WHAT do English cricket supporters want from the five-match Test series that starts against India on Wednesday?
Obviously they want England to win, but more importantly they want to feel that English cricket is moving again in the right direction – something that was not always the case during the series against Sri Lanka, when England slumped to a 1-0 defeat.
Stopping a rot of six defeats in seven Tests, including the disastrous Ashes series, is clearly at the top of England’s priorities, for all teams and coaches are judged on results, and England’s have not been up to scratch.
But results are not the be-all and end-all, and supporters can stomach the odd poor one provided there is evidence of positive progress.
What was disappointing about the Sri Lanka series was not so much the result itself.
Rather, it was that there was little sign, if truth be told, of the brave new dawn that has supposedly risen under captain Alastair Cook and new coach Peter Moores.
When Moores was appointed in place of Andy Flower, there was much talk of how England would play positive cricket in a manner evocative of their Australian counterparts.
Although England were not exactly negative against Sri Lanka, they were hardly dynamic either and it left the impression of “same old, same old”.
England should have won the first Test at Lord’s and probably would have done had they declared earlier in their second innings.
They should not have lost the second match at Headingley and probably would not have done had they attacked Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews and shown more faith in spinner Moeen Ali.
There was little sense of “come with us, we’re all going on an exciting journey if you’ll just bear with us for the time being”.
Instead, it was as though the shackles of the Flower regime had yet to be loosened, as though England were almost afraid to lose.
The India series is a chance for England to prove again they are going places.
It is an opportunity to back up positive words with positive actions. It is not so much the result that matters, but the way England approach their task and engage with the public.
That public will cut them plenty of slack if they really “give it a go”.
There is no reason, in fact, why England cannot win this series.
India are fourth in the world, only one place and two points above them, and historically poor travellers.
Neither side, in reality, has much to fear from the other. It could be a nip-and-tuck battle, and a positive attitude could count for much.
Beyond the imperative to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, England are set to learn a great deal from the matches at Nottingham, Lord’s, Southampton, Manchester and The Oval.
It is clearly a huge series for Cook, without a Test hundred for than a year and with doubts surrounding his ability as national captain.
A couple of bad results, particularly if allied to more poor batting form, could make his position untenable, and it can only be hoped for his sake that a man who has done so much for English cricket can emerge with flying colours.
Perhaps Cook’s best strategy – as with his team in general – is simply to “give it a go” and not, in the popular parlance, “die wondering”.
It is an important series, too, for Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Gary Ballance, two wonderful young batsmen who could form the bedrock of England’s top-order for the next decade and more.
Both played well against Sri Lanka, with England’s youngsters in general outshining their seniors, and further good performances against India will cement Root and Ballance in the hearts and minds of the great British public.
Another Yorkshire player, pace bowler Liam Plunkett, could hardly have made a better return to Test cricket and there is no reason why his revival cannot continue.
If England are to regain the Ashes next summer, a fit and fighting Plunkett can help to answer the fire of Australia’s Mitchell Johnson.
Could this be the summer when Ben Stokes confirms his status as an outstanding young all-rounder?
Stokes was one of the few plusses in the Ashes and is now back to full fitness after that unfortunate incident in the West Indies when a dressing room locker collided with his fist.
Can Sam Robson build on his hundred at Headingley, will James Anderson and Stuart Broad – who came in for much criticism at Leeds – prove they still have plenty to offer, and can Chris Jordan continue his progress if given the chance?
All will be revealed as England, after their false start against Sri Lanka, seek to show they are indeed moving once more in the right direction.
Yorkshire’s NatWest T20 Blast match against Worcestershire at New Road last night was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Rain prevented any play in the North Division fixture, which had been scheduled to start at 5.30pm but was called off at 7.10pm by umpires Jeff Evans and Richard Illingworth.
Yorkshire return to action on Monday in the County Championship against Durham at Headingley.
Meanwhile, the club have confirmed that the opening day of their Championship match against Middlesex at Scarborough on Saturday July 19 will start at noon instead of 11.00am.
The start time has been pushed back as the county are in NatWest T20 Blast action the night before against Birmingham Bears at Headingley.
England batsman Michael Carberry has signed a new three-year deal with Hampshire.