England begin 2019 in a great place: full of confidence and with honours there for the taking.
The tour of the West Indies, which starts this month, is followed by the 50-over World Cup and the Ashes, which are both on home soil. It is a combination which presents a brilliant opportunity.
Having beaten India and Sri Lanka last year England look to be making strides in the Test arena, perhaps mirroring their turnaround in one-day cricket.
They proved they can win away from home, playing a different style to beat Sri Lanka convincingly. Although there are still a few questions marks, England look more settled now, with a squad of 14 or so players vying for selection.
The key now is to not over-think, or look too far ahead. But they’re currently second in the Test rankings and will be targeting India’s top spot. With no truly outstanding side around it is a challenge that should excite.
When the team I played in reached No1 in 2011 we did so by staying focused and taking it one match at a time. Therefore a series against a transitioning West Indies side, who are ranked eighth in the world, is a nice place to start a crucial year.
England’s work in Sri Lanka should have them well prepared for the Caribbean, where they’ll expect dry, slow pitches, albeit with more assistance for the fast bowlers.
West Indies lack experience at the moment and I think they will struggle against swing, which will excite James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were forced to play second fiddle to the spinners in the winter.
I am backing Joe Root’s side to win the three-match Test series – it’s a real chance to build momentum. The real questions will come later in the summer when the Ashes arrive in August.
Australia are in a fragile state with the fallout of the ball tampering scandal continuing, but in English conditions with the Dukes ball and the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, they have the bowlers who can trouble top order batsmen.
If Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns can cement their opening partnership over the coming months it will go a long way to preparing themselves for the tilt at regaining the Ashes.
In between the West Indies tour and the Ashes, however, is the World Cup – a tournament England are expected to win.
As the favourites, the No1 one-day team and as a side who have won 41 of their previous 54 games since June 2016 they come into the competition with pressure to perform – something they’ve not experienced in 50-over cricket before.
But over the last two years Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss have created an experienced, well-oiled team full of match-winners. I don’t think they’ll be fazed by their billing.
When you look at it in a positive way, they are the team to beat and will have home conditions and a home crowd behind them.
Knock-out tournaments can of course throw up shocks, but it really feels like England have spent the past few years developing a game-plan and gearing up towards the World Cup.
They are favourites for a good reason and that tag is an accolade, not something to be weighed down by.
It’s an exciting year for English cricket and one which could prove to be defining.