Having a ball

Cricket’s biggest summer

It may not seem likely in the depths of mid-winter, but come spring, England is going to go completely and utterly cricket mad.

And it will most likely stay that way until late September.

That’s because with no World Cup, European Championship or Olympic Games to crowd it out of the public consciousness, English cricket’s biggest ever summer is set to take centre stage and, if the sport gets it right, you won’t help but notice.

After the small matter of five, warm-up one day internationals, and a T20 International against Pakistan, England will help raise the curtain of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup on 30th May against South Africa at the Oval, the first time the tournament has taken place on home turf for twenty years.

Under normal circumstances, such an event would be the making of the summer, but 2019 offers an embarrassment of riches for cricket fans and big eventers alike. No sooner will the dust have settled from the World Cup than the Australian test squad will arrive to contest an Ashes series that has the potential to be a more volatile affair than normal. This follows England’s 4-0 down under drubbing last winter, and the subsequent cheating scandal that saw Australia’s captain Steve Smith, star opener David Warner and youngster Cameron Bancroft banned from all forms of cricket.

Sandwiched in between the World Cup and the men’s Ashes, the reigning world champion England Women’s team will take on Australia in their multi-format version of the Ashes .

What is most exciting for cricket aficionados is the fact that, following an abysmal performance in the last World Cup in 2015, England’s performances in white ball cricket have been a revelation. Now ranked number 1 in the world in the one-day international format, they are favourites to win the Cricket World Cup for the first time ever.

And if there is one thing that sparks the interest of a broader audience of big eventers, it’s the chance that England might actually win something, regardless of the sport.

A combination of sell-out grounds and a guarantee of terrestrial highlights for the World Cup means cricket will be more visible to non-Sky subscribers than usual, so cricket can become the water cooler topic of conversation for long stretches of the summer.

And this spells commercial opportunity for brand sponsors.

Beyond the long-term commitment of England’s principal partner NatWest (with its multiple award-winning Cricket Has No Boundaries campaign) and other national team partners, there are clear opportunities for brands to become involved with the sport for the first time.

This is not least because the commercial landscape at a global level is dominated by ICC partners whose involvement is largely driven by TV exposure in the Asian sub-continent, where audiences dwarf those delivered by the sport in any other major cricket markets.

But this focus on India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh means most will only activate in a very limited way in England. As such, the ICC will be keen to enlist domestic partners as it seeks to broaden the appeal of, and drive participation in cricket in partnership with the host governing body the ECB.

Some estimates suggest that the appeal of the sport could mushroom way beyond the 9-10m individuals the ECB identifies as followers of the sport. If the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the London 2012 Olympics taught us anything it is not to underestimate the immense interest the British public has in major international sporting events.

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