Leading article: Long innings

In the days when the England cricket team travelled to Australia by boat they were often away from these shores for six months – three of them spent at sea. We look back on these immensely long tours of duty with a mixture of incredulity and pity, in the sure knowledge that no modern-day cricketer would have such an obligation placed on him.

It's true that much has changed. Not just the means of transport, but also the mid-tour visits made by the players' families – an arrangement that would probably have horrified the likes of Denis Compton.

This winter, however, has been something of a return to a previous era. Andrew Strauss, the England captain, set off for Australia on 29 October last year. He was there for the triumphant Ashes series, two Twenty20 matches, and a seven-match one-day series. He came home for a mere four days in February, and then left for the World Cup in the Indian subcontinent, where he has overseen the team's lurching progress through a tournament which could yet keep him occupied into April. And now he's got a stomach bug.

Strauss is one of a number of England players who have been put through this punishing schedule, and while it's a great life being an international cricketer, this lot might just be ready for close of play.