x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ashes schedule before World Cup is a problem

The Ashes have always hindered England's World Cup preparations, but that is the trophy they really care about.

As the utterances of the master of dispassionate moderation go, this was pretty severe.

"The scheduling is not good," Andrew Strauss said, in the blankest terms he could manage after England's World Cup surrender.

After a winter of innumerable interviews, perhaps he had run out of synonyms for the word bad.

Strauss was referring to the fact England have, until now, followed an away Ashes tour by playing the World Cup.

Essentially, that means they have always had to follow the one competition they really care about with the one they are supposed to care about.

"It is the highest intensity Test cricket an English cricketer can face," Strauss said of playing in Australia.

Hence their achievement of winning the urn there is the one thing that will endure from this winter, not their failure to scratch the surface at the World Cup yet again.

Happily for all concerned, the cycle is changing next time around, with the Ashes to be brought forward to ease the World Cup strain.

Both England and Australia made quarter-final exits. When Australia were in their pomp, an Ashes series was the perfect build-up.

A winter of middle practice against glorified net bowlers was the ideal preparation. Now that they are mortal again, they can do without it.

Even in these relative times of plenty for England, it has been too much. They won the Ashes in Australia at a canter, but the encounter remains the only regular series of five Test matches there is on the international calendar.

As such, it can't be rushed. The players have been on the road for too long.

The World Cup is no country for old men. Nor is it a place for jaded cricketers.