Time was when the nature of one-day cricket, and most particularly the limited time in which it was played, dictated to the players and left them with few choices to make of their own. Now, the present regulations on field placing have made the game less stereotyped and the improved flexibility and invention of captains and coaches has revived it as the thinking man's game.
Each innings has three parts and each part requires its own specialists. Part one is the first 15 overs in which only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard ring. England have ideal bold batsman for this, Alec Stewart and Nick Knight, and have Ally Brown in reserve. They do not, though, have the bowlers to cope with the sort of offensive launched by the Philo Wallaces of this world, never mind a Jayasuriya, a Saeed Anwar or a Tendulkar.
Darren Gough has been injured and his fitness is crucial if the world is to be conquered, for it will not be done without a whole lot more incisive display of fast bowling than we have seen here. Chris Lewis, the best ``first 15 over'' bowler in English cricket, has been ignored because he has made himself unpopular with The Management, which is stupid from whichever side of the case you observe it. ``Chris Lewis'', as he likes to call himself, must start to get on with English cricket otherwise the greatest stage of his life will pass him by, and vice versa.
England are well-equipped for bowlers in part two, the middle of the innings - overs 16-40 - when more normal cricket is played. Mark Ealham has an ideal temperament, Matthew Fleming is an all-round revelation and Robert Croft is maturing nicely as a man for all seasons. Dominic Cork lies in waiting, a natural match-winner who, when in tune with himself, has the cricketing gods on his side. He swings the ball and can bowl yorkers in part three of the innings, overs 40-50, along with Gough and Lewis and a mixture of the medium-pacers. All four bat brightly, too, and are thrilling improvisers who can score quickly off any bowling during the final advance of the innings.
There are still question marks over the batsmen for part two. Graham Thorpe has been missed as much for his skill in placing the ball and scoring a steady stream of twos when the field is set back, as for his left-handedness. Graeme Hick's batting appears to have lost its shape and is nothing like the dominant force that it still ought to be. Mark Ramprakash is barely out of the one-day blocks and it was something to behold yesterday when the idiosyncrasies of Jack Russell were preferred to Ramprakash's sublime gifts. A further batting option may come from Chris Adams, now of Sussex, who has hunger as his ally and who decimates county attacks, which is all that has been asked of him thus far.
Which brings us to the role of the Hollioakes. Should Ben play? Yes, conclusively if the team are being prepared for the World Cup; no, if the next match must be won. The last three games have stretched Adam's promising though embryonic captaincy. He made a mistake bowling himself and not Ealham in the dying moments of the second game in Barbados, which England deserved to win. This followed his mistake of bowling Dean Headley for too long at the beginning. Tactics went to plan in Sharjah and good fortune was on England's side, but flexible captaincy is needed when things go wrong and adaptability from the team, most particularly the batsmen, is needed if England are to excel in all conditions.