“Intent” has been the buzzword around the England squad this week and if that meant intent to lead by example then Paul Collingwood followed his own instructions to the letter.
His first appearance as the new captain may have ended in defeat, but at least he spared his team from embarrassment.
Chasing 209 to win the first of successive Twenty20 internationals at the Oval, England slipped to 101 for six in the thirteenth over before Collingwood and Michael Yardy, recalled to the team, began to chance their arms and put a West Indies side who had been cruising under pressure in the closing stages.
It said much for the task that England needed 62 from 25 balls when Collingwood completed his half-century with a third six, but with 15 runs coming off each of the next two overs from Darren Sammy and Daren Powell, thoughts turned to dream starts, new eras and all manner of similar clichés.
Sanity was restored when Ravi Rampaul conceded only seven runs and England will know that they were outplayed in most areas. With only three members of the initial World Cup squad taking the field, the team was more radically revamped than Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, but the new Prime Minister will hope for better results.
Neither Jonathan Trott nor Dimitri Mascarenhas reached double figures, while the latter was also expensive with the ball. Against that, the youthful opening partnership of Matt Prior and Alastair Cook made a reasonably strong start and Yardy looked a solid cricketer in all three disciplines.
The key moment arrived in the tenth over, when a brilliant piece of fielding by Dwayne Smith accounted for Kevin Pietersen. Not only did Smith pull off an athletic stop, but he then had the presence to throw to the right end. At one point it seemed that Pietersen had injured himself in a forlorn dive. Such fears were dismissed.
West Indies had built their total around inventive partnerships between Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and then Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin. It was hard to imagine that this same team had been thrashed by Derbyshire only four days earlier. One shot by Samuels, a pickup off Ryan Sidebottom that sailed over deep square leg out of the ground, must have left veteran spectators trawling their memories to recall a bigger hit.
The first innings began in Test-match fashion as Chris Gayle allowed the first three balls from Sidebottom to drift harmlessly outside off stump ? raising thoughts of a possible protest against his board in the latest episode of their ongoing row. But nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Devon Smith struck his first five legitimate balls for 22 runs and Chanderpaul was a different character to the crab-like obstacle who denied everything that England could throw at him during the Test series.
Nothing was more adventurous than the pair of boundaries deflected to fine leg stepping inside the line against James Anderson.
Collingwood had spoken of England “hunting in packs”, but a series of fumbles in the outfield meant that they failed to impose their presence. If anything, West Indies could have run more aggressively, although with boundaries coming freely they might have felt they did not need to take risks.
The spin of Yardy was introduced as early as the sixth over and his partial success called into question the surprising omission of Monty Panesar. Not that runs dried up completely and, to the frustration of the new captain, a series of mistimed shots either fell short or wide of fielders.
Mascarenhas suffered mixed fortunes, forcing catches from Chanderpaul and Smith but also straying off line too often for his liking. The bowling was a little too short in general and Samuels, raising his fifty from 25 balls, added to the momentum with some strong hitting in the second half of the innings.