The tour that seemingly never ends has reached the halfway stage. The travel time from England to Australia has been cut considerably from the two months spent on the seas during the 19th century but that has seemingly lent itself to a more relentless schedule. Sunday’s opener at the MCG begins England’s limited-overs bonanza of two five-match ODI series against Australia and New Zealand which sandwich a Twenty20 tri-series between the sides. All in the space of two months.
Yet this period brings a palpable sense of relief. Even here, where they will watch Australia win at anything, there is a degree of apathy at the manner in which the Ashes were regained. Every local “four-nil” gloat is accompanied by dismay at the absence of a contest. That looks set to be rectified here.
Australia and England sit third and fourth respectively in the ODI rankings. The former are defending 50-over champions; the latter are on a four-year learning curve of white-ball appreciation before next year’s home World Cup. Sunday’s match at the MCG will be the first of 10 ODIs between these two in the next seven months.
Of the England squad on the wrong end of the 4-0 scoreline, only seven are staying on to continue the battle in coloured clothing, including the Test captain, Joe Root. If he had not felt like a piece of himself had been lost when the urn was relinquished, a bout of gastroenteritis has seen to that.
Aside from a delay in announcing the Test squad for New Zealand, Root’s recovery from the illness has not impinged much on preparations. He had handed over captaincy duties to Eoin Morgan. Though there are enough fresh faces to dissipate any residual feelings of disappointment, Morgan may well feel like an Airbnb host returning home to find a couple of toilets blocked and a leak in the roof.
As for Trevor Bayliss, this leg offers some creature comforts. And while he has been put at ease by the backing of the ECB’s chairman, Colin Graves, and chief executive,…