To do that, they will need to build on their batting exploits. At last, England managed an assertive start. Phil Mustard displayed hitting power and hitherto unimagined subtlety and selectivity in his 83, amassing 158 with Alastair Cook. Cook is undeniably growing as a limited-overs player. However, he still has a long way to go to succeed in emulating Matthew Hayden. With hindsight, his excruciating start – two runs from 17 balls, during which he was dropped – may have cost England the match. Tellingly, England scored an astonishing 227 from the 30 non-Powerplay overs, but only managed a relatively meagre 113 during the 20 overs of Powerplays. Cook’s strike-rate of 78 would be good on most wickets; but not so on the short boundaries of Napier. Still, the opening partnership of Mustard and Cook, two contrasting left-handers, is one that should be persevered with.
Unlike on numerous occasions in the past, England capitalised in the last 10 overs, adding over a century. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and especially Paul Collingwood appear in fine form after failures in the first two games, while Luke Wright bludgeoned quick runs before showing an ice-cool temperament with a brilliant final over of the game.
More worrying is the oft-unfairly treated Owais Shah. His best innings for England, including his 107 against India and 82 at Dambulla, came when given the chance to play a substantial innings before accelerating at the end. He struggled under the requirement of hitting from ball one, suggesting others should be promoted ahead of him in similar situations but, as a supremely talented player who can accumulate and find the gaps with his wristy style, Shah should not be discarded.
With the ball, however, England’s shortcomings were exposed. Besides the exemplary Ryan Sidebottom, bowlers consistently bowled too short. James Anderson is 25 and has played 85 ODIs, but his control is too often found wanting. Given that he has averaged 56, with an economy rate of 5.6, during his last nine games, Anderson needs to impress in the series finale – or he should be dropped.
But what of Dimi Mascharenhas? After two scintillating performances in the two Twenty20 games, there was a clamour for him to be included in the ODI side too. But he has failed to justify the hype, bowling nine overs for 69, seemingly lacking the confidence of Collingwood, and not being given the chance to show-off his six-hitting power. In the right conditions, both his bowling and batting could be of great use. Yet in the last two games, having dropped Graeme Swann, England have been left with just three front-line bowlers, and have subsequently been over-exposed.
But after the humiliations of the first two games, it is testament to England's resilience that they can still harbour hopes of sharing the series.