England could have used the international against Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi as a celebration of the full ODI status Hong Kong received for a four-year period from 2014, a chance to show a vague commitment to the global expansion that many cricket followers hanker after. Many would have seen it as posturing, but even posturing can bring benefits.
England, proud member of the Big Three, thought differently. Instead, Hong Kong were used for England's convenience. Not only did they fail to pursue the prospect of a match carrying ODI status, amid risible reports that they could not afford to pay the players extra, they preferred to turn it into a 13-a-side practice match, batting first by prior arrangement, the sort of exercise in convenience that has now become a predictable feature of condensed tours with fewer practice matches.
The thought struck that if converting the United States (the cricket loving ex-pats apart) to cricket is a tough enough challenge for the Cricket All-Stars - who deserve all the good luck going - it is a relief that England are not involved. Imagine explaining that an 11-a-side game is actually a 13-a-side game and that there is such a thing as real ODI status enjoyed by the rich and privileged and an ODI status awarded to the smaller nations - won by their performances in ICC-approved tournaments - that effectively you can turn on and off as you see fit.
The result of this glorified Abu Dhabi practice session was a 169-run victory for England, who posted 342 for 8 in 50 overs, taking 100 off the last ten overs, then dismissed Hong Kong for 173. Journalists present will feel obliged to make something of it, remarking how Moeen Ali's transition from Test opener to one-day No 7 brought immediate rewards as he struck 71 from 36 balls with five sixes. Attention will dwell, too, on David Willey's 4 for 43, his two new-ball wickets giving England a superiority that never wavered.
Since they were awarded ODI status last year, Hong Kong have played four ODIs, two against Papua New Guinea, and once against Afghanistan and UAE. Nobody expects a rush of fixtures - there are financial imperatives in these things. But England were in town and took to the field. A little respect would have cost nothing. Babar Hayat, who had made two-half centuries in those four matches, took England's attack for 64, perhaps one of the proudest moments of his life, but in years to come you will struggle to find it in the records.
English professionals delighted in the end-of-season junket at the Hong Kong Sixes for years. The UK government is desperate for Chinese inward investment. But when English cricket has the opportunity to respect and encourage a country striving to improve itself instead it deigns to play a practice match entirely for its own devices, one of which was to allow Jonny Bairstow and Buttler to share wicket-keeping duties, Bairstow being one of 13 named on the scorecard (they played 12) who did not bat.
Hong Kong will be expected to thank their superiors for the privilege, and did just that. We wanted a 13-a-side match for practice ahead of a four-day game against UAE was the gist of what they said afterwards, not just doing England's bidding then but doing their PR. Hong Kong's coach Simon Cook, once of Kent and Middlesex, had served his old masters well. So a side with ODI status does not want to play a game with ODI status against the most exciting opponents in its history? Then give it back then. Expediency had won the day.
Ask what cricket needs. Ask what the fans want. The rest does not matter.
The irony was that Pakistan did show respect to Nepal by playing their warm-up in Abu Dhabi as 11-a-side (the complex has three grounds) but that match will have no official status either because Nepal does not have ODI status.
As things stand, in a fortnight's time the same charade will be reenacted when England and Pakistan have T20 warm-up matches ahead of their T20 series against UAE and Hong Kong respectively that will not be classified as official internationals. Practice fodder, a pat on the head and no place in the records.
I wonder if any England players felt a little empty or if the focus on their own - and their side's - achievements never allows room for a consideration of the greater good? Perhaps they are too young. The administrators have no such excuse. The game reeked of self-interest.
The first ODI is on Wednesday and Pakistan are favourites.