Australia v England, 4th ODI, Adelaide January 26, 2011

More questions than answers for England despite win

Questions remain over England's middle and lower orders, with several players vying for places. There is no such thing as bad competition for places, but it certainly makes life tricky

England gambled in Adelaide and it paid off to keep the one-day series alive. They stacked the team with batsmen who reached 299, giving an attack including just three frontline bowlers enough runs to play with. It provided the latest example of how this team can dig deep and why there are expectations of a decent showing at the World Cup.

Jonathan Trott maintained his excellent form at No. 3 with 102 to take his one-day average to 54, then bagged two crucial wickets for good measure, Matt Prior bounced back from two ducks with a tone-setting 67 off 58 balls and Michael Yardy played his best 50-over innings for England with 39 off 27 balls. Even the horribly out-of-form Paul Collingwood managed to swing himself to a run-a-ball 27 and added a vital 56 with Yardy after the innings threatened to go off the rails.

In one way it's another tick in the selection box for Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower - they are very good at being pragmatic when it comes to selection and were fully justified on the day - but in another it doesn't really help answer many World Cup questions. Seven batsmen and three frontline bowlers won't work very often.

If England had picked their ideal World Cup starting eleven even three weeks ago Collingwood's name would have been in it and not Trott's. Now, though, he is doing his damnedest to become undroppable. His unbeaten 84 at Sydney gained mixed reviews, but this hundred was the ideal one-day anchor role. Pleasingly, too, he was aware of when the innings needed a kick and advanced down to pitch to John Hastings. There is no such thing as bad competition for places, but it certainly makes life tricky.

If Trott maintains this volume of runs at a decent pace and Collingwood's bowling is deemed too important to lose, the spotlight again turns to Ian Bell. At the start of the series he was England's premier batsman, fresh from a career-defining Ashes series, but has lurched back into his previous mode of bright starts. In Adelaide he didn't get that far, edging Steve Smith behind second ball, and could do with a substantial score before the series is done.

Strauss admitted that he won't be able to get away with Collingwood as a main bowler along with help from Yardy and Trott very often. "I don't think he could do it on all wickets if I am honest," he said. "On wickets like this one I think he's as useful as anyone. He's obviously got so much experience, he's got good variety."

For that reason, Collingwood's off-cutters will be valuable on the subcontinent which is why the management are so desperate for him to find form and gave him a chance at No. 7, where he hadn't batted for England since early 2005 against South Africa. Yet he remains the most vulnerable of the batsmen. His 27 included a six over midwicket but also plenty of edges.

So close to the start of a major tournament is ideally when roles need to be clearly defined. Part of England's problem is timing, in that the World Cup squad was named one match into this series, and another has been the injury list with Stuart Broad unavailable and both Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann flying home. At the end of last summer England had a settled unit and all those players were central to it.

But one man who must be wondering what his job entails is James Tredwell. He was first an England tourist in 2007-08 to New Zealand but, three years later, has just three ODI caps to show for his air miles, net sessions and drinks-carrying. He has played one match in this series at Hobart when he shouldn't have and missed another, Sydney, when he would have been useful. And in Adelaide with England wanting just one spinner it was again Yardy, but he was entrusted with just six overs.

Whenever Yardy has batted at No.7 he has felt a place too high in the order but in England's ideal scenario that would be his position. Swann, of course, will make a huge difference when he returns for the World Cup but Yardy can't be relied upon for 10 overs in an innings as he can for four in a Twenty20 match.

Clearly, England picked a team they felt ideal to keep them in the series. They achieved that aim so no criticism can be levelled and they could yet pull off an astonishing turnaround. Four years ago a side with considerably more issues than this one strung together four consecutive wins to take the CB Series from nowhere - although they were still a shambles at the World Cup that followed. Regardless of what happens in the next three matches that won't happen this time, but there remain a few more questions than answers right now.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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