England have won the best-of-five series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka 3-2. In two of the games they were awful. And in three of them they were brilliant. What does this tell us about how good England are? Haven't a clue.
England's ODI form over the past 18 months has actually been pretty decent. A great win out in South Africa. Wins against Bangladesh home and away, followed by another series victory against a strong Pakistani outfit. So had England turned a corner from the 20 odd years of ODI mediocrity? Well, not according to a 6-1 drubbing in Australia and a poor World Cup. But there are the excuses of a tired team fatigued after a heavy winter plagued by big injuries to key players. And as bad as we were in the defeats to Ireland, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, England were immense in wins against South Africa and the West Indies (and in the tie against India), which counter-balance out the dross. So we're no closer to actually working out if we're any good.
Everyone sort of knew that England weren't that good at the World Cup, and that changes needed to be made. But cosmetic changes of Cook and Kieswetter in for Strauss and Prior aside, there isn't anything that glaringly obvious wrong about this England ODI side (now that Luke Wright has been cast into the international hinterland). Were we a decent team who were doing things right but just had a poor World Cup. Or not?
And then we have just had the Sri Lanka series. In the first game, England were great. In games two and three, they were horrible. And then everything was right with the world as they won the final two to clinch the series. So are England actually good at ODIs?
Well, yes. And at the same time, no. England are just so inconsistent that it's nigh on impossible to sum up their limited over performances in one neat sentence. Nobody knows what side will turn up. Will it be the lifeless side of leaky bowlers and plodding batsmen who are barely competitve, or a side of world-beating nerve-holding six-hitting wicket-taking flying-catching renegades who blitz the opposition and have won the game in an hour? Consistency, and the persuit of it, is surely what the Flower-Cook combo will be striving for in ODI cricket over the next few years, yet it is what has remained the most elusive element of English limited over recent history.
Can England go on and win in their next ODI series against World Champions India? Absolutely. But at the same time, they could get absolutely humped. So in answer to my early question, just how good are England at ODIs? Because I haven't got a bloody clue...