It was presumed that James Anderson had done little throughout England's tour of the Caribbean but train hard and keep smiling. All the time, it emerged yesterday, he was also ensuring that his golden arm remained in full working order.
Anderson has already revealed this much-envied weapon several times before in his short career, and he put it on view almost immediately yesterday on his return to the side. He had bowled a couple gentle looseners and a wide when he placed one woefully short and wide outside Chris Gayle's off stump.
The batsman, who was presumably unaware of Anderson's reputation, seized on it gleefully and slammed it hard and knee high to Paul Collingwood's left at point. He was simply messing with the wrong bowler and the wrong fielder. Anderson, like Darren Gough six days previously, was back.
This was the only small consolation for England as the last section of their winter tours continued to be beset by torrential, unseasonal rain. After Guyana's turn last weekend, it is now Trinidad's. The early halt yesterday ensured that Brian Lara's return as the conquering hero was delayed.
Given the deluge that halted proceedings, it is unlikely that today's match, the scheduled third in the Cable & Wireless Series, will take place. It is a pity, for Lara's entrance to the arena on his home ground for the first time after making 400 in a Test innings would be one of the most moving of sporting scenes.
Nothing is more designed - not even the intended schedule of playing the last six matches in the one-day international series in 12 days - to leave the players pining for spring at home. The deluge, the third in consecutive days over Port-of-Spain, came after 16 overs and was merely topping up the water that was already lying under the surface. West Indies, who had won the toss after the start was delayed for an hour (courtesy of Friday's downpour), were 57 for 2.
England were expecting to be dog tired in a fortnight after their one-day excursions. At this rate, they will only be bored and drenched.
Michael Vaughan, the captain, had issued a mild but significant warning against heavy schedules on the eve of the match. He said there was nothing players could do about it because boards were packing in games to fill grounds to raise more money. The objective of that, of course, is to pay the players.
England had no option but to agree to play a seven-match series in the Caribbean because they are expecting the West Indies to play at least six (seven if they reach the final) in the NatWest Series at home this summer. There is as yet no sign of the one-day goose that laid the golden egg having to visit the sanatorium, let alone shrivelling up. Fans love it and the way to stop players becoming complacent is to pack the team with one-day specialists.
Five is probably the ideal number to promote excitement and decide who are the superior team. The recent clash between Pakistan and India (3-2 to the visitors) was testimony to that.
One-day cricket is showbiz and the secret of showbiz is to leave 'em wanting more.
In leaving Anderson out of the side England's management might have surprised even themselves. Despite his Test absences, until last Sunday Anderson had played 27 from 28 one-day games and England lost the one from which he was rested, against Zimbabwe. He needs more, not less, bowling if he is to become a master of his trade. England must find it for him.
The same could not be said of Steve Harmison, who took the other West Indies wicket to fall yesterday in seven overs which conceded 16 runs. He is already a one-day bowler completely transformed from the one who bowled wide after wide in Australia last winter. He probed Shivnarine Chanderpaul's off stump yesterday until the batsman obliged by nicking one.
"I've been really nervous before the games because of what happened last winter but I've drawn on my Test experiences and I'm more confident of getting the ball in decent areas," Harmison said. "I feel part of the one-day team now and I think playing in one-day cricket might actually help my Test cricket. It isn't the days you're playing when you feel tired, it's those in between. Once the cricket starts, you get on with the job and the adrenalin takes over."
But Harmison has toiled manfully for England this winter. He deserves a rest. If it continues like this, home cannot come soon enough for everybody.
Queen's Park Oval scoreboard
West Indies won toss
C H Gayle c Collingwood b Anderson 20
S Chanderpaul c Read b Harmison 3
R L Powell not out 8
R R Sarwan not out 11
Extras (lb6, w9) 15
Total (for 2 wkts, 16 overs) 57
Fall: 1-28 (Chanderpaul), 2-34 (Gayle).
Bowling: Gough 5-0-20-0 (4w); Harmison 7-1-16-1 (4w); Anderson 3-0-13-1 (1w); Flintoff 1-0-2-0.
Did not bat: *B C Lara, D R Smith, D J J Bravo, ÝR D Jacobs, M Dillon, R Rampaul, C D Collymore.
England: M E Trescothick, *M P Vaughan, A J Strauss, P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, I D Blackwell, R Clarke, ÝC M W Read, D Gough, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.
Umpires: D L Hair (Aus) & B Doctrove. Third Umpire: B Morgan. Match Referee: J J Crowe (NZ).
Match abandoned due to rain. Previously restricted to 46 overs per side.
1st ODI, Guyana, 18 April: England won by 2 wkts; 3rd ODI, Trinidad, 25 April; 4th ODI, Grenada, 28 April; 5th ODI, St Lucia, 1 May; 6th ODI, St Lucia, 2 May; 7th ODI, Barbados, 5 May.Reuse content