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As England were booed off the Kensington Oval yesterday after their feeble elimination from the World Cup, Duncan Fletcher, sphinxlike as ever behind his shades, may well have been mulling over the thought that Saturday's dead rubber against West Indies will be his last game as their coach.

It is possible Fletcher had already made his mind up to step down, but the humiliating nature of England's nine-wicket defeat to South Africa has surely removed any doubt. Last night Ladbrokes was offering odds of 6-4 on Fletcher being out of office before the first Test against West Indies at Lord's on May 17. On yesterday's evidence it was hard to disagree.

"It's a very sad day for English cricket," said the England captain, Michael Vaughan. "It's a horrible feeling to walk off and be booed by a lot of English supporters, and rightfully so from the performance we put in. I fully expected us to turn up and produce something, but we didn't and we have to accept all the criticism that comes our way."

Fletcher, who did not speak to the media after yesterday's game, will not be exempt. The seven-man panel charged with reviewing the last four years of England's Test and one-day performances, chaired by Ken Schofield, may deliver its verdict within three weeks. One of its number, Angus Fraser, has already declared his hand, calling for Fletcher to go. That made a mockery of one claim that the Schofield panel stood behind Fletcher, but its recommendations are unlikely to decide his future in any case. Despite a mainly disastrous winter in charge, he will almost certainly be allowed to jump before he is pushed.

Fletcher came under fire for his role in England's first Ashes whitewash for 86 years and has cut an even more remote figure than usual in the Caribbean because he believes the criticism veered towards personal abuse. But he stands accused of losing touch with his players and four days ago he refused to confirm he would be in charge come Lord's. After 7½ years in the job, he has almost certainly had enough.

"It's very hard to comment," said Vaughan. "You all know how close I am to him. I still think he's an outstanding cricket coach and has a tremendous amount to offer the English game. Only he will be able to tell you exactly how he's feeling at the moment, but I know he'll be very disappointed and hurt inside.

"The most important thing is to get English cricket back on track. Since 1992 we haven't produced any good one-day cricket and we need to know why. It's not about Michael Vaughan or Duncan Fletcher. It's about working out who the best person is to lead England forward. If it's me and Fletch we have to sit down and make sure we come up with a better strategy."

For all England's progress in the Test arena under Fletcher, their lacklustre performances since the Ashes triumph in 2005 suggest he probably outstayed his welcome. England have won one Test series out of five in that time and their one-day record has gone from bad to downright embarrassing, but a chorus of catcalls would be an inappropriate final bow for the most successful of all England coaches - his 96 Tests in charge have brought 42 wins and 30 defeats.

If Fletcher does decide to step down, England will need to replace him quickly. Tom Moody will be in the frame once his stint in charge of Sri Lanka finishes at the end of the tournament, but England would be just as tempted to promote from within. And that could mean a job for Peter Moores, the 44-year-old director of the National Cricket Academy. England may be preparing for change in more ways than one.
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