England have done the unthinkable

England deserved the win and this victory has done wonders not just for them but for the others teams as well (06:34)

February 11, 2007


Australia v England, CB Series 2nd final, Sydney

England have done the unthinkable

February 11, 2007

England have done the unthinkable. Not only have they won the Commonwealth Bank series, but they won it in two straight games. They played the better cricket, they have been the dominant team and it's just been incredible to see the difference in this England side from what we saw in the Ashes series.

A remarkable turnaround and once again the man leading the way was Paul Collingwood. He has done it with the bat on a number of occasions, he did it in the first final and he did it again today by producing a 70. He is a smart cricketer and a thinking cricketer. At one point England were going along so well that one thought they would get to about 270-280, which would have been a tough chase.

In the end Australia fought back pretty well to restrict England to a total of just 246. Then the bowling of England was magnificent. Apart from Collingwood there was a good innings from Andrew Flintoff. He played sensibly and it was not the usual big hitting type innings from Flintoff after England had got off to a good start. Mal Loye had got a 40-odd although it was mainly boundaries and he did not hit many singles. So Collingwood and Flintoff had to resurrect the innings and Flintoff played sensibly until he started to hit out at the end. Eventually he held out, well caught by Brett Lee off the ball that he smashed back at the bowler, he was out for 40.

England were probably a little disappointed to post just 246. But I always think that, in a big game, if you can get 250 or more then I would rather be in a position to have runs on the board than being the team that's chasing them. So England then came out, there were couple of breaks for the rain because showers were passing through Sydney, but England got their full fifty overs.

Australia started quickly but Matthew Hayden was out early and once again it was that man Collingwood, he took a brilliant catch at short cover. Sajid Mahmood, who really has improved as this one-day series has gone along, produced a good slower one, Hayden smashed it and Collingwood in very close at short cover took a brilliant catch and that got them on the way.

Then we saw a magnificent spell of swing bowling from Liam Plunkett. Here was a young man who was travelling around on the bus and serving drinks for two months. Give credit to him because when when the time came for him to get an opportunity through injury he was ready to play. And, boy, hasn't he improved in this series. He produced a magnificent outswinger to get rid of Ricky Ponting, well caught at first slip by Andrew Strauss. Strauss has been struggling with the bat but he has hung on to some very good catches in the slips, this was a good one and such a crucial wicket for England's chances.

The rain was hovering around, players went off for a while, the overs were reduced, the runs were reduced for Australia and those first few wickets were crucial. Not only in the context of the game but they were crucial as far as the Duckworth-Lewis situation was concerned. When the play resumed after the rain Plunkett produced another beauty to get rid of Adam Gilchrist and that's twice now in the last couple of weeks that he has clean bowled Gilchrist with a late swinging inswinger.

This time it was from round the wicket, it swung a mile, knocked over Gilchrist and that put a big dent over Australia's chances. Gilchrist was in a situation where you had to chase the score and he would have proved dangerous for England. It was a magnificent spell of swing bowling from Plunkett, he pitched it up and he got hit for boundaries but that will always happen when you pitch it up.

England picked up four wickets quickly. Michael Clarke was out to another great outswinger from Plunkett and then the rain came again and Australia really had to get a move on. They lost the wicket of Michael Hussey, out to Flintoff as soon as Australia came out after the rain break. At that time you thought Australia were dead and buried. There was one more twist in the tale, with about 3.4 overs left another shower of rain came down. When I say 3.4 overs, that was to make it to 20 overs and make it a match.

When they came out England quickly buzzed through those deliveries and made sure that it was a game. Australia would not lie down, especially Brad Hodge who was dropped earlier off the bowling of Plunkett - a difficult one at second slip by Collingwood. He hit well, Shane Watson hit well and for a little while one thought that Australia were still in with a chance. But when Watson was out Australia's chances disappeared and England just kept taking wickets until finally the rain came and finished the match with England well and truly on top. Australia were eight down and they were not going to win the game if they came out. So England were the deserving winners in this Commonwealth Bank series 2-0.

A fortnight ago if you had predicted this they would have put you in a strait-jacket and locked you up in a loony bin. But that's the amazing thing about cricket and particularly one-day cricket, it can turn around very quickly.

England they have got the satisfaction of winning the Commonwealth Bank Series and you have got to think that it's a wonderful thing, not just for Flintoff but just think about what this victory does to other teams heading out for the World Cup. Suddenly the teams will think that Australia are a beatable team, particularly if Andrew Symonds is not in the squad.

So England has done wonders for themselves and they have done wonders for a few other teams by winning this Commonwealth Bank series.

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