As this summer’s international cricket moves into its final phase, we thought it was worth a look at what lies ahead over the next few seasons, at least in test match terms. Unsurprisingly, there are a few quirks in the fixture schedule.
Next year – 2012 – kicks off with three tests against West Indies. It’s sad to reflect that a three-match series against the Caribbean side now seems overkill, especially in early season English conditions. At the risk of sounding arrogant, two should be enough to separate the teams.
In the second half of the summer we have a real travesty – three tests against South Africa. As this series will most likely be a world-title decider, it seems a crying shame that we’re deprived of a full, five match, rubber. In a three test series, luck – in the form of weather or the toss – plays too big a part. The ebb and flow, the shifting balance of power, across a full series are two of the most intriguing and dynamic factors in test cricket.
The reason for this truncation, as we understand it, is to make way for an ODI series against Australia. Eh? Who in their right minds thought we would prefer to see a meaningless set of one-dayers instead of an extra test or two against the Saffers – our only true rivals as best side in the world.
It’s especially silly when you consider the risk of overkill against Australia, against whom we’ll be contesting the Ashes three times in two years.
In 2013 – in addition to the world test championship, which is being staged here – we face New Zealand for two tests, followed by five against the Convicts.
And barely weeks after Strauss or Clarke lift the urn, our lads head down-under, for the first back-to-back Ashes (as far as we’re aware) of all time.
There is quite a good reason for this – to break the cycle of the Australian tour always immediately preceding the 50 over World Cup, which inevitably hinders our performance. The unfortunate corollary is that the Ashes risk losing their gloss and mystique – and as you’ll see, it gets worse.
2014 is a near-repeat of this summer: two tests v Sri Lanka, then a satisfying five against India, who will surely be in more competitive shape by then.
In 2015 the Kiwis are back for another couple – only two years since their last visit. And then we have five more tests against – you guessed it Australia.
The rationale, we reckon, is to complete the shifting of the Ashes cycle; otherwise, we’ll always have back-to-back series. But wouldn’t it be better simply to skip a series altogether? At this rate, we and the Aussies will get sick of the sight of each other.
2016 begins with a trio of fixtures versus Sri Lanka – the second side in consecutive seasons to return after only a two-year interval.
So who have we been missing all this time? Oh yes – Pakistan, who finally make it over here for four tests at the back end of 2016. It will be their first visit to England for six years.
Why it is that we’ll play some sides far too often, and others hardly at all…well that’s the kind of muddled thinking and shady deal-making now rather predictable in modern international cricket.