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With Cricket Back in National Spotlight, England Set Sights on Regaining Ashes Glory

Charles Reynolds |July 18, 2019, 9:28 AM IST
With Cricket Back in National Spotlight, England Set Sights on Regaining Ashes Glory

Welcome back cricket. After nearly a decade and a half out of the national spotlight the sport has once again become front page news in England, and all it took to get it there was the greatest World Cup final of all time.

Fortunately for English cricket fans new and old, as far as the international summer goes, things are just getting started, with a historic first Test against Ireland and the small matter of the Ashes still to come.

With Sunday’s ludicrous, gripping final catapulting cricket back into the national consciousness, the sport now has an excellent opportunity to reclaim some of the ground lost in recent years, which some fear had put the sport in danger of slipping into irrelevance.

The move to broadcast Sunday’s final on free-to-air television can, along with England winning it, take a lot of credit for the sudden surge of national enthusiasm for cricket, and it is to be hoped that that is something that those running the game have taken note of.

The money provided by Sky’s television rights deal with the ECB has been invaluable to the game in England, but as the events of the weekend showed, the national exposure to cricket that free-to-air broadcasting offers is vital in growing the game.

Chris Wakes holds the trophy as he celebrates after winning the Cricket World Cup final match between England and New Zealand at Lord's cricket ground in London. (Image: AP) Chris Wakes holds the trophy as he celebrates winning the Cricket World Cup. (Image: AP)

Hopefully some sort of ongoing agreement to broadcast some England cricket on terrestrial television can be struck, a move that would not just benefit the sport but in fact would also essentially work as free advertising for Sky who otherwise own the exclusive rights. It is a compromise that would surely be mutually beneficial to all parties.

On the pitch, now that the heart rates have returned to normal and the hangovers cleared, England must face up to the fact that in reality their summer is only just beginning. It is worth noting that for all the excitement surrounding Sunday’s win, there has clearly been a concerted effort not to get too carried away with it all – there have been no open top bus parades, Monday’s trophy celebration event was fairly low key and involved hundreds of schoolchildren; the lessons of 2005 learnt, the opportunity to inspire a new generation being taken.

First on the agenda is the one-off, four-day Test against Ireland next week, which will see World Cup final heroes Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler rested, but a likely Test debut for Jason Roy at the top of the order. Also included in England’s 13-man squad are the uncapped Lewis Gregory and Olly Stone, with both Jofra Archer and Mark Wood missing out having picked up injuries in the final.

It is the selection of Roy though that is the most interesting. He was the catalyst for a lot of what took England to World Cup glory and has clearly demonstrated his international class, particularly in his extraordinary opening partnership with Jonny Bairstow, and with the openers spots a perennial problem for England, you can see the selectors’ thinking.

However the ODI and Test games are very different and Roy does not normally open in first-class cricket for his county Surrey; in fact he has played little red ball cricket at all recently, due to his involvement with England’s white ball side. His call-up does represent a gamble on the part of the selectors.

England's batsman Jason Roy plays a shot. (AP) England batsman Jason Roy plays a shot. (AP)

Particularly given the expansive way in which he plays, now he has been picked Roy must be given a decent run in the side and allowed the entire Ashes series to get accustomed to the rigours of Test cricket.

In a gluttonous summer for English cricket fans, once the Ireland match has been played, the Ashes are also just round the corner, with the hope that the high of winning the World Cup can be carried on in the longest form of the game.

The news that James Anderson was fit enough to be named in the squad against Ireland will be a huge boost to England fans, with concerns about his availability arising when he injured himself on county duty a few weeks ago.

From the return of ‘the Sandpaper Three’ to questions over both sides batting, with everything else in between, it promises to be a thrilling series and one that we can only hope keeps the country’s new-found, or at least rekindled, enthusiasm for cricket burning for some time to come.

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