England v West Indies, World T20 2016 final, Kolkata April 2, 2016

Morgan's England remove their straitjackets

Unlike in the past, the current England side haven't gone out of their way to propagate that their methods are new, and have instead allowed their game to do all the talking

They arrived at the tournament calling themselves "New England". What, again? England's recent cricket history has been such a hail of buzzwords that it has been difficult for neutral observers to remember which catchphrase goes with which England team, or coach, or captain, or managing director.

There was "new era" some time back. A "bowl dry" philosophy not long before. Graham Gooch's "daddy hundreds" made the rounds, and "no-fear cricket" was bandied about at some point. Those looking on from South Asia, for example, will feel like the England team is like the big village buffalo, which so many farmers have branded, it is futile to even think of finding the owner.

While the folks at the ECB (or should that be England Cricket?) have churned out volumes of this babble, the England team itself has at least been kind enough not to add to the confusion at World Cups and World T20s.

They have been consistently awful over the past few years. They have been comfortingly boring. They've come into tournaments in tornadoes of hype, sometimes with new backroom staff, often promising a clean break from teams and attitudes past, and then upon their exit said things like: "we'll have to look at the data".

Much like the South Africa choke, the England tournament meltdown satisfied tropes and filled comic space. It was not just any other upset when England lost to sides such as Netherlands. For fans of teams already doing well, it was schadenfreude. For others it was a salve dulling the agony of their own team's exit.

Cricket itself has become more fractured and fan relations increasingly fraught - in some cases, downright malicious - but a thumping of England was universally beloved. After a few initial moments of disappointment, even England fans often joined in the social media fun. Who could think of Rubel Hossain's match-winning spell in Adelaide last year, and fail to break into a smile?

Perhaps the most striking thing about England's run is that they have not leant on a formula to overcome tournament obstacles. © AFP

This time, though, the men who usually come to the party in straitjackets have arrived in Brendon McCullum skin suits, and disturbingly, are pulling the look off. A few batsmen may even have ventured moves on the dance floor. The bowlers have not been quite so sprightly, but Chris Jordan at least, is bopping his head in the corner.

Perhaps the most striking thing about their run is that England have not leant on a formula to overcome tournament obstacles. Faced with three disparate challenges in the group stages, England solved their problems on the ground. Joe Root led the main charge on South Africa's 229, while team-mates won skirmishes around him in Mumbai. The bowlers then linked arms to keep Afghanistan out soon after. Then, when Dasun Shanaka and Angelo Mathews threatened to take England down, along with Win Predictor, Root leapt to his left from mid-off to snatch the ball, and England's ticket to the semi-finals.

Against New Zealand, England might even have been - and it feels strange to say this - somewhat creative. Jason Roy flitted about the crease to occasionally outwit the bowler, when he couldn't outhit the field. And while previous England teams might have been content to play out the best opposition bowler of the evening, needing just under a run-a-ball, England clobbered Ish Sodhi's final over for 22 runs. The bowler had previously sported figures of 2 for 20 from three overs.

Unlike previous England sides that seemed so incapable of reacting to the flow of the game, their cricket seemed to have calcified, this team appears to have evolved even through the course of this tournament. It is a point that did not evade opposition captain Darren Sammy's notice.

"Since we beat England, they've played really good cricket to reach the final," he said. "They have improved every game, and they have their strengths."

And yet, for all that, West Indies still appear to have more buzz about them in Kolkata, helped in no small part by their players' involvement in the IPL. It may not even occur to many neutrals that England could wind up victors in a World T20 played in India. But they seem to be preparing to contest the final now, so there must be some possibility of it happening.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mughalai on April 3, 2016, 15:10 GMT

    Laughed my head off at "big village buffalo that so many farmers have branded" - what an apt comparison!

  • Lmaotsetung on April 2, 2016, 23:12 GMT

    To put this into context, this has been a brutal 6 months or so for England cricketers. Remember quite a few of them have been on the road since the UAE tour at the end of last year. I remember England winning the Ashes in 2010-11 and Strauss & Co were pretty much spent when the World Cup in India came along in 2011. I've been more impressed with their stamina than anything else especially guys like Root, Stokes, Ali, Hales, and Rashid who have been involved in all 3 formats since last October. In that span these lads have played 7 Tests, 9 ODIs, and 5 T20 plus warmup matches, plus travel, plus training. Incredible!

  • KingOwl on April 2, 2016, 21:00 GMT

    First of all, it is a brilliant article. Not often that you read an article on English cricket written by a Sri Lankan. And it sums up the views from around the world of English cricket brilliantly (or shall I say the South Asian perspective). I often feel that English writers believe their own hype. Thus, we all laugh louder when we see England flop. But I too see a difference this time. England are good, for a change. They have a good chance to win. But I think it is going to be anybody's game. The better team on the day will win.

  • bobfisher425 on April 2, 2016, 19:08 GMT

    England have proved they are better than teams like India and Australia, they have played superb cricket during this tournament and it's good to see them in the final. If they pay the way they usually do they'll be world champions again.

  • BahrumPrangRocky on April 2, 2016, 17:24 GMT

    I think Eng is going to be champion this year 2016. They lost to Chris Gayle in the group stage match and not to WI. As I understand and belief that Gayle is not a consistent player, somewhat erratic who only can play a good game throughout any one tournament (I have never seen two big innings in a tournament from Gayle). So, England has not this problem in the final and if they play with their quality, they are going to Champion. I will cheer with you guys. Best of luck.....a BD fan from USA.

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