On the eve of the one-day series, Andrew Strauss described England's one-day performances as Jekyll and Hyde. Dr Jekyll turned up in Bristol yesterday, pristine, efficient, assertive yet charming.
The cause was additionally helped by the fact that the West Indies were doing their own Mr Hyde impression. Mr Hyde, that is, with the indiscipline and the carelessness but without the ferocity, Mr Hyde who was ready to roll over and have his tummy tickled. England played well enough and were fully worth their win with 14 overs to spare having chased 161 in the second match of the NatWest Series.
Most things they tried in the field seemed to work (including winning a toss that gave them the more favourable bowling conditions) and Strauss, their captain, was alert and pragmatic. He is becoming the captain England need and should have had somewhat sooner than last January.
The man of the match for the 12th time in his career was Paul Collingwood, who produced an archetypal, quiet but highly influential all-round performance: three wickets for spit when they were needed thoroughly undermined the tourists' innings, 47 not out after coming in at the only point West Indies might have dragged themselves back into the match.
Otherwise, the tourists could hardly have made their indifference plainer if they had handed out leaflets saying: "We don't want to be on the tour and never did."
On those grounds, it is difficult to judge whether England have made any real progress. But as Strauss said: "There is a really good feeling in the camp. Each time you win it makes you a little bit more confident. If you've lost a lot you get into a really bad situation and it can here we go again. The reverse is also true. If you're used to winning and you get on top of an opposition then it's a lot easier to be clinical."
Although there may be encouraging signs, it is much too early to be sure of anything. Only two one-day matches ago, do not forget, they were bowled out for 117 in Barbados and were left impotent as Chris Gayle led a West Indies charge to victory inside 16 overs. So, it remains pretty certain that England are not much good – yet. Their opposition, however, were hopeless. This was the first warm, sunny day of the summer, the ground was almost full and still they were not enthused.
"It can't go on like this," said their captain Chris Gayle. "We have got to do something because that was a really disappointing batting display." He was not kidding, but it may be too late.
Considering that the England and Wales Cricket Board parted with £3m to ensure the presence of their guests they might have expected more gratitude. For reasons not quite satisfactorily explained the ECB were determined to secure opposition for England in the early party of the summer and it could be said that they have been rewarded with not having any.
Occasionally, a glimpse could be caught of John Dyson, the West Indies coach, who has done so much to reinvigorate their team and to instil the necessary tenets of discipline and patience. He looked perplexed as well he might. This is what they meant when they said you can drag a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.
Most things that England tried came off. Having chosen to field, they made immediate inroads into the West Indies innings. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad (right) have settled into an opening partnership of some skill and while Anderson reeled off some tight overs, it was Broad who took the first two wickets
At 7 for 2, Gayle was still not about to intimidated. The pitch was slow, if not as slow as a Bank Holiday train which Nevill Road tends to be, and the position was parlous but off he went, blazing away. He was cutting loose when Strauss decided he had nothing to lose and much to gain by taking a gamble. In the ninth over with the first power-play fielding restrictions still in place he introduced the off-spin of Graeme Swann. It was a brave move and it looked braver still when Gayle clubbed his first ball, an off break of regulation length that did not turn, for six. What might come next was frightening if you were an England player: this was the man who struck 13 sixes against them in two one-day innings a few months ago.
Swann propelled the next ball at distinctly greater speed and honed it in on Gayle's pads. The batsman was ready to launch at anything but with the ball on him quicker than he expected he missed it and was bowled off his pads. Credit to captain and bowler because if it had gone wrong the consequences could have brought out the Hyde in England.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, inevitably, and Dwayne Bravo, hardly less expectedly, effected a minor revival. But Chanderpaul perished in playing an ill-advised pull shot and Bravo was bowled through the gate by Collingwood's second ball.
The rest fell in a fairly conventional procession and the array of shots on show was not devised to use the entire 50 overs. The pace of the pitch suited Collingwood, and Broad returned to finish off the tail to give him four wickets or more in a one-dayer for the fourth time.
At no point did 160 look sufficient and at no point was it. Strauss went early, Ravi Bopara was resplendent for a while, playing his wristy leg-side drive beautifully before he played round one from Bravo. Had West Indies taken a couple more quick wickets then who knows what might have happened.
But they had little gumption and less stomach. Collingwood, in his 160th one-day international, guided them home without fuss and not a little belligerence. He cannot have struck many sixes over long off in his previous 159.
The winning single was nudged by Eoin Morgan. It was his 24th one-day international but his first for England, the previous 23 having been for Ireland. West Indies would probably have lost to Ireland as well yesterday.
Bristol scoreboard: Second one-day international
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*England beat West Indies by 6 wkts
England won toss
West Indies Innings
*C H Gayle b Swann 31
L M P Simmons lbw b Broad 0
R R Sarwan c Prior b Broad 0
S Chanderpaul c Strauss b Bresnan 27
D J Bravo b Collingwood 50
†D Ramdin lbw b Collingwood 8
K A Pollard b Collingwood 8
J E Taylor run out 1
D J G Sammy not out 13
S J Benn c Bopara b Broad 1
R Rampaul c Swann b Broad 7
Extras (b2 lb7 w5) 14
Total (38.3 overs) 160
Fall: 1-2 2-7 3-44 4-107 5-128 6-131 7-134 8-150 9-153
Bowling: Anderson 6-1-19-0, Broad 8.3-1-46-4, Swann 8-1-26-1, Mascarenhas 6-0-24-0, Bresnan 4-0-20-1, Collingwood 6-0-16-3
*A J Strauss c Sammy b Taylor 4
R S Bopara lbw b Bravo 43
†M J Prior c Gayle b Sammy 11
O A Shah run out 38
P D Collingwood not out 47
E J G Morgan not out 2
Extras (lb9 w6 nb1) 16
Total (for 4, 36 overs) 161
Fall: 1-31 2-61 3-81 4-157
Did not bat: A D Mascarenhas, S C J Broad, G P Swann, T T Bresnan, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Taylor 7-2-29-1, Rampaul 6-0-23-0, Sammy 5-0-15-1, Bravo 6-0-30-1, Benn 9-0-38-0, Pollard 3-0-17-0
Umpires: E A R de Silva and P J Hartley
Man of the match: Collingwood
England lead the three-match series 1-0
After getting four wickets for England against the West Indies yesterday at Bristol, Stuart Broad has now taken 74 wickets in 48 innings in one-day internationals, giving him a bowling average of 26.62.