England’s fortunes in today’s final Twenty20 match will cement in many minds the qualified success, or failure, of their arduous eight weeks against Pakistan in the Middle East.
But for coach Andy Flower, it is already clear his England team have made significant strides amid their struggles through the desert.
Should England prevail at the Zayed Stadium, a 2-1 comeback victory in cricket’s shortest format will give them a tangible success to add to their 4-0 one-day international series win.
That has helped, to some degree, ease the disappointment of their 3-0 Test series defeat, the first Tests England played as world number ones.
Flower does not believe the short-format wins do enough to erase the pain of Test defeat completely, but he is encouraged by the improvements made against Pakistan’s spinners by Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook.
Jonny Bairstow too appeared to have learned the lessons of the opening defeat as his match-winning unbeaten 60 helped level the Twenty20 series yesterday.
“That first game we put ourselves in a very strong position to win it,” said Flower.
“We had 35 to get off the last five overs with seven wickets in hand. Then there was some really good ‘death’ bowling from (Saeed) Ajmal and (Umar) Gul that ensured that we didn’t.
“But that was a great experience, for our young players especially.
“In this game we won last night, I thought Bairstow’s innings was outstanding - very skilful, and very powerful as well.
“That’s a very good combination to have.”