Michael Vaughan's side completed a miserable four days for England's three major national teams when they were comprehensively beaten by the West Indies in their first game of the NatWest series. The margin of defeat - seven wickets - and the quality of the performance - pretty ordinary - fell somewhere in between those of England's footballers and rugby players. But ultimately, like the nation's rugby team, they were outclassed.
This West Indian win was based on an excellent display in the field and a responsible innings of 60 from the opener Chris Gayle. After dismissing England for 147 in 38.2 overs - their fourth lowest total in one-day internationals at home - the tourists eased past their target when Brian Lara clipped James Anderson for four with 17.4 overs still to be bowled.
In the build-up to this tournament Lara stated how important it was for his young side to start their three-month tour of England well. He would have taken encouragement from the way the West Indies bowled and fielded yesterday.
In one-day cricket these are the two departments where Lara's team are at their most vulnerable, yet on this occasion it was where they won the game. Inexperience is an excuse often handed out by Duncan Fletcher following a poor performance, yet the five bowlers the West Indies used here had played only 47 one-dayers between them.
England's innings got off to the worst possible start when Marcus Trescothick clipped the fourth ball of the day to Lara at square leg. It got worse in Ian Bradshaw's second over, when Michael Vaughan chipped a simple catch to Ramnaresh Sarwan at mid-on.
After the game Lara questioned the wisdom of England opening the batting with their two best players. Lara feels that in English conditions, where the new ball seams and swings, the team's best batsmen should bat at four and five, where they will be protected from the new-ball yet be in a position to dominate from the 20th over.
That England reached 147 was down to an excellent partnership of 82 between Geraint Jones and Andrew Strauss. The pair, at three and four for the first time, collected their runs off just 90 deliveries. Jones's innings contained several trade-mark cuts and a couple of delightful clips to the deep square-leg boundary. Strauss looked compact but rather than improvise he waited for the bad ball to come along.
On 84-2 England were back in the game and looking to post a score of around 250. But Jones' lost his wicket when he attempted to cut a ball from Ravi Rampaul which was too close to him and England lost their last eight wickets in 22 overs for only 63 runs.
Knowing what is a good total has been a problem for England, and it is one of the reasons why they have not won a one-day international batting first since they beat Pakistan in the World Cup 16 months ago. On too many occasions they have set their sights too high and have fallen well short of a competitive score. On this pitch, which offered the quicker bowlers consistent movement, a total of 220 would have made a contest.
Paul Collingwood became Rampaul's second victim before Dwayne Bravo ripped out England's middle order with an intelligent spell of medium pace bowling. It won the 20-year-old the man-of-the-match award.
Strauss was the first to fall to the Trinidadian when he wafted at a good delivery and edged a simple catch to the keeper. Bravo was bowling around the wicket to the Middlesex captain, a tactic which is being used more and more against him.
Then in consecutive Bravo overs Ian Blackwell was superbly caught by Shivnarine Chanderpaul at midwicket and Anthony McGrath edged to Gayle at first slip. This left Rikki Clarke with England's tail. The Surrey all-rounder attempted to cajole a few more runs from this hopeless position but the pace of Jermaine Lawson proved too much for Darren Gough and Stephen Harmison.
It was this partnership which opened the bowling for England. Vaughan set attacking fields. He had to. If England were to pull off an unlikely victory they had to bowl the West Indies out.
Harmison ran in hard and bowled with hostility. Neither Gayle or Chanderpaul looked comfortable as the Durham man bowled in excess of 90mph. But it was Gough who found the outside edge of each opener's bat, only to see the ball dropped in the slips by Strauss and Trescothick.
McGrath made the initial breakthrough and Anderson gave England hope when, during an indifferent spell, he took a couple of wickets. But this only brought Lara to the crease and the little genius, along with Gayle, finished England off in double quick time with a 55-run partnership off only 45 balls.Reuse content