ENGLAND'S batsmen were confronted by their future tormentors yesterday, as they stuttered to 149 all out in 48.5 overs. Nixon McLean and Mervyn Dillon, both 23, destroyed England's top order with three wickets apiece inside the first 25 overs, a situation the visitors never recovered from as they lost both the match and the Cable and Wireless one-day series by a substantial margin.
It means that despite a new leader and a new team, England's parlous one-day record abroad continues, the success in Sharjah an unseasonal blip rather than any real upturn in fortune. Any claims that we are watching the future World Cup holders 13 months ahead of time is simply spurious.
Chasing 150, was never a problem for the home side, despite losing six wickets on this slightly inconsistent pitch. In fact so trivial was the target that Brian Lara declined to appear until his team were three wickets down.
When he did, the result became a formality, and the little maestro simply played the game on another level, scoring 51 from 61 balls. It was breathtaking stuff and he used his feet when others had been content to wait for mistakes, hitting England's bowlers, both fast and slow, exactly where he wanted.
After the crude but effective half-century from Clayton Lambert, it was the only thing that enlivened an otherwise predictable day's cricket, as the West Indies cruised home by four wickets with almost 13 overs to spare.
There cannot be many occasions over the last decade, that the West Indies have taken the field in the last decade without either Curtly Ambrose or Courtney Walsh. However, in cricket, one man's misfortune is often another's opportunity and Dillon in particular took his chance well, taking 3 for 32, after Ambrose had withdrawn with a bad back.
Poor England, they will no doubt complain, at least privately, that the pitch was again to blame. In truth they once again batted naively after winning the toss, their inability to improvise around their fixed set plan woefully exposed by some well-directed pace bowling.
In fact the pitch, if anything, appeared to defy cricketing logic by helping spin on Saturday and hostile pace on Sunday. Perhaps both McLean and Dillon are churchgoers. Yet, whatever caused the change, England struggled, their unchanging sea of medium pace no match for the West Indies' pair of speedy thoroughbreds.
Ironically, in view that he has cut a rather forlorn figure as drinks waiter, it was a surface that demanded patience rather than pyrotechnics; an Atherton perhaps instead of an Arthurian, though none would dispute Nick Knight's right to be in the middle after his two brilliant knocks in Barbados.
Another failure by him as well as by Alec Stewart left England exposed and they soon found themselves 17 for 3. Inevitably (premonitions of doom are something that have long dogged Graeme Hick's career) another wicket followed soon after, as McLean, bowling at top pace, plucked out the batsman's off-stump.
Picked in place of Mark Ramprakash - the theory being to have another left-hander to combat the leg-spin of Rawl Lewis - Jack Russell suddenly found himself at the crease before the end of the ninth over.
A poor Test tour behind him, Russell's hopes of being involved in the next World Cup are slim at best, and he realistically had little to play for here but personal pride. But pride can be a powerful motivator and combining with his captain Adam Hollioake, Russell helped put on 46 for the fourth wicket, a partnership that ended when Hollioake clipped Dillon to Hooper at short mid-wicket.
Four runs later, Russell erred against the fast bowler too, getting too far across his wickets to prevent a full toss crashing into leg stump. It was a mistake symptomatic of England's batting, their innings never really igniting despite their much vaunted batting depth.
With the pacemen bowling out, the lower order had to try and score against Saturday's nemesis, the spinners. Without wickets in hand, it proved a frustrating business and both Dougie Brown and Mark Ealham were out trying to get enough on the board to give themselves a chance. Something only the most optimistic punter would have countenanced.
England won toss
N V Knight c Jacobs b Dillon 3
(27 min, 17 balls
+A J Stewart c Lara b McLean 1
(9 min, 4 balls
B C Hollioake c Jacobs b McLean 2
(3 min, 4 balls)
G A Hick b McLean 22
(27 min, 23 balls, 2 fours)
*A J Hollioake c Hooper b Dillon 23
(68 min, 39 balls, 2 fours)
R C Russell b Dillon 21
(62 min, 39 balls, 2 fours)
M A Ealham st Jacobs b Hooper 17
(54 min, 45 balls)
D R Brown c Jacobs b Lewis 19
(35 min, 35 balls, 1 four)
M V Fleming b Simmons 7
(25 min, 21 balls)
R D B Croft c Jacobs b Simmons 12
(39 min, 37 balls)
A R C Fraser not out 12
(24 min, 29 balls, 1 four)
Extras (lb2,w8) 10
Total (191 min, 48.5 overs) 149
Fall: 1-7 (Stewart), 2-9 (B Hollioake), 3-17 (Knight), 4-33 (Hick), 5- 79 (A Hollioake), 6-83 (Russell), 7-115 (Brown), 8-120 (Ealham), 9-126 (Fleming), 10-149 (Croft).
Bowling: McLean 10-1-44-3 (one spell), Dillon 10-0-32-3 (w3) (7-0-20- 1 3-0-12-2), Hooper 10-1-24-1 (2-0-7-0 8-1-17-1), Simmons 9.5-0-26-2 (w2) (5-0-15-04.5-0-11-2), Lewis9-1-21-1 (5-0-9-1 4-1-12-0).
Progress: 50 in 63 min, 80 balls. 100 in 126 min, 164 balls.
C B Lambert c Ealham b Croft 52
(68 min, 62 balls, 6 fours)
P A Wallace b Fraser 4
(22 min, 9 balls)
S C Williams c Knight b Ealham 19
(81 min, 41 balls, 3 fours)
P V Simmons lbw b Croft 1
(10 min, 4 balls)
*B C Lara b A Hollioake 51
(75 min, 64 balls, 7 fours)
C L Hooper c Fraser b Fleming 15
(35 min, 23 balls, 1 four)
R D Jacobs not out 0
(24 min, 14 balls)
K L T Arthurton not out 3
(10 min, 11 balls)
Extras (lb2,w1,nb2) 5
Total (for 6, 166 min, 37.4 overs) 150
Fall: 1-18 (Wallace), 2-66 (Lambert), 3-67 (Simmons), 4-104 (Williams), 5-137 (Hooper), 6-145 (Lara).
Did not bat: R N Lewis, N A M McLean, M V Dillon.
Bowling: Fraser 6-0-27-1 (nb1), Brown 4-0-20-0, Croft 9-2-41-2, B Hollioake 4-0-18-0 (nb1), Ealham 4-0-19-1, Fleming 5.4-1-11-1 (w1), A Hollioake 5-0-12-1 (one spell each).
Progress: 50 in 55 min, 77 balls. 100 in 99 min, 132 balls. 150 in 166 min, 228 balls.
Lambert 50: 67 min, 61 balls, 6 fours. Lara 50: 73 min, 61 balls, 7 fours.
West Indies won by four wickets.
Umpires: S A Bucknor and B Doctrove.
TV Replay Umpire: G T Brown.
Match Referee: R S Madugalle.
Man of the match: B C Lara.
Adjudicator: Lance John.