Seven reasons why the English summer will be special
One swallow might not a summer make, but seven Tests, three bilateral ODI series, and four T20Is should be enough to make anyone gulp. Crowbar in an ICC tournament, in the form of the Champions Trophy, and it's easy to see how the upcoming home season will be England's longest yet.
As easy as it is to be sceptical about the hardships of playing cricket for a living, the fact remains that England's home international season is alarmingly full. While the schedule risks burning out the players, it also risks overloading spectators: with so many days of international cricket on offer, it's easy to be swamped by the choice.
By and large it may be an exciting, seething mass of possibilities, yet once-familiar signposts, such as the May Lord's Test, have been uprooted and transplanted. Therefore, as an aid to planning one's viewing, and for no other reason than that seven is in accordance with what Peter Cook termed the mystic rules of life ("seven days of the week, seven deadly sins, seven seas, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"), here are seven bright points of the 2017 English season.
Sunday, May 7, Lord's, England v Ireland: The Irish Quest
A win on the first attempt at what is not only the home of English cricket but also the adopted home of Eoin Morgan would be the perfect statement by William Porterfield and his men. Should London's large Irish population turn out in force, this could easily turn into an away fixture for England - and if England are tempted to leave key players at the IPL, Ireland will sense their history-making opportunity. There is something to be said, indeed, for the ECB making this a yearly season-opening fixture, as one of a pair of ODIs to be played on each side of the Irish Sea.
Thursday, June 1, The Oval, England v Bangladesh: Three Lions versus Eleven Tigers
How can a match against Bangladesh be anything to either worry about or look forward to? Take a look at England's recent ODI record against Bangladesh and you'll see: they have lost four of their last seven matches, and two of their last three defeats have come in ICC tournaments. The short-sharp-shock format of the Champions Trophy provides no margin for error for either side in their tournament opener. Bangladesh might be prowling out of their natural habitat in London, but it's a sign of how far the Tigers have come that this game is far from a foregone conclusion.
Saturday, July 1, Lord's, Royal London One-Day Cup final: The Nifty Fifty
Once the centrepiece of the English season, now rather unloved, in recent years the domestic one-day final has been languishing in mid-September, which has rendered it less than spectator-friendly, due to weather conditions and the tiredness of the pitches. That's a shame, because recent years have provided some classic moments, mainly at Surrey's expense: Gloucestershire's last-over gasp gave Geraint Jones a fitting send-off, while last year's flattening by Warwickshire contributed to a happy coda for Jonathan Trott's career. Moved to the middle of the summer, sliding in between the Champions Trophy and the Tests, with pitches likely to prove better suited to one-day cricket, the tournament has the chance to shine again.
July 14-18, Trent Bridge, England v South Africa, second Test: A Broad-Rabada show - a kind of magic
Two of the most exciting bowlers in the world, on their day, will take a break from persecuting Australian cricketers. For a golden glance of what should be, check their respective performances at Trent Bridge 2015 and Perth 2016. When they go head to head on Broad's home turf, who will be the wizard of the Radcliffe Road End?
Sunday, July 23, Lord's, Women's World Cup final: WWC 'n' roll
England first have to get to the final, of course - by no means a sure thing these days - but if they do, they will have the chance to make it three out of three World Cup triumphs on home soil. Even if they don't, the calibre of the women's game has arguably never been higher: it would be a major surprise if the final didn't feature at least one of Stafanie Taylor, Meg Lanning, and Suzie Bates - any one of whom would be worth the admission price alone.
August 17-21, Edgbaston, England v West Indies, first Test: Evening Ball
The first day-night Test in England might be better termed a day-twilight Test, since civil twilight will end no more than four minutes before scheduled close of play. West Indies may, surprisingly, have an advantage over England here: unlike England, they have already played a day-night Test, at one point threatening an unlikely win. If they pull off a victory here, and September rain plays a part in the other two Tests, they have an outside chance of regaining the Wisden Trophy.
Saturday, September 16, Chester-le-Street, England v West Indies: Stokes v Samuels II - This Time it's Personal
On his home ground Ben Stokes, to date, averages one boundary every four minutes in international games, a statistic only undermined by the fact that he has had a grand total of one 12-minute bash. Of nearly equal interest will be whether either Marlon Samuels or Stokes will be able to maintain control over their words, as they meet in a T20I for the first time since the Day of Brathwaite.
Packed it may be, but if 2017 is as tumultuous as it threatens to be, perhaps we will be glad for every distraction that cricket can provide. Could it be that the schedule is not the one we deserve but the one we need?
Liam Cromar is a freelance cricket writer based in Herefordshire, UK @LiamCromar