24th May: Mumbai Indians v R. Royals, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
Congratulations to England on finally winning something in what has been a desperate winter in India and the Caribbean, not to mention off the field with changes to the captaincy and the coaching staff.
Andrew Flintoff's hat-trick in the deciding match stole the headlines and ensured that for the West Indies there was no way back having been set 173 to win in 29 overs. What was quite remarkable was that the only other men to have taken an ODI hat-trick for England, James Anderson and Steve Harmison, were playing in that match. Both of those men had wildly contrasting tours - Anderson bristled with aggression throughout and led the bowling attack superbly, but Harmison was as disappointingly ineffectual as he has ever been.
Flintoff, meanwhile, remains something of an enigma. He continues to offer England penetration, pace and control with the ball in all forms of the game but his batting has not come close to reaching the heady heights it did in 2005. Number six is still too high for him, especially since Matthew Prior and Stuart Broad look more at home at the crease with each passing innings.
Since the 2005 Ashes win, Flintoff has scored just three half-centuries in Test cricket, averaging 24.46, taken 44 wickets at 34.54 and in ODIs, the difference is more marked: 720 runs at 25.71 (three half-centuries) but 59 wickets at 21.71 and an economy rate of 4.4. Since coming into the side, Broad has three half-centuries and an average of 29.18 and 38 wickets at 40.6 (Tests) and an average of 17.35 and 70 wickets at 27.48 with an economy rate of 5.03 in ODIs while Prior has scored two centuries, seven half-centuries and averages 48 in Tests.
What this shows that while Flintoff is definitely worth his place as a bowler, if he is an all-rounder, then so is Broad but it does add some weight to the argument that he is batting too high up the order. Flintoff's current bowling form allied with Broad's emerging batting form would make some player, which is probably a discussion for another day.
England fans will hold their breath, praying that Flintoff survives his stint in the Indian Premier League without suffering another injury. Flintoff, along with Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Graham Napier, Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara should learn plenty from their short stints in South Africa and England hope that the extra experience will stand them in good stead come the ICC World Twenty20 in June.
A look at the top of the Cricket World ODI MVP Rankings shows that Andrew Strauss is placed prominently after he defied his critics with some excellent ODI batting at the top of the order. His century in Guyana should have been a match-winner, had some of his team-mates decided to stick with him, and it was his initial assault that gave England the platform to win the Barbados match that was reduced to 20 overs.
It was therefore down to the decider St. Lucia and again England prevailed when the overs were reduced. Fine knocks from Pietersen and Bopara set things up, Anderson getting Chris Gayle early opened up the game and things were completed when Flintoff knocked over Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul and Sulieman Benn.
However, rewind back to Barbados and the opening match: it was heading for a thrilling climax with the West Indies needing 27 to win in 22 balls and with four wickets in hand, and the game could have gone either way. Crucially, the home side had fallen behind the Duckworth/Lewis par score, but the coaching staff didn't realise, called them in when the light was offered and were soon embarrassed to find out that England had won.
On such narrow margins can matches, series, even careers turn, and that win gave England some confidence and although it took them another two games to really show some proper form, the gift in Providence gave them the margin they needed.
The jury is still out for me on Bopara at the top of the order but he shows enough promise to be persisted with and in the absence of anyone banging on the door to fill the Marcus Trescothick-size hole in England's batting line-up, deserves a decent run alongside Strauss, who now must be named as captain for the summer series against the West Indies and Australia. I will let my colleagues debate whether he should remain in charge for the Twenty20 tournament or whether it might be better for a new team to be drafted in. My personal view is that specialists or not, England are so far behind, that it won't make much difference.
Stability is key to any successful team, so a swift announcement that Strauss will remain as captain and Andy Flower as coach is in order as the players either head off to the IPL or their counties to prepare for one of England's biggest summers in living memory.
Cricket World® Editor John Pennington, the 'voice' of Cricket World Radio, writes a weekly column on Mondays for www.cricketworld.com.
© Cricket World 2009