What exactly is this Super Series that England are playing against Sri Lanka?

If you thought today was merely the start of a Test series between England and Sri Lanka, think again: it's actually the start of a Super Series.

For the first time in men's cricket, the teams will use a cross-format points system. How does it work? What's the point? And is it destined to fail? We take a look...

What's this Super Series malarkey?

Alastair Cook
Let's hope we can roll them over in the Tests lads! (Joe Giddens/PA)

The idea, according to ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss, is to give each and every game of cricket "context and relevance". Hence, the tours involving Sri Lanka and Pakistan are being played using a points system. A Test match win is worth four points, and a draw worth two. In one-day and Twenty20 internationals, a win is worth two points and a tie worth one.

Win the Super Series and you win £25,000. To put that into context, a certain Wayne Rooney earns reportedly nearly 12 times that amount. In a week.

Is this really that historic?

England women
You do the math (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Well, yes and no. No, in that the women's Ashes already employs the system. In fact, in the 2015 Women's Ashes the points for a Test win came down from six to four, in a bid to provide a bit more balance across formats. Makes sense as the women only play one Test match, which means the three ODIs and three T20s can still influence proceedings.

The men are giving this a try for the very first time.

So what are the permutations?

Sri Lanka
Must-win all the way (Rui Vieira/AP)

On the face of it, the idea is great if you want things like the solitary T20 at the end of a tour to mean something. Example - England play three Tests, five ODIs and one T20 against Sri Lanka.

Now if England sweep the Tests 3-0 that's 12 points in the bag. But if Sri Lanka win the ODIs 5-0 that's 10 points for the visitors. Therefore, the two points at stake in the T20 become a little bit crucial, that is, if Sri Lanka are happy with simply drawing the Super Series. Because of course humans invented sport so they could shake hands on a draw every single time.

So what could go wrong?

Who needs enforcers when you can enforce stoppages (Andrew Matthews/EMPICS)

Let's look again at that example. If England win the Tests 3-0, Sri Lanka are basically playing must-win games from there on. As explained above, Sri Lanka would need to sweep the ODIs and then hope for a win in the T20 just so they can draw the Super Series. And let's not forget the great British weather, which could also scupper hopes should either team be facing must-win games.

The potential for irrelevance gets even greater later in the summer when Pakistan visit these shores, with four Tests, five ODIs and one T20 on the menu. So, say England win the Test series 4-0, that's 16 points and it means Pakistan have lost the Super Series. The potential for different formats to influence the Super Series is gone.

Any saving grace?

Andrew Stauss
Pub? It's thataway (Steve Paston/EMPICS)

The only way to keep Strauss' "relevance" buzzword flowing throughout will be if the Test and ODI series are closely fought. It's a great feeling to have before a series: "Come on lads, let's fight for every blade of grass on that green-top pitch."

Not so great if you've lost the Test series: "Come on lads, let's fight to... err... draw this Super Series." Those one-day games could potentially be less relevant than ever.

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