Thanks to the exploits of a certain Adil Rashid and a slightly less certain Ryan Sidebottom, it was an exciting finish to the first one-day international between England and Australia at the Oval – but let's get one thing clear.
This one-day international was not the Ashes. In fact, it was nowhere near the Ashes. If the Ashes series this year was a rollercoaster ride of emotion and Hollywood heroics, this match was a broken ghost train on Blackpool Pier.
The fact of the matter is that the first of this autumn's seven-match series was a poor, unexciting match for the spectator from start to (about ten overs before) the finish.
Many people can be blamed for this: Messrs Collingwood, Bopara and Clarke for a start, all mistiming the ball and scoring at a rate to make Geoffrey Boycott impatient. But if we're talking anticlimaxes, we have to point the finger at the tour's schedulers.
Up until now, the one-day internationals have always been played prior to the Ashes Test series, and that's absolutely the way it should be. An Ashes summer is all about that treasured urn, and so the fight for it should be left until last. You don't get it out the way; you build up to it, and treasure it like that last Rolo.
The problem is that schedulers, apparently knowing little about the game, seem to automatically assume the shorter form of the game is more exciting for spectators. It was decided long ago by these people that when it comes to cricket formats, shorter is better - like a genetic engineering maverick cheating at a limbo competition.
But they are forgetting this is England vs Australia, a cricketing rivalry older than time, and fans don't want to see one-day thumb wars; they want to see epic five-day battles between two mighty opposing armies.
The schedulers are, in fact, guilty of underestimating or even patronising the fans. Despite how it may often appear, even the Barmy Army know their cricket, and appreciate a gritty battle for domination as much as anyone. It may seem surprising at first but they're more interested in England grinding out a difficult last session than playing and missing at medium-pacers in bright yellow jumpsuits – and that's why attendances for international 50-over games are on the wane.
It is true that Twenty20 continues to thrive. But the 40- and 50-over formats are struggling, and needed a confidence boost from the ECB a month or so ago when they confirmed the existence of a Sunday League for all counties next season, to stay alive. The reason seems to be that 40- and 50-over games strike an unhappy medium: neither drawn-out tactical battles or 20-over slogfests, they take up a whole day and often end in a massive anti-climax (albeit not in this game, admittedly).
For the schedulers to end this Ashes summer with a 50-over competition, and one dragged out to a yawn-inducing seven matches as well, was a thoughtless mistake. Does anyone really care once the Ashes have been won or lost (and think what the ODI crowds would be like had England lost)? It's a question that needs to be asked. Playing the one-dayers before the Test series whets the appetite - playing them after is a bloated dessert nobody can stomach, let alone finish.
It also seems that if the schedulers do know little about the game, they know even less about the British weather. It may be that they wanted the Test series to be played earlier in the summer so they would be least affected by rain – a noble pursuit, but one that almost seems to contradict nature and the history of cricket.
But why has the one-day series been arranged so that the matches move gradually northwards? After the first four matches take place in London and Southampton, the series moves on to Nottingham and finally Durham, deep, by that point, into September. The likelihood of these games being rained off increases exponentially with every day and every mile.
All in all, it's a crazy cricketing summer – but perhaps not for the right reasons.
2 years ago