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Rediff.com  » Cricket » England bid to complete circle from ridicule to glory

England bid to complete circle from ridicule to glory

Last updated on: May 15, 2010 23:00 IST

England have been terrific

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England's Twenty20 team have gone from national embarrassment to buoyant World Cup finalists in less than a year and a large part of the credit must go to three South Africans.

Ten months ago England made a humiliating exit from the Twenty20 World Cup with a defeat to cricketing minnows Netherlands at Lord's.

Here in the Caribbean though, the team has cruised to victories with three wins out of three in the Super Eight stage followed by a comfortable win in the semi-final over Sri Lanka.

If celebrations of that win seemed muted it was because it came in such a routine manner -- England now expect to win games like that in Twenty20.

The defeat to the Dutch led many observers to bemoan the failure of the English at a version of the game they had invented; a regular lament heard across a number of sports.

It is a very different England team at this tournament and - slightly awkwardly for those who make sport an issue of national pride -- one in which captain Paul Collingwood is the only English-born player in the top five batsmen.


Image: England team celebrates after picking up a wicket
Photographs: Reuters
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SA born players making an impact

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England's most impressive performance was their victory over South Africa at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, a triumph in which the majority of England's runs came from South African-born players.

One of those batsmen, Kevin Pietersen, who made his debut for England over five years ago, has long been England's most effective stroke player in all forms of the game and he has shown why again with scores of 73 not out, 53 and 42 not out in his last three innings here.

But it is the two opening batsmen from Johannesburg who have made the difference from past teams.

Wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter and left-hander Michael Lumb have brought just the kind of confident and explosive batting that is needed at the top of the order and in this tournament only Australia, with David Warner and Shane Watson, have had comparable starts.


Image: Kevin Pietersen

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An improved performance

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Kieswetter, 22, moved to England to play cricket four years ago and was picked as soon as he became eligible while Lumb, whose English father Richard played for Yorkshire, has a decade of residence and cricketing experience in the country.

With a left-hand, right-hand combination, good technique and a positive attitude, the pair are a vast improvement on the Luke Wright-Ravi Bopara pairing used at the last Twenty20 World Cup.

"This is what we needed, a spark at the top of the order," said Collingwood after Thursday's win.

"Everybody saw it as a bit of a gamble, but we selected them on potential and we knew exactly what they could do.

"They've batted fantastically well and really helped the middle order to overcome totals," he said.


Image: Craig Kieswetter

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Solid middle over

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After the experienced Collingwood at four comes the most specialized Twenty20 batsman in the England team - Eoin Morgan, born and bred in Dublin and a member of the Ireland World Cup team in the West Indies three years ago.

The key quality for a middle order Twenty20 batsmen is "improvisation" and little Morgan has plenty of tricks with reverse strokes and paddles used smartly to take advantage of gaps in the field.

Morgan can also hit the ball hard in a more orthodox manner and ensure that the run-rate momentum, gained by the early order batsmen, continues at the right tempo.


Image: Eoin Morgan

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Penetrative bowling

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On the bowling side, England have got to grips with the tactics and variations of speed and length that are needed to keep opposition batsmen thinking.

Yorkshireman Tim Bresnan is the best example of a 'thinking' Twenty20 bowler while Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom have avoided the predictability that can harm more traditional bowlers in this format.

Crucially, the two slow bowlers, off-spinner Graeme Swann and slow left-armer Michael Yardy, have been on top of their game, applying a run-rate squeeze and picking up vital wickets in the middle of an innings.

England have never won an international tournament since the ICC began organising them for limited overs cricket in the 1970s and after all the progress made by England in Twenty20, second place would be hard to take.


Image: Ryan Sidebottom

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Never write Australia off

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Barring the off day in the field against Pakistan in semi-finals, Australia have virtually steamrolled every opposition. Such has been their dominance that they have virtually kept the same team throughout the tournament.

And what Mike Hussey showed the other day against Pakistan, one can't write off Australia until the last bowl is bowled.

Michael Hussey smashed three sixes in four balls to lead Australiato a remarkable three-wicket victory over Pakistan in the last over of Friday's Twenty20 World Cup semi-final in St Lucia.

Hussey hit six sixes to finish with an unbeaten 60 off just 24 deliveries as Australia surpassed Pakistan's 191 for six, the joint second highest score of the tournament, with a ball to spare.


Image: Australian team celebrates after picking up a wicket

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Destructive openers

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In Shane Watson and David Warner, Australia boasts of one of the most destructive opening pair of the tournament. Both of them have the ability to blow any opposition and even if either one of them kicks on, then England are in for a tough time.

Besides the opening combination, Australia has players for all situations and it was proved with the performances by Cameron White and David Hussey. Skipper Michael Clarke has been struggling for runs, but he could have the last laugh in the final.

And the silver-lining in the battling line up is Mike Hussey, who has been in belligerent form.

"We will take a lot of confidence going into Barbados, our mindset, exactly what 'Huss' showed today is we are never beaten until the game is over," Clarke said.


Image: David Warner

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Nannes & Co. have been best

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Australia has been the best bowling unit in the tournament so far. Australia have picked up 56 wickets out of the possible 60, highest in the tournament.

Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait have terrorized the opponents with their pace.

Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson too have been impressive with the ball, providing crucial breakthroughs.

Young Steven Smith has cemented his place as the lone spinner and can make vital contribution lower down the order. All in all it turns out to be an interesting battle on cards.


Image: Shaun Tait

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