Bangladesh cricket
England narrowly won the one-day series against Bangladesh. Getty

Once upon a time Britain gave railways and cricket to the world. In return, the British Empire took all the natural resources – via those railways and then the seas – that were needed to make this green and pleasant land a very rich one too.

The railways are still there, although have mostly been superseded by the age of the aeroplane. While cricket has been a sporting battlefield on which the former empire can exact its revenge. In the 1930s, the great Bodyline controversy during the Ashes test series was about so much more than cricket: it was about British brutality against Australian victims: cricket a metaphor for empire.

Since the break up of the British Empire in the India sub-continent, the former constituent parts have gradually been allowed to become Test playing nations. India achieved Test status in 1932, before the actual break with the Empire in 1947. Pakistan followed in 1952, Sri Lanka in 1982 and Bangladesh (formerly, and somewhat ridiculously, geographically-speaking, East Pakistan) in 2000.

Each of those nations have initially struggled to find their feet at international cricket, but have each reached points where they are no longer subservient minnows, and England has found difficulty in adjusting to this shift in the balance of power.

Off-the-field cricket's power has shifted. Cricket's symbolic apotheosis of the British Establishment, the Marylebone Cricket Club, with its strict membership and ties-must-be-worn rules, used to run the sport, but no longer. It was superseded by the International Cricket Council, which, itself had previously been called the Imperial Cricket Conference. The ICC was based on MCC turf at Lord's cricket ground in London but in 2005 moved to Dubai, reflecting the shift in the sport's epicentre.

Meanwhile Indian cricket grew in stature, winning their first World Cup in 1983 and going supercharged via the phenomenon that was Sachin Tendulkar to the financial powerhouse now that is the Indian Premier League.

Bangladesh cricket
Sam Billings trudges off during the third ODI between Bangladesh and England at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. Getty

Pakistan's victory over England in the 1992 World Cup final saw that relatively new nation claim the global title before its former colonial masters. The former colony of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, won the next World Cup. England still haven't won the 50-over World Cup (despite hosting four tournaments, including the first three).

India are now more than England's cricketing equals both on and off the field. Last month Pakistan became the number one ranked test playing team, despite being forced to play their "home" games outside their own country since 2009.

This week, England just edged out Bangladesh to win a three-game one day international series, but it was a close fought contest, just 16 years after the former East Pakistan had graduated to cricket's big league. Bangladesh, powered by talents such as Mashrafe Mortaza and Sabbir Rahman, had won their previous six bilateral ODI series and faced England no longer as underdogs. Next week, the two nations will begin a Test series that could be the most keenly contested between the pair thus far.

The over-the-top reaction to England's narrow ODI series victory shows just how much cricket means and how intrinsically linked it is to national identity. The imperial power may have temporarily reasserted dominance but history is driving those who were once the subjugated.

Should one wish to draw it, a historical correlation could be drawn between the end of England's cricketing dominance and membership of the European Union. The UK joined the EU (then the European Economic Community) in 1973 just as the West Indies were to begin an era of cricketing domination. Australian hegemony followed and, while no one team has dominated for long periods since, England (and Wales, as the ECB officially represents) have often struggled, with occasional victorious periods.

England
England sealed their ODI victory on Wednesday but Bangladesh's continued rise was on show. Getty

Can England become cricket's superpower again? Possibly, but it is unlikely to feature a return to long periods of domination for the sport, and the world, has changed. Other nations have bigger cricketing fan bases, wider pools of players, and greater financial muscle.

Those who hope that politics, economics, and, indeed, cricket, can return to pre-European Union days are living in an historical fantasy.

The British Empire was built on naval power and colonisation including via those railways. The seas are no longer of the import they once were to political and trading dominance. While trade is a different kettle of fish altogether. The Brexiteers who preach an economic philosophy that sees Britain return to pre-EU strengths are failing to see that the world – like cricket – has changed.

Britain will not be able to reap the financial benefits of pillaging the resources of the once great Empire. Without the benefits of the EU, Bangladesh and other countries will be trading equals with Britain. And if they are not treated as such, then the feistiness recently seen on the cricket field will be replicated in trade talks. Bangladesh, and so many other nations, are no longer prepared to accept their place in the world, if their place is subservient. The time of the Bangladesh Tigers is upon us.