England are World 20/20 Champions.
That is a sentence that we never thought we would write. England have long been the rank outsiders for these tournaments, usually collapsing in a mire of mediocrity. This tournament, however, the limited overs world has flipped on its head and now here we are, able to celebrate England winning an ICC world title.
Being English, right up until the final couple of overs, there was a suspicion that something could have gone wrong and that Australia would somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Such fragile confidence though appears to have little place with this new England. In test cricket England have been greater than the sum of their parts for sometime and despite only flashes of brilliance against Australia last Summer, and then this Winter in South Africa, they have managed a win and a draw away from home. Even as recently as England’s games against Pakistan in Dubai, this form hadn’t yet translated into limited overs cricket, although this now appears to have changed.
From the first over when Watson was caught by Swann with a brilliant reaction catch, to the point where Collingwood smashed his second ball over mid wicket for six to bring the scores level, England had been in charge and the win when it came, was as emphatic a victory we can remember over Australia in the shorter forms of the game.
Craig Kieswetter picked up the man of the match award for his occasionally devastating 62 from 49 balls, however in our view it would have been more fitting had the award gone to a bowler. It was the bowlers after all who as a collective, Michael Yardy’s 3rd and final over excepting, restricted Australia to a total a long way under par. Michael Clarke afterwards said he thought Australia needed another 30 or 40 runs to make it truly challenging, although even had this been the case England may well have chased it down. Graeme Swann once more bowled with exemplary control and his 4th over battle with Cameron White was gripping. Sidebottom, too, was tight and the Compulsive Hooker feels we owe him an apology, as we had cited him as the seamer most likely to be taken apart by the Australians.
In the end England’s more balanced team won the day as when it game down to it, Australia lacked the slow bowling options which might have taken the pace off the ball and made life more difficult for the English batsman. More than this balance though, it was the composure of the English team though that you noticed. At not one point was their any panic, with the one over in which a few nerves came to the fore following the dismissals of KP and Kieswetter being assuaged swiftly by Morgan’s cool head. By contrast the Australians looked rattled throughout with mix ups running and uncharacteristic errors in the field. In the past any team trying to ‘stick it up ’em’ would have been confronted with an arrogant stare, before being pulverised back from whence they came. These days, like the South Africans, the Australians are vulnerable when under fire and in recent times England have shown the required gumption to take advantage of this fragility.
England’s man of the tournament was undoubtedly Kevin Pietersen whose batting on occasions has simply been breathtaking. He has always been recognised as a special talent, albeit one with a talent for throwing his wicket away, yet perhaps this tournament will herald the new and mature KP that we have all been dreaming of. As in the semi final he played a couple of shots which simply defied belief, the best of which was his extra cover drive of Shaun Tait for six. The look on the bowlers face said it all. This was after all a ball delivered at over 90 miles an hour being sent, with the minimal amount of effort, way back into the grandstand. With the Summer games against Bangladesh and Pakistan to come and then the big series at the end of the year, we hope this is not simply a flash in the pan, but a genuine change into a world class player at the same level as the Kallis’, Pontings and Tendulkars of this world.
Australia, it must be said, did little to help themselves, with both the captaincy and batting of Michael Clarke being an obvious problem. Clarke is simply not a powerful enough player to justify his place in the team for his batting, especially when you have as hard a hitter as James Hopes, for example, waiting in the wings. As skipper, he has shown leadership qualities more out of the Paul Collingwood school (hard working but unimaginative), than the Mike Brearley or Michael Vaughan style of leadership. His decision to bowl Watson, when (in our humble opinion) it was crying out for Steve Smith or even David Hussey was flawed and Watson duly ended up with figures of 0-42 from 3 overs. It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming months. There is an argument that Mike Hussey for example could do the job just as well, leaving Clarke to concentrate on the longer forms of the game where he is an undoubted master.
England’s job now, is to transform this new found 20/20 success into 50 over cricket. Strauss will have to slot in somewhere, perhaps at 4, with Lumb and Kiewsetter left to continue their development at the top of the order.
Above all, though, we are just very pleased to say ‘Congratulations’ to the England team and just to reiterate…..
ENGLAND ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!