England's arrested development
As the dust settled on an eventful tour, Michael Vaughan was full of the usual end-of-series platitudes. He led his team on a farewell lap of honour and accepted his share of the trophy with a ready smile. But, under his breath he will no doubt have been muttering: "Thank God that's all over."
After a winter of treading water (literally), England can finally tuck their one-day pyjamas under their pillows and head for home. They have learned precisely nothing in the 11 months since overwhelming South Africa in the final of the NatWest Series last summer, and they now have a two-month break from one-day cricket, in which time the likes of Anthony McGrath and Ian Blackwell will be entitled to ask themselves: "What was all that about?"
In the end, a 2-2 draw was just about right. England did not deserve an historic tour to end on a completely duff note; West Indies did not deserve to leave empty-handed after playing the more attractive cricket. But it was tough luck for England that, even at the bitter end of a long and largely successful winter, they were no closer to finding their perfect one-day team.
At least Marcus Trescothick is back to his bludgeoning best. His 82 from 57 balls was an even more explosive knock than he produced in St Lucia at the weekend, and would have been a platform for victory in any match. But Trescothick's form is incidental to England's one-day development. With seven centuries to his name already, he will remain the sturdiest piece of furniture in the team for a while yet, regardless of his Test form.
Of greater importance was the progress made by the up-and-coming members of the squad. And since Bangladesh, only Paul Collingwood has seen enough action for any genuine progress to be assessed. But that progress is good, as shown by another cool finisher's innings of which Graham Thorpe would be proud.
Andrew Strauss is a man very much in Collingwood's mould, and his contribution to the latter part of the series has been intriguing. Back-to-back half-centuries are not to be sniffed at, although on this evidence, he is more likely to have a long-term future as a replacement for Nasser Hussain in the Test team. If only a similar assessment could be made about Rikki Clarke, who has suffered more than most for his lack of opportunities. He was shoved up the order today, in a last-ditch bid to play more than just a bit-part, but he could not make it count.
At least Clarke's golden arm struck yet again, and to remove the biggest scalp of all. But the wicket of Brian Lara belonged exclusively to Chris Read, whose wonderful full-stretch catch was just the latest of his two-fingered salutes to the management that so ruthlessly culled him from the Test team. Read's glovework, not to mention his pocket-battleship batting, suggest that he might have a long and fruitful stay as England's one-day keeper.
As for concrete evidence, however. That will have to wait for the summer.