Fletcher's farewell present a little late
Barbados - Duncan Fletcher was never going to play a high-profile role in his farewell game, even before Brian Lara hijacked it.
After six weeks of disappointment, England finally provided him with a World Cup performance to be proud of but it was much too late to secure a semi-final place.
Michael Vaughan’s men looked out of it when a woeful start from their the opening bowlers allowed openers Chris Gayle and Devon Smith to return to form and add 102 together in the first 15 overs, setting West Indies on course for the 300 mark.
But finally, after the stumbling displays of the last six weeks, England showed some aggression at the top of the order.
Ravi Bopara, who arguably should have been moved up to three a fortnight ago, helped Vaughan take England to 100 after the first 15 overs.
Vaughan demonstrated some wonderfully uncomplicated stroke-making in his 79 and Kevin Pietersen hit his first century as part of a one-day victory, an indication of his increasing maturity.
Again, Pietersen got out with the job not yet finished but Paul Nixon again did exactly what he was brought into the side to do, nudging, sweeping and managing England into position before an assured World Cup debut from Stuart Broad finished matters.
Vaughan’s first fifty in a one-dayer for 21 months may have eased pressure on him to concentrate on Test cricket in future.
Dwayne Bravo’s second athletic run out started the usual England mid-innings collapse, with four wickets falling in nine overs for the addition of 34 runs.
But, unlike in previous games, they were up with the pace and a self-assured seventh-wicket stand between Pietersen and Nixon kept them there.
England looked to have given the game away in the first hour, James Anderson and Liam Plunkett conceding five wides in the first two overs.
Anderson appeared ready to fly home while Plunkett, back in the side for the first time in a month, struggled to gain a consistent length and saw Chris Gayle smash 21 off his fourth over.
Broad, in his first game of the tournament, also had a difficult start, Gayle punching and cutting two boundaries in a first over costing 11, but he recovered well.
West Indies captain Lara, playing his last ever international, commanded a standing ovation from the 28,000 present as he came in to bat, while Fletcher stayed in the shadows.
He can now hand the job of building England into a World Cup contender in 2011 over to Peter Moores.
England performed with the pressure of qualification off their shoulders, but they must have wondered what a difference a result like this earlier in the tournament would have had on their fragile confidence.