English cricket moves into a new era with today's first of five one-day internationals in 13 days against Sri Lanka and a new chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board in Somerset's Giles Clarke.
No Andrew Flintoff in the foreseeable future — sadly, maybe a permanent possibility — and no David Morgan, whose administrative grip at Lord's has never been vice-like and now moves on to higher things with the International Cricket Council.
His political skills are better suited to world cricket than trying to knock the heads together of county chairmen who rarely have a clear view of the bigger picture.
Clarke won a replay against Surrey's Mike Soper after an initial 9-9 dead heat thanks, so the latter claims, to three chairmen who voted for him first up, then told him one thing but did another. There has been speculation that Sussex, Middlesex and Worcestershire are among the main suspects, so Soper has resigned as vice-chairman, thereby implying criticism of Clarke.
Simplistically, it seems that the counties have gone for the extra commercial expertise of Clarke, but the millions now available thanks to a recent deal with Asian television presented an unanswerable argument.
What Clarke must do is to ensure that each county's share is not frittered away on dead monies paid in salaries to overseas and Kolpak cricketers. The present incentives on offer to those clubs who pick more homegrown talent are not working, but the reduction of overseas players from two to one in 2008 is a start.
The talkative Clarke is rarely in danger of dead-batting press quotes but it is significant that he appears to have learned a lesson since his unwise initial press conference last Wednesday, when he laid down the law on discipline.
Alec Stewart said how uneasy he was about remarks made which appeared to place Clarke over and above Peter Moores and his management when it came to imposing fines or other penalties for "Fredalo/lapdance-type" indiscretions. When tackled about it on radio at the weekend, the new chairman poured on a touch of oil with a modified statement that, with fame, money and the privilege of playing for your country, came off-field responsibilty. He was sure Moores & Co would handle things firmly and fairly.
Sadly, he was less clear about Zimbabwe when asked if he would follow the Australian approach which forbids the players to travel to that country or allow their cricketers into Australia. The ducking and diving was pure Morgan-speak. Any reader who wants clarification should write to Nasser Hussain, ex-England captain in the disastrous World Cup in South Africa in 2003. He and his players will never forget the pathetic pleadings and implied threats made to them from Morgan and Tim Lamb, the then chief executive.
So to Dambulla, when 25-year-old Phil Mustard is the fifth specialist wicketkeeper to try to fill the gloves vacated by Alec Stewart four years ago, following Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Paul Nixon and Matthew Prior. The selectors continue to switch horses, without reverting to Essex's James Foster who, for several reasons, is the best-equipped in all departments. Following a good tour of India, he would have started the next home season but broke an arm in the nets and Stewart came back to make a grand farewell.
Mustard will open the innings today, with the hope that he will not repeat the moderate showings of Jones and Prior as pinch-hitters at the top of the order. Ian Bell returns and can cement his No 3 position, helped by the likely absence of Muttiah Muralitharan.
Flintoff's absence as a bowler is the biggest blow because there is no-one better in world cricket at aggressive defensive bowling. But Ryan Sidebottom is given a great chance to prove that he can be effective on Asian pitches. The most interesting reappearance after injury is Ravi Bopara. Unlike Flintoff, he is a batsman who bowls but, together with Owais Shah, knows how to finish matches. Despite the woeful showing in the World Twenty20, England should at least compete in the next two weeks although, with every match under lights, the tosses will be important. Jack Bannister says things are changing quickly, both on and off the field