Frank Gregan believes that England can whitewash the Aussies and become the world's top team in every format of cricket. That would be a phenomenal achievement but, as our man explains, nothing beats a five Test series...
England are priced at 9/25.3 to whitewash the Aussies and secure world dominance but more realistically they are a very tempting 5/42.26 to overcome the South Africans in the Test series.
We're always hearing how difficult market conditions are at the moment. It seems that every sector is feeling the pinch and cricket is no exception. This was always going to be a tough summer for the ECB with Euro 2012 and the Olympics vying for attention alongside England's traditional summer pursuit. An early summer mismatch between the tremendously-strong-at-home English and the hapless West Indians didn't help the cause. Even the much heralded arrival of the Caribbean IPL contingent didn't improve the visitors and the tour reflected the weather, damp, miserable and not much fun at all.
Things have picked up a bit with the arrival of the Australians for a five match ODI series. That will be followed by the summer headline act, the visit of the South Africans which will see the two top rated Test teams in the world do battle. The bad thing is, it's only a three Test series, the main event of the summer has been curtailed in order to facilitate a ODI series against the Aussies. Why? With all the cricket being played and players constantly moaning about their hectic schedules, why have our Antipodean cousins been dragged from one side of the world to the other to compete in a stand alone, almost meaningless one day series?
Almost meaningless is the correct description, matches involving England and Australia will never be totally meaningless because of the rivalry and tradition which makes any contest a box office draw. The Aussies are great opponents, the real in-your-face deal and they walked into town with the usual swagger in their step, determined to deflate the English balloon.
It hasn't worked and whilst they have been much more competitive than the West Indies they have been put to the sword and there is still the possibility that they could surrender their number one World 50 over ranking to England if they are whitewashed in this series. That's great from the ECB's point of view because it will ensure that the turnstiles keep rotating, the only way there is likely to be a dead rubber is if the fourth ODI ends in Australian win or no result whilst England hold a 3-0 lead.
Let's not kid ourselves, the Aussies are here to boost the coffers and as a bonus England have secured an invitation to compete in a tri-nations series Down Under as part of their final preparations for the 2015 World Cup, something that Andy Flower will be delighted about. But there are still rumblings of discontent in the media, so much so that both captains took time out to defend the series.
The issue is priorities. There has to be a rotation of tourists, England can't keep playing the same team every year (although that's starting to become the case with Australia) and each new opponent offers a different challenge. The priority this year should have been a five Test series against the South Africans, the best two Test teams in the world playing each other in the purest format of the game. Everything else, all the bells and whistles and the rattling of cash registers should have been fitted around that five Test tour.
If England do win this series 5-0 they will become the first nation to hold the number one ranking in all three formats in the history of the game. They are priced at 9/25.3 to whitewash the Aussies and secure world dominance but more realistically they are a very tempting 5/42.26 to overcome the South Africans in the Test series.
It really would be some achievement if England were to head the rankings in all three formats, something very special indeed. The rest of the world don't need to worry too much, of course England are unbeatable, they're at home and enjoying the conditions. It'll soon be winter and they'll have to hit the road and we all know what happens then...