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Will English cricket make the most of its day in the sun? asks Steve Scott

England's skippers: Harry Kane, Steph Houghton and Eoin Morgan. Credit: PA

If you went to your local high street armed with a photo of England’s cricket captain and you stopped one hundred people and asked them to identify him, how many would know Eoin Morgan’s name?

If you carried out the same exercise with a picture of Harry Kane or even Steph Houghton, what would those results be?

You get where I’m going; only vaguely scientific but it’s likely the man who’s finally taken an England team to a World Cup final would win the prize for anonymity.

So why? Well the obvious and pretty convincing reason is that football is Britain’s most popular sport, by a stretch. But is there more to it than that and does it actually matter?

If you care about cricket, then the answer to both those questions is “Yes”.

To maintain relevance, sport needs its heroes to be visible, to be widely recognised by the wider public.

Eoin Morgan leads England against Kane Williamson's New Zealand in the World Cup final. Credit: PA

If either senior England team had taken that final step onto football’s biggest stage, in Moscow last year or Lyon just a few weeks ago, it most likely would have been the only subject of national conversation - providing a glorious distraction from Brexit and Boris.

The match would have been central to everyone’s weekend plans. Not just football fans, not just sports fans but more or less everyone.

That is certainly not happening tomorrow. Outside the cricket bubble, which undeniably has loved every minute, this tournament has had little impact. Or so anecdotal evidence suggests.

It was very noticeable that it took a semi-final humiliation of the old enemy Australia, to persuade the national sports pages to finally dedicate their platform to Morgan and his men.

Network television news bulletins also gave the story some precious air space.

That was more or less for the first time this summer; the Lionesses and Andy Murray’s Wimbledon return had previously proved far more of a pull.

The reasons for this are complex but not helped by the fact the World Cup is hidden away on Sky TV and late night (sometimes early morning) highlights on Channel 4.

Brilliant job that they do with their coverage, Sky is not the vehicle to maximise exposure. Nor are the short online clips offered by the ICC and the BBC or the videos that can be found on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Eoin Morgan celebrates scoring the winning runs in the semi-final against Australia Credit: PA

All have their place of course and all will eventually play a far more significant role but, right now, the best and easiest way to reach a mass audience is good old fashioned, free-to-air television.

If it wasn’t, Sky would not have succumbed to pressure and agreed to share their exclusive and very expensive finale.

The reason why exposure matters is because cricket in the UK has been a sport in decline for some time. Not the professional game, which is richer than ever, but its amateur cousin.

The last time cricket was front and centre was almost certainly the memorable 2005 Ashes series.

Flintoff and Pietersen’s exploits were played out on Channel 4 to millions, ensuring they became household names. Their subsequent, drunken antics at Number 10 made them national treasures and paved the way for very lucrative careers in retirement.

Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen's Ashes exploits in 2005 saw them invited to No.10. Credit: PA

After that summer, not surprisingly, there was a spike in participation in amateur cricket, but the following year the elite game disappeared behind a TV paywall.

There have been peaks and troughs along the way but according to Sport England’s latest figures, the number of those, 16 or older, playing the game on a regular basis has plummeted by 20% in 3 years. The figures for younger players show an even bigger decline.

In this country, especially given the success of Morgan’s team, this home World Cup should have been the sport’s “2005 moment”, a huge opportunity to give the game a much-needed shot of adrenaline. Has it done that?

Again, the anecdotal evidence suggests not. Not outside the committed cricket fan base at least.

Steph Houghton's late penalty miss for England in the World Cup was seen by more than 11m viewers. Credit: PA

Whether they’ve missed a trick or not over the past couple of months (and they were not responsible for who got the TV rights) the England and Wales Cricket Board have long recognised cricket’s slow malaise; hence the birth of The Hundred.

It is a new, shorter version of the game, even more brief than the established and popular T20 format.

It gets underway next year; a city-based, franchise-led, month-long competition that in deference to the sport’s diminishing profile, will be shared by pay and free-to-air broadcasters.

The Hundred has been widely derided as an unnecessary hybrid (one of the more polite criticisms) aimed at an audience that doesn’t exist, while at the same time potentially alienating a body of support that certainly does.

Fiddling for the sake of fiddling.

Why-oh-why then some ask, when England is on the verge of conquering the white ball game would you not build on that, rather than confuse matters by wedging a new idea into an already overcrowded calendar?

Cricket fans are a passionate bunch, but has it captured the imagination of the country? Credit: PA

The ECB, despite its appalling PR effort to date, maintains there is a market out there.

It has done the research and its dream is to unearth a new audience for cricket which is family based, more diverse and one that will help grow the game in this country.

The traditional enthusiast comes from a white, middle class background; the average age of a cricket fan is 50. This competition is not for him. (By and large, it is a ‘him’)

Nowadays though British Asians provide almost a third of this country’s amateur players. It’s a community that could well yet come to the rescue of English cricket.

You only had to be at a few World Cup games to experience the fanaticism embedded in this growing demographic.

In its eyes, cricket is without rival and there perhaps, lies the solution or at least part of it. That though is a conversation for another day.

Tomorrow, Eoin Morgan leads his team out at Lord’s for what should be, not only the best day of their lives but also, an historic day for English cricket.

When he took over the captaincy Morgan recognised why England was failing and has since turned them into the best and most feared band of one day cricketers in the world.

With Archer, Roy, Stokes and Butler they are also the most exciting and most marketable.

They’ve done their bit and as a result those who run the game in this country have been dealt the perfect hand; how they play it could not be more important. If you care about cricket that is.