Australia v England, CB Series, 2nd final, Sydney February 11, 2007

The 20-year itch

Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood have plenty of reason to smile © Getty Images

February 11, 1987: An England team already buoyed by winning the Ashes series added a second feather to their cap when they edged Australia by eight runs in the second final at Sydney to claim the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup.

The current tour hasn't been anything as successful, but come February 11, and they were in the same situation as they had been 20 years back - 1-0 up in a best-of-three finals. Like they had then, England turned it on again now, consigning Australia to their first defeat in the finals of a home triangular tournament in 14 years. The last time a team beat them in the finals was in 1992-93, when West Indies triumphed 2-0. Since that edition of the tournament, Australia had run up an incredible 20-3 win-loss record in the triangular series finals, which offers some idea of just what England were up against. (Click here for Australia's record in finals of triangular series at home.)

By beating Australia in their last league match and then twice in the finals, England have also worked up a streak of three successive victories against their arch rivals, a feat which looked almost impossible midway through the tournament. The last time Australia were beaten three times in a row by a single team was against West Indies in 2003. That feat, though, wasn't quite as impressive as it seems, for Australia had already clinched the seven-match series 4-0 before that string of defeats. Exclude that, and you'd have to go back to the Carlton & United Series in 1997-98 to find such a streak. On that occasion, South Africa thoroughly dominated the Australians, beating them four times out of four in the round-robin stage of the tournament and then in the first final, before losing twice when it mattered most. England's previous such run of wins against tournament came just before that C&U tournament, in the three-match Texaco Trophy series at home, in which Australia were blanked 0-3.

England's unexpected win was also their first victory in an ODI finals overseas since December 1997 - that's nearly ten years ago. On that occasion, Adam Hollioake had led them to a three-wicket win against West Indies in the Akai-Singer Champions Trophy in Sharjah, a tournament which have surely have escaped the memory of most cricket followers in England.

The tournament was a triumph for the entire England team, but it was more so for Paul Collingwood, who stamped his presence on each of the last three wins. Collingwood now averages an impressive 47.71 with the bat in ODIs in Australia. If he keeps this going over the next couple of months, England will fancy their chances of causing more upsets in the biggest tournament of all.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo