Are England beginning to travel well or is it just a question of fitting the right players to the right game? Waiting for his taxi to turn up to take him to the Sharjah stadium, Derek Pringle seeks some answers.
Appearances can be deceptive, but at long last the England selectors do look as if they are beginning to get things right. Two wins in two games in Sharjah may not be the same as hoisting the World Cup but England have won here without reaching peak capacity and that must surely bode well for both the short and long-term future.
Equally heartening has been the squad's effusiveness off the field. While recent England sides have been criticised for appearing allergic to touring, this one has bubbled away in public with all the vivacity of a dizzy blonde.
Alec Stewart, himself a blond and the senior pro in this side, believes that the squad's preparation in Lanzarote and Lahore has been the key to their form. "The lads have just gelled and that always helps you to play well," he said.
The owner of 92 one-day caps, Stewart, by some way the most experienced member of the squad, feels that the short, sharp feel of the tournament has helped players to keep their eye on the prize. On a 14-week tour, such as the one facing England in the Caribbean, the object can seem fairly distant and can often become obscured.
"It helps too that a lot of the players out here are inexperienced and naive at this level," he said. "I think that makes them pull harder in order to prove themselves. There's a lot at stake now one-day cricket is no longer considered to be inferior to Test cricket and I think that is being reflected here. Being solely a one-day player does not carry the baggage it used to."
It is a valid point. In the past, when teams were not tailored to the specifics of the long or short versions of the game most players, finding themselves faced with a spate of one-day games on tour, knew that poor performances were likely to have little bearing on their Test place. Motivation, if not exactly lacking, was not raised to fever pitch either, as it has been in Sharjah.
In contrast to the last World Cup where England's tactics and selections were confused and quaintly redundant next to Sri Lanka's bold game plans, Hollioake's side have been well briefed. But if that conditioning has occasionally found England wanting on the big occasion in the past, the presence of at least six all-rounders has allowed this team to be daring in its approach to setting and chasing targets.
According to the England coach, David Lloyd, it is two and three-dimensional cricketers (ones who can bat, bowl and field well) rather than specialists, who are the the new currency of one-day cricket. If you count Graeme Hick, England have seven in their squad, something that affords their captain a multitude of options.
Being one himself, skipper Hollioake, agrees with his coach. "Having so many definitely helped us to beat the West Indies," he said. "Playing with so many all-rounders gives the early order the freedom to attack without worrying about failure."
Having cut a distinctly uncomplicated figure out here so far, the inevitable comparisons between Hollioake and England's Test skipper, Michael Atherton, who opted to rest for this tournament, are already circulating. Extrovert versus introvert is how some are seeing it, and as Matthew Fleming, England's bowling star from the match against India reminded us: "One-day cricket is a game for extroverts and we've got 14 of them out here."
Hollioake is not letting the idle speculation distract him. "I'm new to the job. I haven't got any scars and I'm confident of doing it my way. So far, I've made mistakes in the games. But how good are we going to be when we get it right? In any case, I'd rather we make mistakes here than in the World Cup."
However, that collective fizz, is going to have to be at its most effervescent today when England meet Pakistan, the most naturally talented of the sides in this competition. With probably the best fast bowler (Wasim Akram), the best spinner (Saqlain Mushtaq) and the most explosive pinch-hitter (Shahid Afridi), it won't be a match for the faint-hearted.
West Indies won toss
P A Wallace b D R Brown 0
(1 min, 1 ball)
S C Williams c Thorpe b Headley 22
(51 min, 37 balls, 3 fours)
B C Lara lbw b D R Brown 0
(1 min, 2 balls)
C L Hooper not out 100
(189 min, 135 balls, 6 four)
S Chanderpaul lbw b Ealham 16
(39 min, 39 balls, 1 four)
P V Simmons c Croft b Hollioake 29
(57 min, 46 balls, 1 four)
D Williams run out 4
(9 min, 9 balls)
R N Lewis b Fleming 13
(22 min, 22 balls, 1 four)
F A Rose not out 11
(10 min, 11 balls, 2 fours)
Extras (nb2) 2
Total (for 7, 193 min, 50 overs) 197
Fall: 1-0, 2-0, 3-50, 4-77, 5-143, 6-151, 7-181.
Did not bat: *C A Walsh, M Dillon.
Bowling: D R Brown 7-1-28-2; Headley 7-1-24-1 (nb2); Ealham 10-1-28-1; Croft 10-0-40-0; Hollioake 8-0-41-1; Fleming 8-1-36-1.
Progress: 50: 49 min, 77 balls. 100: 118 min, 184 balls. 150: 156 min, 243 balls.
Hooper 50: 114 min, 81 balls, 5 fours. 100: 189 min, 135 balls, 6 fours.
A D Brown c Lewis b Walsh 10
(21 min, 18 balls, 1 four)
A J Stewart c Walsh b Rose 23
(45 min, 25 balls 3 fours)
N V Knight c D Williams b Dillon 10
(46 min 30 balls)
G A Hick run out 28
(69 min, 54 balls, 2 fours)
G P Thorpe c D Williams b Hooper 57
(121 min, 75 balls, 2 fours)
*A J Hollioake c Chanderpaul b Dillon 9
(21 min, 15 balls)
M A Ealham not out 28
(73 min, 49 balls, 3 fours)
D R Brown not out 16
(20 min, 18 balls, 1 four)
Extras (lb7, w4, nb6) 17
Total (for 6, 211min, 45.5 overs) 198
Fall: 1-21, 2-45, 3-53, 4-100, 5-123, 6-173.
Did not bat: M V Fleming, R D B Croft, D W Headley.
Bowling: Walsh 9.5-1-51-1 (nb5, w1); Rose 10-0-38-1 (nb1) ; Dillon 10- 0-38-2 (w2); Lewis 6-0-34-0 (nb3, w1); Simmons 2-0-8-0; Hooper 8-1-22- 1.
Progress: 50: 59 min, 77 balls. 100: 114 min, 146 balls. 150: 167 min, 221 balls.
Thorpe 50: 106 min, 67 balls, 1 four.
Umpires: B C Cooray and K T Francis.
England won by four wicketsReuse content