England made encouraging progress in one-day cricket under Michael Vaughan during the summer. His young and enthusiastic side won two tournaments and seven of the 10 matches they played against Pakistan, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Over the next week Vaughan has the perfect opportunity to build on these performances when England take on Bangladesh in three 50-over matches.
England are still some way from being a strong one-day side but Bangladesh's record in limited-overs cricket - 41 games without a win - is almost as appalling as in Test cricket. Because of this it is England who are under pressure but Vaughan's side should not be judged solely by results. As in the Test series, which England won 2-0, he and the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, will be looking at the way this group of players develops. To them this will be almost as important as the margins of victory.
Inexperienced teams are generally inconsistent because it takes players time to learn how to react in different situations. When a game is tight or a player is struggling for form there are plenty of wrong options to take. Fletcher and Vaughan will show tolerance with the players in this squad as long as they do not continue to make the same mistakes time and time again.
Great players appear to take the right option instinctively. They do not need the coaching and either know what to do or have the talent to play themselves out of a dodgy situation. In Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff and, maybe, James Anderson, this England squad has three players with these match-winning qualities. The remainder need to be taught what works the percentages in their favour.
Take Vikram Solanki as an example in yesterday's practice match against the Bangladesh Cricket Board Development XI. Solanki played superbly during his innings of 79 but why did he attempt to hit the ball over long-off for six when Andrew Strauss had been dismissed for 51 in the previous over? The Worcestershire batsman had the fielders where he wanted them and five runs an over were there for the taking.
Against better sides than the dreadful outfit England smashed by 167 runs such mistakes could prove costly. As a batting side in one-day cricket the last thing you want is two new batsmen at the crease. All of a sudden the fielders close in and the runs are harder to come by. Five overs of this in a 50-over game can cost you the match.
One thing the tourists are not short of is alternatives. In Paul Collingwood, Anthony McGrath, Ian Blackwell, Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty they have cover for every position apart from the wicketkeepers. "We have a young team and we are building for the future but I do expect us to win out here," Vaughan said. "I am fortunate that this squad allows us a lot of different options but we have to make sure we get it right in Chittagong [Friday's first one-day game]. We will pick the best team for each game."
Although England are focussed on beating Bangladesh, events in Sri Lanka are causing concern. President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared a state of emergency yesterday as the political crisis involving the peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels worsened. There have been frantic exchanges between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, who insist the players are in no danger and the tour is still on. Vaughan said: "We are here to play cricket, and until we hear otherwise we will continue to play." The ECB will continue to take advice from the Foreign Office.Reuse content