Match-winners vital to hopes

Kevin Pietersen & Andrew Flintoff

Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff are England's main performers © Getty Images

England's welcome victory over West Indies provided a slightly different vision of the state of their one-day cricket at present.

During the calendar year of 2006 England have won four and lost 14 of their completed matches against Test-class opposition.

But last Saturday's triumph may prove a turning point for the winter ahead, albeit coming in a dead rubber against a Windies team resting two frontline bowlers.

Full of confident performers whenever they pull on their whites, there are few of that persuasion in the England ranks when it comes to the red and blue dresscode.

While in Tests the sum of England’s parts ensure plenty of runs and 20 wickets more often than not, they have fewer genuine match-winners when overs are limited.

Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, two of England's star performers, were at the fore in Ahmedabad and they looked a different team.

Another of them, Marcus Trescothick, will be added to the equation in preparation for the World Cup and Steve Harmison, who has shown the potential to be one on his better days, will hopefully have shaken the malaise when the one-day squad reconvenes in the new year.

This three-week jaunt to the subcontinent may well have been viewed as a pre-Ashes training camp, to boost fitness for key men returning from lay-offs, and from that perspective it was not such a bad thing.

Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen provided the impetus England needed on Saturday © Getty Images

The mood in the opening days was focused and a belief hung in the air that a repeat of 2004 when they reached the final was on the cards.

But England are eighth in the one-day rankings for a reason and they played to their billing against both India and Australia.

They will have to perform when it matters - there are a maximum of 11 matches now before they head off to the Caribbean for the World Cup - to convince the elite sides to take them as a serious threat.

Pietersen’s X-factor, which hurled him headlong from untried to untouchable as a one-day player inside a year, was on display under the Sardar Patel Stadium floodlights at the weekend.

The return to form of the reigning ICC one-day player of the year and return to bowling of Flintoff were significant for what lies ahead in both forms of the game.

Pietersen was in top gear when he slammed Dwayne Bravo over extra-cover for a six which levelled the scores on Saturday, while Flintoff was somewhere near full capacity as a bowler - he was clocked at 87.5mph in his first spell for England in almost five months.

When he is able to bowl a full 10 overs again, the attack will have a significantly more menacing feel.

Harmison has proved to be dangerous in the past while James Anderson and Sajid Mahmood, who finished as leading wicket-taker in India, have the ability to get good batsmen out.

Consistency has been the downfall for most of the young players in the frame but Ian Bell, who has shown how a restrained authority can be a decent foil to aggression, has prospered since being granted a prolonged run.

Jamie Dalrymple’s thirst for a contest has given more of a competitive edge to a group, the vast majority of whom will carry English hopes to the West Indies next March.

Get our free apps

Apps Promo

Download the ECB Cricket app for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Nokia phones and get live scores, news, video and other services on the move