England’s one-day revival has coincided with, and been based around, the stunning return to form of Eoin Morgan. With a spring in the team’s collective step, the captain has been leading by example and England fans will hope for more of the same in the series decider.
But what does it all mean for the Test side? The group of players common to both teams is small but potentially influential and they may be able to bring with them the sense of energy which has characterised the ODI series. On the other hand, if the Ashes starts badly, England’s innovative short-form performances might just highlight the relative conservatism of Alastair Cook’s captaincy.
Without an obvious rival in the Test arena, and with the backing of Andrew Strauss, Cook is currently not under pressure. But fans’ expectations have been raised by the cricket of the last fortnight, which is why it is vital England get off to a flyer in Cardiff on 8 July.
Smith is the proof of what regime change can achieve
Our sudden ODI buoyancy demonstrates what can happen when there is a change of atmosphere around a team. It echoes the shift in Australia’s fortunes when Darren Lehmann brought fun back into the fold during their last tour here in 2013.
Arguably the major beneficiary of the regime change has been Steve Smith. When he first appeared against England in 2010, apparently selected as much for his ability to tell a joke as anything else, he seemed the most hapless Test cricketer since Chris Read tried to duck Chris Cairns’ slower ball. A couple of thirties and an unbeaten half-century were scored almost in spite of himself, while his leg-breaks lacked fizz. He was dropped after three matches. Two years later he found himself back in the side as Australia reached peak infighting. When Lehmann took over, he liked what he saw and retained Smith for the 2013 Ashes, which he ended by scoring a century at The Oval and 345 runs for the series.
Now, having captained the Aussies against India in Michael Clarke’s absence over the winter (four centuries, two wins, no defeats), Smith is suddenly the world’s No 1 batsman. We thought he might be a poor man’s Shane Warne; he might just be a richly talented player in a mould of his own.
Women’s Super League may be a pointer for the men
The news that a new, six-team, Women’s Cricket Super League will begin next summer is intriguing. It will give a boost to the women’s game and might provide an opportunity for a canny broadcaster to bring free-to-air matches to the market.
And if the first move away from county-based competition – initially in T20 format only – works out for the women, will the men be far behind?Reuse content