A unique summer of world-class cricket starts this week with the World Cup - can England win it?
With the ICC men's World Cricket World Cup and an Ashes series to follow, this summer could change the face of cricket in this country for the better. The World Cup begins on Thursday (May 30) with England - at Number 1 in the ICC rankings and fresh from a very successful series against Pakistan - playing South Africa at the Oval.
There will be 10 national teams and 48 matches over six weeks. Who better to ask about England's World Cup chances than Marlborough College's Cricket Professional Mark Alleyne, who has played ten one day internationals for England and coached Gloucestershire to a string of victories.
Marlborough.news met him while the College Girls XI were playing Shrewsbury on a sunny Saturday morning: "It'll be harder than people think. When you've got different opposition for every game, you need to show a bit more versatility."
"But for England it'll be a 'free hit' - they can have a go. And the home advantage is a very good thing to have. I am hopeful. Playing from the front as favourites - they'll relish that. The playing performance against Pakistan was perfect - also perfect in how they rotated the players - so they're satisfied that all fifteen players [in the squad] are where they should be."
Interrupted for a moment by the cheer as another Shrewsbury wicket fell, I asked about England's new find, fast bowler Jofra Archer. They say he could be the World Cup's 'X Factor': "That's a little bit tough on him. There are lots of X Factors in the England squad..." And Mark Alleyne rattled off the high points of many of the squad's key players. "England have never won a World Cup - this time they have a great chance."
It's sure, isn't it, to raise the interest in cricket all round the country? "This year is one of the biggest in English cricket. World Cup and Ashes? It doesn't get any bigger than that." And he explained The Hundred competition that starts in 2020 between city teams - a franchise system like they have in South Africa: "There'll be a spike in interest to carry into this new competition."
Mark Alleyne joined Marlborough College as their Cricket Professional in January 2016 - and coaches their seventeen boys teams. The first team have had, he says, a great start to the season - unbeaten till they met Winchester last week: "But there's nothing to change in the team - they're playing some really fantastic cricket."
How does he like his job at the College? "I am really happy here - I absolutely love it." In February next year they are taking a joint squad of boys and girls to Cape Town - a nine-day, half-term trip with the boys' and girls' team each playing five games. "That'll be a bit special".
He introduced girls' cricket soon after he arrived and they played their first match in May 2016 - and won. And they are unbeaten. Mark Alleyne glanced over at the scoreboard: "At Shrewsbury girls' cricket is a bit special. Shrewsbury would be a fantastic scalp."
As Shrewsbury added a confident boundary to their score, I met Marlborough College's Girls Cricket Professional, the former England captain Charlotte Edwards - she led England 220 times. She is director women's cricket at Hampshire and manages the Southern Vipers - the Kia Super League team: "I'm really a consultant here and it works very well."
At the moment the College has two girls teams - first team and a junior team: "School cricket is something I'm really passionate about. I'm proud how far we've come. In just ten years girls now have a real opportunity to play and can have a career in cricket."
Does she think England can win the World Cup? "It's a big ask. But it gives a massive opportunity to transform cricket - a massive chance to sell the game and introduce people to the game. We have a team to be proud of playing exciting cricket - if that doesn't transform the game in this country, I don't know what will. We've got global superstars coming to this country - that can really inspire people."
On the field her team completed a good morning's work. Great news: Shrewsbury School 103/9 off 20 overs, Marlborough College Girls XI 107/5 off 19.4 overs - victory for Marlborough College in a tight finish.
Charlotte's reaction: "Great advert for school cricket, last ball win for Marlborough College. Well played both teams."
Diary date: there's a chance for Marlborough cricket fans to watch the Australian women's team playing a pre-Test match warm-up against an England Academy eleven at the College ground 11-13 July. More details later.