After nearly four months away from home (that’s a third of a year!) England’s cricketers have finally left Australia. They must’ve been sick of the place by the end. But the ordeal isn’t quite over yet. We’ve still got two or three T20s left to play on the other side of the Tasman Sea before we finally get some respite from David Warner’s grinning mug. The international schedule never ends …

However, as the Australian leg of the winter has finally drawn to a close, I thought I’d pen my final thoughts. Call it a short summary if you like. BT Sport were asking fans to sum up the last 15 weeks in one word, so I thought I’d give you my one-word offering: ‘long’.

The word ‘long’ characterises the tour for so many reasons – and it’s not just the length of time our players were away from their families. The Ashes involved long sessions of watching Steve Smith bat, and long sessions of bemoaning the lack of variety in our attack. In fact, the only short things we saw during the Ashes were throat balls delivered by the Aussies’ long fast bowlers. Oh how we ‘longed’ for a 90mph of our own.

Sadly there’s no denying that the Ashes were a complete disaster. Even though the pitches were uncharacteristically slow, which should have given our batsmen more of a chance, we folded as meekly as many of us predicted. If it hadn’t been for that awful pitch at Melbourne, which was slow enough for Alastair Cook to withstand top class fast bowling for a change, we would’ve lost 0-5. In fact, there was only one positive on the entire tour: Dawid Malan. Everyone else was a let down.

Although it was somewhat anticlimactic after the Ashes shellacking, the 4-1 victory in the ODIs was good fun. Jason Roy’s superb 180 in the first game was outstanding and seemed to catch Australian observers off guard. England have improved so much in ODIs under Trevor Bayliss, but the Aussie media and commentators seemed genuinely surprised at the outcome. It was all a bit surreal.

I was really impressed with how we played in the ODI series. Whereas the test team really missed Ben Stokes, the white ball lads took his absence in their stride. Things didn’t always go our way in the individual games, but we usually found a way to win. Although the team occasionally comes unstuck on sticky wickets that require good batting technique rather than wanton aggression, England will probably start the 2019 World Cup as favourites.

It was a shame, in some ways, that the tour ended as it began: with two comprehensive defeats. But I doubt too many people will lose sleep over a couple of meaningless T20s. I certainly won’t. Besides, had we won the T20s, some people might have remembered the tour as a moderate success – which of course it wasn’t (not even close). The ECB deserves a heap of criticism for completely botching the four-year cycle since the last Ashes debacle, so perhaps it’s a good thing that the Australian leg of the winter ended unsatisfactorily.

Looking forward now, England have two tests against New Zealand coming up, followed by two (why only two?) tests against Pakistan, and a five test series against India at home. Oh, and another five pointless ODIs against Australia sandwiched in the middle. Ah, so that’s why we’re only playing two tests against Pakistan!

Once again I find England’s schedules absolutely mystifying. The last time Pakistan visited our shores the test series was a highly entertaining 2-2 draw. I doubt yet another white ball series against Australia will be anywhere near as exciting. Why couldn’t we have scrapped the ODIs against the Canary Yellows and played another test or two against Pakistan? Actually don’t answer that. We all know the answer.

The upcoming tests against New Zealand should be gooduns. I’m actually really looking forward to the games. The teams are fairly evening matched, plus there’s added interest because a few careers are on the line. If Mark Stoneman and James Vince don’t make any runs then it could be all change come the summer. Moeen Ali will also be under the spotlight – particularly if Mason Crane (and maybe even Jack Leach) play well for the Lions in their on-going series against West Indies A.

The best thing about watching cricket in New Zealand, however, is that it’s enjoyable whatever the result. Although the first test is a day-nighter in Auckland (boo!) the highlight will undoubtedly be in the second game at beautiful Christchurch. The five ODIs beforehand will probably be a bit of a ‘slog’ (see what I did there?) but at least they should be competitive.

James Morgan

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