England learn little from winning display
England on Wednesday claimed a straightforward seven-wicket victory in the first match of the NatWest Challenge against India but without removing any of the question marks that hang over their ability to compete with the best in the one-day game.
The doubts surround whether England can win when they bat first, whether the bowling attack is able to stand up to the pressure of an assault by high-class batsmen and whether Michael Vaughan will ever score heavily in limited-overs internationals.
At Trent Bridge, England, having won the toss, pushed over an out-of-sorts India for 170 before knocking the runs off to win with more than 17 overs to spare, wobbling only briefly when Vaughan made a seven-ball duck.
But after the one-day summer England have endured, any win is welcome and there were plenty of positives for the skipper to reflect on.
Vikram Solanki made a fine 50 on his return to the side and if he did display a little of the recklessness that cost him his place, he also offered a reminder of just what a fluent attacker he can be. There was also a brief but brutal cameo from Andrew Flintoff and another accomplished innings from Andrew Strauss.
And England bowled and fielded very well, although after the first 15 overs they were never put under any real pressure by an Indian batting order that looked jet-lagged.
Nonetheless, offered an opportunity, England turned the screw, and pleasingly for the selectors India's torturer-in-chief was debutant and later man of the match Alex Wharf, who came on to bowl during England's only difficult moment as Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman put together a 50 partnership for the second wicket.
In this sort of form, the Indians are murderously difficult to bowl at. A touch too wide and they will cut and drive you through the off-side, too straight and they will whip you through mid-wicket.
But Wharf had the answer in a tight line just outside off-stump, and was given the reward of three wickets in three overs. First Ganguly aimed an ill-advised pull and skied the ball to Geraint Jones behind the stumps. In his next over he moved a ball away from Laxman just enough to find an edge that also fell to Jones. Wharf's final victim was Rahul Dravid, who mis-hooked a ball to fine leg.
Another deeply unsatisfying one-day international was more or less over as a contest from that point, although there was one more moment of drama as Steve Harmison became just the second Englishman to take an ODI hat-trick, as he wrapped up the tail.