Collingwood pleased with England's dominance
Paul Collingwood declared that he was "excited" by the manner of England's seven-wicket victory in the first Twenty20 against Pakistan in Dubai, a statement which might ordinarily be regarded as an over-reaction to a fairly meaningless victory in a hastily arranged two-match series.
Nevertheless, with the World Twenty20 now little more than two months away, and with Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan combining in a purposeful 112-run stand for the fourth wicket following a committed team effort in the field, the skipper has plenty of reasons to be cheerful going into Saturday's series decider. It's far too early to claim that England have cracked the shortest format of the game, but they outplayed the reigning world champions in their own home from home. And there has to be some sort of significance to be taken from that.
"It was an exciting victory because of the way we played," said Collingwood. "The bowlers set the tone at the top of the innings with early wickets, and we didn't let them back into the game. The fielding was exceptional, we looked really sharp and saved plenty of runs, but the bowlers were brilliant because they bowled to their plans and put [Pakistan] under pressure. We had a little bit of a blip, but magnificent innings from KP and Morgs saw us home."
If Morgan's batting was a continuation of the cool and collected form that he has displayed since his breakthrough performances at the Champions Trophy in September, then Pietersen's unbeaten 43 from 43 balls was quite possibly the most important innings he has produced all winter. From an uncomfortable 18 for 3, he turned down the temptation to belt his way back to the form that has eluded him since the tour of the Caribbean 12 months ago, and settled into a holding pattern that guided England to an ultimately comfortable victory.
"It was an important innings, because he used his head," said Collingwood. "We were in a sticky situation - three-down early doors - and really it was kind of an anchor role, unlike a KP innings, but a very important one. It's great that he can use his head in that way and see the boys home. He looked very composed out there which is a great thing because he looked confident at the crease and struck the ball well. He played within his limitations, because the main thing for him was to see the boys home."
The Pietersen of old might have been tempted to hog the limelight - especially once the back of the run-chase had been broken - and seek the glory shot to seal the victory and the headlines. This time, however, he was quite content to be lapped by the imperious Morgan, whose range of strokes in the closing overs were exceptional, even against the renowned master of Twenty20 bowling, Umar Gul.
"I like batting with Kev, because of the ability and the power the guy has," said Morgan. "His destruction capabilities are endless, so I think we suit each other. One of us can sit in if the other is in form or fancies a particular bowler, so I enjoy batting with him.
"It was a difficult wicket to get in on, but once we got in, we were able to force the occasion and put the pressure back on the Pakistani bowlers. And we were able to do that because of the short total we were set. It was a magnificent effort from the bowlers."
Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain, agreed with that point, after Pakistan had been restricted to 25 for 2 in their Powerplay overs - their slowest start in 20-over cricket. "I think we were 20-25 runs short because England bowled really well, especially with new ball," he said. "We didn't start well and in the Twenty20 format, you have to utilise the first six overs."
Nevertheless, if England are tempted to get carried away by their success, then they should be warned that a familiar foe will return to the fray for Saturday's rematch. Shahid Afridi has now served his two-match ban following his ball-biting antics at the Waca earlier this month, and his peerless power-hitting and aggressive legspin will add an extra dimension to Pakistan's tactics.
"[After] one match you can't change everything. You should give chances to your player, some proper chances," said Shoaib. "But Afridi is back tomorrow and that gives us confidence. He's one of the best allrounders in the world and, automatically, him being at the ground gives us confidence. I'm sure he will play tomorrow and do well for the country, his team and for himself."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo