If you are a sucker for cricket, Tuesday afternoon at Trent Bridge was just the job. Records were thrown around like confetti, and of them all, perhaps the record-equalling figure of 59 boundaries in the England innings was the most spectacular. Of these, 16 were sixes, the most by an England team. When - more than ten years ago, it should be said - Sri Lanka made the 443 for 9 against Netherlands that England beat, the Sri Lankans hit 56 fours and a rather modest three sixes.
The total of 444 is more believable than it at first sounds. Jos Buttler missed two balls of the final over, bowled by Hasan Ali, and Eoin Morgan missed one. One swipe by Buttler was so fierce that the stump-mic picked up the sound of the "swoosh" of air as the ball flew past him. At this point it seemed as if Buttler and his captain were looking to crush the Sri Lankan score rather than simply cruise past it. The first five swooshes of that over resulted in a single and a leg-bye before the last-ball smash over mid-off propelled England to record-breaking glory.
There is no doubt that 500 is on the cards. It is just a question of when and where. Trent Bridge, you might say. On Tuesday the pitch was perfect for strokeplay; the boundaries no further than 74 yards from the striker and the weather almost mesmerically inviting. What of the opposition? The kindest thing one can say about Azhar Ali's men is that they were down at heel.
Without batting quite at his best, Alex Hales broke the England one-day record long held by Robin Smith. Hales is a popular fellow in Nottingham, so the appreciation reached a fever pitch. When he attacks the off side, through square cover and extra cover, there is an attractive fluency to his play. When he goes leg side, it becomes more agricultural. The surprise is that he hits so little straight down the ground. This is because of a small flaw in his technique that, if fixed, would help his batting in Test cricket. He very rarely plays from behind the ball, or even alongside and close to it. He backs eye before method and uses the remarkable power and sense of timing in his hands and arms to make sweet contact. But this is not a time to split hairs. He beat Smith's record by 41 balls and was out in the 37th over. Ye gods! He really might have made 250. Bravo. All Hale!
Smith's innings was played in a losing cause against Australia in 1993. The "Judge" made an unbeaten 167 out of England's 277, flaying a notable attack that consisted of Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel, the two Waughs and Tim May. But not even the Judge can sit at the top table with Viv Richards, whose unbeaten 189 out of a total of 272 against England at Old Trafford in 1984 came in 170 balls with 21 fours and five sixes. West Indies were 166 for 9 when Michael Holding joined Richards at the wicket. They put on 106 - Holding made 12 of them, Richards the rest. Not for nothing was he called King Viv.
"Morgan said the big change in his time had been for the players to move from seeing one-day cricket as the short form of Test cricket, to instead embrace 50-over cricket as an extension of 20-over cricket"
Another to whom Smith must defer is Herschelle Gibbs, whose 175 at the Wanderers in 2006 made the greatest chase possible. Set 435 by Ricky Ponting's Australians, South Africa won an incredible cricket match off the penultimate ball. Eight hundred and seventy-two runs were scored in the day, as against the 719 tallied at Trent Bridge. These, like the Sri Lankan total of 2006, were before the bats got bully big and everyone's imagination ran wild.
South Africa are responsible for the other two monstrous scores that England shifted down the list: 439 for 2 - again in Johannesburg, where the thin air helps the white ball fly - when AB de Villiers thrashed 149 from 44 balls against West Indies, hitting 16 sixes from his own bat, if you don't mind. (Not that de Villiers even made the highest score in the innings. That was Hashim Amla with 153!) And 438 for 4 against India in Mumbai - de Villiers again, with hundreds from Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock as well.
Should we be surprised? Probably not. Over the 53-year history of one-day cricket, the game has become increasingly weighted in favour of batsmen. The bats and boundaries are obvious pointers, along with improved training and greater physical strength. Field restrictions, bouncer restrictions, helmets, two new balls that rarely seem to swing but stay hard and clear, grassless pitches, hapless bowlers are among the other reasons that batting records will continue to be shattered. The modern player seems not to fear the loss of his wicket either, which is a wonderful mindset with which to construct an innings.
The first really big one-day game was the 1963 Gillette Cup final at Lord's. Batting first, Sussex made 168 to beat Worcestershire by 14 runs in the 65-over contest. In both the quarter-final and semi-final, Sussex scored 292 batting first - a massive score - and squeezed the life out of Yorkshire and Northamptonshire respectively. The tournament was reduced to 60 overs per side the next year but this did not deter Sussex, who won again, mainly because Ted Dexter was the first captain to work out that a combination of attacking batting, full-pitched bowling and defensive field settings was the formula for success.
The first one-day international was between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in January 1971. When the first three days of the third Test were washed out, the Australian Cricket Board decided to abandon the match and replace it with a game played over 40 eight-ball overs. England's 190 featured 82 from John Edrich in 119 balls; Australia won with time and wickets to spare, courtesy Ian Chappell, who made 60 in 103 balls, and little cameos from Doug Walters and Greg Chappell. None of the players foresaw the seismic shift that was to change cricket for all time.
The 1975 World Cup in England gave them a clue. This was a true carnival of cricket, with a final that did justice to the first major global one-day event. Australia and West Indies were star-studded and fought long into the evening until the West Indian score of 291 prevailed over the 274 response. Clive Lloyd's famous hundred came off 85 balls; Richards ran out Alan Turner and the two Chappells. These blokes could really play. In the 1979 World Cup final, Collis King butchered England for 86 runs in 66 balls. King was more like the players of today - outrageous and carefree. These fellows used something like balsa wood in comparison to the clubs that allow the modern player such license.
By the time of the 1979 final, Kerry Packer's breakaway World Series Cricket had set a marker for one-day cricket. The sanctioned Benson and Hedges World Series triangular tournaments that followed it, played over 55 overs per side, changed the face of the game forever. Batsmen attacked as a matter of course, realising that the short form offered a whole new world of adventure and opportunity.
On Tuesday night Eoin Morgan made an interesting observation. He said the big change in his time in the game had been for the players to move from seeing one-day cricket as the short form of Test cricket, to instead embrace 50-over cricket as an extension of 20-over cricket. This, he said, had freed everyone up. No kidding. In the last two summers England have made six totals of 350 or more. They are now the most dangerous one-day outfit in the world.
Jason Roy came within five runs of Smith's record earlier this summer. Joe Root has passed 50 in five consecutive one-day internationals and barely raised sweat. Buttler amazes with both the violence and flexibility of his ball-striking. Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali did not even get to the wicket on Tuesday afternoon. Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett tied the first one-day game against Sri Lanka back in June, at Trent Bridge, with the brilliance of their lower-order batting.
These are happy times for England. The future is bright and the future is limitless.