Mike Holmans May 13, 2010

Good luck England

Whatever happens in today's semi-final against the Lankans, England can go home feeling they've earned some respect and done themselves somewhere near justice.

England are not just winning matches, they are playing highly attractive, watchable cricket © Getty Images

It is a week of wonders. Following an inconclusive general election, Britain now has her first-ever Conservative-Liberal coalition government while in the Caribbean, the England cricket team have cantered through to the semi-finals of an ICC limited-over tournament and give every appearance of being genuine contenders. Anyone who bet on either event happening a month ago can probably afford an IPL franchise now.

This is not the place to be discussing British politics, however fascinating, but it is a very strange feeling indeed to be an England fan who can seriously entertain thoughts of his cricket team winning a men's World Twenty20. Australia have appeared so powerful that it's hard to see past them as eventual winners, but England look at least as well-equipped to topple them as either of the Asian teams left in the semis, and we know anything can happen in Twenty20.

The natural pessimism of the England fan forces one to pick holes, but it is surprisingly difficult to find the opening. Paul Collingwood's form with the bat seems to have gone west, but his captaincy is now at least competent, a major advance from when he was ODI captain against New Zealand a couple of years ago and obviously had no clue about how many overs his bowlers had, let alone when to put them on or what field to set. The only real under-performer has been Stuart Broad, who seems to be shedding braincells at an alarming rate. So well is the team functioning, in fact, that it is even possible that the next Twenty20 international England play after the World Twenty20 will not see a new opening partnership.

And glory be, they have been playing highly attractive, watchable cricket. In the last 15 years, England have occasionally made a decent showing in a limited-over tournament in terms of winning some games, but you wouldn't have recommended their games to neutrals as enjoyable exhibitions. In this tourney, however, we have seen both Pietersen and Morgan play innings of considerable style, power and invention and the likes of Lumb, Kieswetter and Wright clouting the ball to all parts. (Well, in Wright's case it's not to all parts because he only has the one shot to cow corner, but you know what I mean.) The bowling has been varied, intelligent and adaptable and the catching quite often spectacular. Nothing has showed the vast improvement in the team as a whole to better advantage than Ryan Sidebottom, something of a fielding donkey, and butter-fingered Kevin Pietersen both taking spectacular running catches in the deep.

Whatever happens in today's semi-final against the Lankans, England can go home feeling they've earned some respect and done themselves somewhere near justice. Of course, if they win today and then go on and win the Final they will have done themselves more than justice and earned as much respect as others are prepared to give them (which, it being England, won't be a great deal), but it's probably worth saying that to have got even this far is a huge step forward for England's perennial disappointers.

I'll now put the mockers on their chances by wishing them good luck, but even so they've had a good run.