New generation crucial as England grapple with an absurd schedule that is unlikely to let up

Making a mark: Phil Salt scored brilliantly for England in Amsterdam (Getty Images)

Making a mark: Phil Salt scored brilliantly for England in Amsterdam (Getty Images)

The English white ball team’s joyful effort in Amsterdam has hardly ended when the test team meets New Zealand in Headingley.

It is the first time in 92 years that England have played games in different countries on consecutive days, but the message from Test skipper Ben Stokes is: get used to it.

“Unfortunately it’s probably more likely to be the case in the future as the cricket world is catching up on the period we weren’t able to play because of Covid,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, England played Ireland in Southampton and Pakistan in Manchester on back-to-back days, but there were no crowds back then.

England’s schedule is absurd and expect more of the same this winter as they embark on six different tours to five different countries in three formats. No schedules have been announced yet, but it is expected that there will be a special sprinkling between the New Zealand test tour and the white ball trips to Bangladesh next spring.

Also next month, the rescheduled friendly against India in Birmingham ends on July 7th, with the T20 team playing the Ageas Bowl two days later.

An in-depth player pool is imperative. Stokes was one of the first-choice white ball players missing against the Netherlands. Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root are with him at Leeds while Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Saqib Mahmood are injured. In her absence, newer faces (there was a debutant, David Payne) performed with aplomb.

Phil Salt, who doubled his number of ODIs to six, was the standout with 248 runs from 177 balls, including a first century. Liam Livingstone had also only played three ODIs prior to this series, but he brought some of his T20 form into the 50-over game and is already feeling like a must. Brydon Carse provided the kind of mid-overs punch that was missing since England pulled from Liam Plunkett after the last World Cup. Payne looked confident in his debut yesterday.

“We’ve learned that the new players look like they’ve played 50 games,” said Jason Roy, now a 100-cap veteran. “They didn’t look new at all. They play like we’ve been playing for years.”

Bryson Carse also impressed during the short ODI tour with three games in the Netherlands (Getty Images).

Bryson Carse also impressed during the short ODI tour with three games in the Netherlands (Getty Images).

Then think of the players – mainly batsmen – who didn’t make the trip; Sam Billings averaging 56 ODIs since the last World Championship; James Vince, who made a hundred in his last ODI; then people like Harry Brook and Tom Banton who are a generation younger.

The response from the seniors was outstanding. David Willey, who took eight wickets at an economy of 4.7, just keeps going. Moeen Ali has had a solid tour and if England finishes with him, Livingstone and Stokes in the same ODI XI they will have plenty of bowling options.

Salt is Roy Mk II. They share many attributes and an attitude that make Salt a direct threat to Roy’s place in the squad leading to next year’s World Championship. That sentiment was reinforced when a Roy miss and Salt’s Century clashed in the opening game, but Roy wasn’t down for long. He didn’t make out 73, then 101, his 10th ODI century.

There was one exception: Eoin Morgan. His two ducks in isolation are one thing, but next week it’s been a year since he’s done half a century in some cricket. Of more concern is how his body is holding up as he struggles to piece together two T20 games, let alone 50-over games. He doesn’t play much cricket these days, if he does he will get injured.

An in-depth player pool is imperative as England cope with an absurd schedule

Jos Buttler is in very special shape and totally ready to lead this team. Roy is a pacing character, and he credits the conversations with Buttler with keeping him on par after his failure in the opening game. It might be about time England had three different captains: Stokes in Tests, Buttler in ODIs and Morgan in T20s.

It’s been a productive little trip for England and the Dutch too will have benefited on two levels: their board have made money from the thousands of visitors and the players have benefited from playing against some of the best in the world.

Footage of Adil Rashid working in the nets with young Dutch spinners while England batted yesterday was a warming sight.

Maybe this should be the start of something annual. Squeeze in three ODIs against Ireland, Scotland or the Netherlands between early summer Tests. The benefits are mutual.

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