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I had expected to get more excited when England won the World Twenty20, but as it was all I felt was a mildly warm glow. I don't think it was because it was “only Twenty20”, though, but because the final was so undramatic.
I punched the air and cheered as the first three Australian wickets went down, but from then on the match took on a peculiar inevitability. Australia never looked like getting a really challenging total, and when England had got through the Powerplay with only one down, it never really looked as though they would not get there. It was a thoroughly efficient and professional performance, the proverbial but run-of-the-mill good day at the office. But without the tension of will-they-won't-they permeating the match, there was no explosion of relief and joy as they got over the line, just quiet satisfaction.
A world title is a world title, though, and at last, we have left the club of never-won-anythings to join South Africa, India and New Zealand in the haven't-won-muches.
If a single player had to win the Player of the Tournament, then Kevin Pietersen was a good choice. His most un-English characteristic is a love of praise and adulation; most Brits at least affect humility and embarrassment when showered with praise, but KP positively radiates joy. Unlike a lot of people, the best way to motivate him is to tell him how brilliant he is: he is not a man to rest on his laurels but to eat them for nourishment. And as several people from various squads and fan-bases have said, it is excellent for world cricket that KP is back on song, since he provides some of today's most compelling spectacle in any form of cricket.
But if the rules had allowed it, I would not have given him the award. The real engine of England's success was the five-man bowling attack who bowled all but about three overs of the team's entire campaign.
Each of them had a game where they were the pick of the unit and, with the possible exception of Graeme Swann, they each had a game where they did not do quite as well as the others, but as a whole they were fantastically consistent. No team ever looked like taking the bowling apart and launching themselves into the stratosphere, whether they were batting first or chasing whatever target England had set. There was variety in pace and angle, but what was truly impressive was their quick assessment of how to bowl to the conditions and the specific batsman and execute their plan with aplomb.
Of course, that has always been England's strength in limited-overs cricket: the team's lack of success over decades has been because the batting was not adventurous enough,not because the bowling was particularly inadequate. The volume of limited-overs cricket on the county circuit means that most bowlers have a pretty good idea of how to bowl to keep the runs down, in which most county batsmen cheerfully acquiesce – and that acquiescence has shaped the feeble batting at international level.
Triumph whets the appetite for more, so speculation has already begun about what this means for the future of Andrew Strauss in the 50-over side, of which he is still nominally captain and whether England will retain the Ashes, but to me those are issues to be thought about later. Now, we can say that England are the best international Twenty20 side and start laughing at someone else.
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