By iain fletcher
The money is important as the ECB needs it to fund its expansive AllStars programme for tiddly kids but so is the exposure. Sky, desperate to keep the business, are now paying market-rate amounts for the sport, so they are providing the money and the BBC will ensure all kids can watch the game in their living rooms. It is a perfect mix.
Now all it needs is heroes and that is up to the players. Counties and franchises are important but nothing beats the public enthusiasm for supporting a national team. If in doubt consider the euphoria over the whole country during the thrilling 2005 Ashes.
So it is almost fitting that the poster boy for England cricket starts his captaincy on Thursday.
The time has come for Joe Root, and his vision for attacking, engaging cricket to grab the consciousness and he could not have asked for a better opposition this summer.
South Africa are much weakened as their players have abandoned country for lucrative county contracts and their own star man, AB de Villiers, is on a much-needed sabbatical after the best part of 13 years flogging his body around the globe. And their own leader, Faf du Plessis, might be absent at Lord’s this week courtesy of a newborn. They are there for the taking, even by an England side with fresh faces of its own. Keaton Jennings will open with old stager Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance has earned a recall with a superb county season averaging over 100 and Liam Dawson is in the 12-man squad in case the pitch looks dry. Normally that line-up would encourage opponents as youth and last chances normally make for nerves but where there is the succour for Root is his seam attack. The old warhorses Stuart Broad and James Anderson are recovered from injury and expected to lead the attack as they have done so effectively for years. Mark Wood, the jovial Durham speedster, is back after some excellent white ball performances which leaves Toby Roland-Jones to make his debut on his home ground as the fourth seamer. It is a very good line-up and should deliver wickets. South Africa will be reliant on Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada and they can be excellent but they lack the battalion of good seamers that England possess.
If England can score enough runs and a lot of that will depend on Cook, who is in sublime form for Essex, and captain Root, then the bowlers should deliver the wins. Most new captains enjoy a honeymoon period of performance before the extra-curricular demands of the job grind them down. Root could do with that, cementing his authority.
Against that are Hashim Amla, Quintin de Kock, Dean Elgar and du Plessis when he arrives.
It is a worthy line-up but not a terrifying one. Indeed it could be considered quite similar to England’s but with a little less depth.
So, over the four Test matches, the better team will win. For England that means the seamers staying fit and delivering, for South Africa scoring enough runs to be competitive and pressure the England batters. Home advantage should count and buoyed with the thought of greater riches to come, there is no lack on incentive for the England players.