ICC World Twenty20 2010 May 17, 2010

A method to England's all-round success

Tough selection calls in the lead-up to the tournament by coach Andy Flower, and captain Paul Collingwood's influence on his team's performance paved the way for England's first global title
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In the end, it was all so simple. The manner in which England secured their maiden global triumph was clinical and comprehensive - a rout to rival those that Australia have themselves inflicted on Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka in their consecutive 50-over World Cup victories. The Australians entered the final boasting 10 wins and a Super Over defeat in their last 11 Twenty20 outings, and yet the scale of England's victory was crushing, with 15% of their overs left unused.

It seems incredible to say it, given the ineptitude of England's history in limited-overs cricket, but this was no fluke, far from it. The parameters of the Twenty20 game may invite the sort of upsets that will rarely, if ever, be seen in the longer forms - as England themselves know from their Netherlands humiliation in 2009 - but the cream still finds a way to rise to the top, and England's triumph was just another result in keeping with the format's short but reliably uniform history.

From Adam Hollioake's Surrey in England's inaugural Twenty20 Cup in 2003, to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's epoch-changing Indians in 2007, to Shane Warne's Rajasthan in 2008 and the Brett Lee-inspired New South Wales in the 2009 Champions League, it's rare that a major tournament doesn't cough up a worthy victor. The wonder is that England have got their act together, so swiftly and so unequivocally, that not even the most churlish observers can quibble with the scale of their achievement.

Rightly, much of the credit has been attributed to England's hard-bitten coach, Andy Flower, a man whose own country, Zimbabwe, was too short in resources ever to challenge for global honours, but who instead took his own limited but assured ability and willed himself to become the No. 1 batsman in the world. His influence is unmistakeable in matters of fitness and dedication, not least in the field, where it's hard to recall a sharper all-round England outfit, but it's the tough selection calls he has made along the way that equipped the team with a killer instinct unmatched in their limited-overs history.

England won the World Twenty20 because they possessed not a single chink in their armour - mentally, physically, and in terms of ploughing through 20 overs without a moment's let-up with either bat or ball. The list of players who were auditioned for this tournament but cast aside is significantly longer than the 30-man preliminary squad that was announced towards the end of the tour of Bangladesh, because Flower cast his net as wide as it could stretch but refused to be swayed by sentiment at any stage of the process. Every decision was made, he insisted, "in the best interests of the England cricket team" - and that included the critical but undeniably controversial introduction of two South African-born openers in Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb.

Among the notables who weren't given a look in are two England captains - Andrew Strauss, who stood down of his own volition prior to the 2009 event, and Alastair Cook, whose calamitous leadership in a one-off contest in Centurion last November might well have marked his card in this format for evermore. But perhaps most significantly, there's Samit Patel, the hard-hitting, hard-living allrounder, whose innate talent and lust for a scrap should, by right, have guaranteed him the spinner's berth that was eventually filled by Michael Yardy. Flower, however, couldn't abide his waistline, and a cautionary tale was born.

At the moment of victory, there was only one man to whom the team gravitated, for Collingwood's grounded professionalism has transformed him into the most durable cricketer of his generation. In his own unobtrusive manner, he's become England's heartbeat in all forms of the game

Harsh verdicts have been delivered on members much closer to the inner sanctum than Patel, however. If Jonathan Trott's and Joe Denly's banishments were justified by their efforts as an opening partnership in Sharjah, then Matt Prior's axing in favour of Kieswetter was one of those judgement calls that can only be justified by hindsight. The suspicion among the hierarchy was that Prior's brand of big hitting was simply too predictable for the format - no matter how sweetly timed his cuts and cover drives, a ring of fielders on the off side would stifle his momentum... and by extension the team's.

Owais Shah was another whose qualities paled against some major doubts, in his case to do with his running between the wickets - which in turn spoke of a fallible temperament. And then there was the peculiar case of James Anderson, the attack leader in the eyes of most observers, and the likeliest bowler to deliver inspiration in any given spell. That prospect cut no ice with Flower, however, who viewed him as a bit of a "daisy" (some days he does...) and shelved his whimsical wiles in favour of Ryan Sidebottom's earthier qualities.

Despite his much-publicised injury problems, the spirit with which Sidebottom carried the England attack in his zenith year of 2007-08 had not been forgotten by the management, because as the vanquished Australians inadvertently demonstrated, the possession of a glut of X-Factor cricketers will count for little in this condensed format if there is one particular resource that can be targeted by the opposition. And so it was that, for all the fearsomeness of Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke had no option but to persevere with Shane Watson's medium pace in the final - three overs for 42 - because he had no viable alternative as a fifth bowler.

Conversely, when Yardy - the Richard Illingworth of nos jours - was spanked for 21 in a single over by David Hussey and Cameron White, Paul Collingwood knew he had a go-to option in Luke Wright, who has appeared to be something of a passenger for the past three years of England's limited-overs development, but who proved to be the embodiment of the "Plan B" that Collingwood had spoken of before the toss. His solitary over of the tournament consisted of five singles and the vital wicket of White. The wonder is that England had bothered to think so deeply about their game plan in the first place.

Like Graham Gooch's 1992 World Cup team, which was unique at the time for possessing a first-class centurion in every position from 1 to 11, England's fluidity of options was their trump card in this tournament. The emergence of Eoin Morgan took pressure off Kevin Pietersen as the kingpin of the middle order, and while Collingwood had a quiet tournament, it was gratifying to watch him relax into the elder statesman role that, like a latter-day Allan Border, he never once courted but eventually rather enjoyed.

At the moment of victory, there was only one man to whom the team gravitated, for Collingwood's grounded professionalism has transformed him into the most durable cricketer of his generation, and no one could be more deserving of all the accolades that will flood his way in the coming weeks. In his own unobtrusive manner, he's become England's heartbeat in all forms of the game, the unlikeliest heir imaginable to the last great English "talisman".

Remember Andrew Flintoff? Incredibly, no one this side of the St Lucia marina has given him a second thought in the past fortnight. Not only have England scaled unprecedented heights in his absence, they've done so with an ethos that makes you question whether he would ever have made the cut in the first place. "Who needs Fred when you've got Tim Bresnan?" is the message being projected by the Flower and Collingwood regime. It sounds absurd, but then, two weeks ago, so too was the prospect of England becoming world champions.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on May 20, 2010, 21:11 GMT

    for the billionth time.. this is freaking T20!.. its not a world cup.. a world cup incorporates alot more..

    England will fail miserably in the 50 over world cup. That is almost certain!..

    Unless the south africans perform, the english are no where!

  • StevieS on May 20, 2010, 9:17 GMT

    DazTaylor Mils moved here when he was 2, Rodney So'oialo 6, New Zealand bred at least. The only embarrasment is the English team, but hey what ever you have to do to win.

  • epochery on May 19, 2010, 22:12 GMT

    I would love to think that England will build on this and win well in our home tests before the ashes. I am still no convinced England can win in Australia. Our bowling misses an express pace bowler in the mould of Steyn and an anchor in the middle order in the mould of Kallis, maybe they can qualify in time! Only kidding. I hope England will learn their lessons from cardiff and headingly last year and remember that they will need to be on their game for 15 sessions and that it only takes one bad decision to give the Aussies their chance. Englnd clearly has a large pool of players to choose from as the t20 has shown with players such as Morgan and keiswetter pushing for considerations as well as players such as Denley and moore amongst others. It looks like the structural changes that have hapened in the last ten years or so in English Domestic cricket are reaping rewards.

  • epochery on May 19, 2010, 21:50 GMT

    This petty jealousy is very irritating. Yes England have a number of players who weren't born in England but lets actually look at the facts. Do the English heirachy search the world for potential players, no. The fact is young cricketers see England as the place to go to develop their game which consequentially means that if they are good enough and are qualified gives them an opportunity to play international cricket. Australia on the other hand does actively search the world for athletes when it comes to Olympic sports and they have had their fair share of foreign born players represent them in cricket. I would also like to add that only Pieterson and Trott have actually had their developing years in South Africa the others such as Strauss came to england as a child others simply came to england as teenagers to learn the game as they had origins in england/ Europe or in the case of players such as Shah, their families had migrated to England.

  • chandau on May 19, 2010, 18:41 GMT

    @uknsaunders - lol. So Bopara was born in England ! that did not stop him claiming about his Indian origins during the IPL !!! Dont know much abt Lumb, only heard of him only 'cos of IPL. Both KP and K'wetter played their junior cricket in SA. In fact there was a mild protest from CSA over his selection. You seem to have selective memory mate - MORGAN played for Ireland before switching to England. Dimitri M played school cricket in Sri Lanka. Someone had posted an "imports XI". Just accept the fact mate: without the imports ENGLAND are an average team. Of course you need a South African to lead the Test team as well :) lol lol lol. what i fail to understand is why people like Rob Key, Napier, Foster, et.al. cant find a place in your best XV? Also do read the full comment instead of selecting areas that you know of mate :) England were the most consistent team on the day. We shall see how good they are come WC 2011 in AsIA. cheers :)

  • DazTaylor on May 19, 2010, 17:56 GMT

    Gagg - "all born and bred in NZ". Er no. Your current squad: Mils Muliaina was born in Samoa. Sitiveni Sivivatu born in Fiji and was even capped by Pacific Islanders. Rodney So'oialo born in Samoa. And there are loads of further examples from previously capped players.

    Oh dear, kind of ruined your argument there. As for saying SA etc - Andrew Symonds is English, Dirk Nannes capped by Holland, Kepler Wessels played for Australia, George Gregan is Zimbabwean and these just from memory.

    So,please, for the love of God, engage your brain prior to embarrassing yourself further.

    Thank you.

  • sanjeevmukherjee2006 on May 19, 2010, 15:07 GMT

    well i find the arguments that most of the players of England are of foreign origins give me a break most of them have stayed in England for many years so they are UK citizens simple well if a player is of pakistan or indian origin and if he is talented still not given a chance then that is not doing justice to his talent so please folks dont criticize that most of the English players are not from UK. I am an Indian and right now England are number one is tests for simple reason they defeated Australia in the Ashes and they defeated SA in SA and AUS AND SA are two of the best test teams, they are number one in T20 by winning the T20 WC and they are not that far in ODI as well, though tehy lost to Aus but they beat SA in ODI series, England won T20 WC for simple reason they picked 5 regular bowlers, their bowling is good they have good pace attack and equally good spin attack which AUS does not have. Aus should have sent Michael Hussey may be one down or two down in the final of T20 wc

  • StevieS on May 19, 2010, 14:52 GMT

    Trapper439 "The NZ rugby team has many Pacific Islanders in it" all born and bred in NZ, if you didn't know there are more people with Samoan blood in NZ than Samoa.

  • StevieS on May 19, 2010, 13:24 GMT

    Of course there is a method, all they need is a few SA bowlers and they will be world beaters, England are a joke and personally and as much as it pains me to say but Australia won the 20/20 cup in my eyes.

  • Bollo on May 19, 2010, 13:13 GMT

    close to a quarter of a century since the Poms won a `live` test in Australia...and counting. Bring it on boys.

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