kevin Pietersen’s future, it may have gone unnoticed that those youngsters have helped to propel Surrey to second in the County Championship’s Second Division. Indeed, the club remain unbeaten so far. Jason Roy and Zafar Ansari have made England debuts, while others, including Matt Dunn, Rory Burns and Tom Curran, have continued to impress. Maybe that long-term strategy is beginning to pay off.

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