No sooner has the first Test series of a jam-packed mid-summer of cricket ended than a set of one-day internationals begins.
What better drawcard than the chance for fans to see world champions England, playing on home soil for the first time since that triumph one year ago? Although it will be from the comfort of their own homes given that the three matches against Ireland will be played behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl due to Covid-19 prevention rules.
Oh how the world has changed since July 14, 2019. And here we are, three matches inside a week to kick off the inaugural ICC Men's World Cup Super League.
What's that, you say? It's the new global tournament through which teams qualify via home and away ODI series for the next World Cup, in India in 2023, and designed to "bring relevance and context" to the format, according to the ICC.
England and Ireland are teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum, the defending champions against a side hopeful of making it to the big-time after the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2019 edition.
It is a new-look England though, given the need to operate separate red- and white-ball squads to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection amid such a hectic international schedule.
Eoin Morgan, is there as captain, along with the likes of Jason Roy, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow. But there is no Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes or Joe Root, whose 68 off 56 balls during England's third-Test victory over West Indies this week was positively one-day-esque.
Those missing to the Test squad are replaced by David Willey, returning to international cricket for the first time in more than a year, and Joe Denly, who was dropped from the red-ball bubble mid-West Indies series.There are relative newcomers too, like Tom Banton and Saqib Mahmood, who form part of England's prospective next generation.
Ireland, too, are planning for the future, by including the likes of batsmen Gareth Delany and Harry Tector and allrounder Curtis Campher alongside vastly more experienced hands Andy Balbirinie, Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Tom Banton showed the attention-grabbing style in England's most recent warm-up match that earned him international call-ups, first for last winter's T20s in New Zealand, followed by three ODIs in South Africa in February. His unbeaten 57 from 56 deliveries pulled James Vince's side out of trouble and all the way to victory against Moeen Ali's men in an intra-squad match last week. He also pulled off a stunning catch to dismiss Bairstow. It is the sort of form that helped him prosper in his debut BBL season with Brisbane Heat and, having been picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders for this year's postponed IPL, Banton will no doubt be keen to keep showing what he's capable of.
Curtis Campher toured England two years ago with South Africa Under-19s when he had Banton, then the England Under-19s captain, out lbw for nine in a match won by the visitors. Campher switched allegiences earlier this year on the basis of his mother holding an Irish passport and he is now poised to make his debut. Another young player keen to forge ahead after a promising start, Campher contributed 34 off 52 balls and took 2 for 29 from six overs for Ireland in their warm-up against Ireland A last week.
England have been keeping an eye on the status of Jason Roy's sore back, although he is expected to be fit to play. David Willey returns, having tweaked his bowling action in a bid to find more swing following the disappointment of being overlooked for England's victorious World Cup campaign, while Bairstow is likely to make his first appearance of the summer after falling out of favour in the red-ball ranks.
England: (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 James Vince, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Joe Denly, 6 Tom Banton, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 David Willey, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Saqib Mahmood
Along with Campher, Harry Tector is pressing to make his debut after scoring consecutive fifties in Ireland's two warm-up matches in Southampton. Ireland will be without Mark Adair, their leading wicket-taker in ODIs last year, as he continues to build fitness following ankle surgery.
Ireland: (possible) 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Gareth Delany, 3 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 4 Harry Tector/William Porterfield, 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 7 Simi Singh, 8 Curtis Campher, 9 Andy McBrine, 10 Barry McCarthy, 11 Josh Little/Boyd Rankin
Pitch and conditions
Balbirnie said he expected a little bit more grass to be left on than usual, with the same strip set to be used for the first and second ODIs. That could mean some early movement off the seam. In the warm-up games, batting proved easier under the lights, with the ball coming onto the bat more on relatively slow surfaces. The forecast is just about perfect with clear skies and a top temperature of 24 degrees expected.
Stats and trivia
On game day, it will have been 139 days since the last men's ODI (at the SCG on March 13), making it the longest gap since 1991, when there were 143 days between matches.
Harry Tector, who has 20 T20I caps at the age of 20, has scored half-centuries in each of his last three List A matches.
England have lost to Ireland only once in their nine completed ODIs going back to 2006. Although it was quite a famous one.
"We're just delighted both to be back playing but also to have cricket back on TV. I think there's a huge and monumental effort gone into everything to make it happen so we're extremely grateful for that and also grateful for Ireland coming over."
Eoin Morgan is happy to be here
"It's an outstanding opportunity for this team: we'll be the first Irish international team to play since lockdown. It's exciting, but we've got to make sure that we don't get overawed by it and go out and enjoy ourselves."
Andy Balbirnie on the importance of not getting carried away