England v Pakistan, Group E, World Twenty20, Barbados May 6, 2010

England begin to gel as a Twenty20 unit

It's difficult to know quite how good England were in the opening Super Eight game because Pakistan were so poor, but there is no doubt they are a vastly improving Twenty20 team

It's difficult to know quite how good England were in the opening Super Eight game because Pakistan were so poor, but there is no doubt they are a vastly improving Twenty20 team. Scraping through to the Super Eights with one point in a rain-hit Guyana wasn't a fair reflection on the strides they have made. Who knows, a little less rain and they could have been going home.

That would have prompted a heck of a lot of soul-searching, but their confident six-wicket victory against Pakistan has laid down a serious marker regardless of the deficiencies of the opposition. They were in woeful mood and became increasingly shambolic once Salman Butt drove to cover. Shahid Afridi ran himself out first ball without much effort to make his ground and Saeed Ajmal dropped three chances of varying difficulty at mid-on. Never has a side been able to lurch so alarmingly from one extreme to the other.

However, England have often made a good effort at matching that unpredictability in Twenty20 where they maintain the lowest win ratio among the leading teams. But since Andy Flower took charge as coach it is their development as a one-day unit that has really gathered pace (although the Test team is also shaping up nicely) especially over the last six months against South Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh. No longer is the short form - either 50 or 20-overs - the ugly duckling of English cricket. The players also know there is the potential for big money in Twenty20 success.

The main architects of England's victory couldn't be cut from more contrasting cloth. Kevin Pietersen is a global star with the bank balance to prove it while Michael Yardy, who was the pick of the attack after a nervous first over which cost 12, is the perfect example of your solid, workmanlike county cricketer who is making the most of his talents.

Pietersen's unbeaten 73 was a measured innings and the main problem for him came when he cracked the bat into his left ankle and was left hobbling between the wickets. After twice picking out deep midwicket in Guyana he found the gaps with precision on this occasion and it's only the captain, Paul Collingwood, who looks a little short of form.

"We all know what KP can do and in that kind of form he's very dangerous," Collingwood said. "It needed someone to get past fifty to see the team home and the partnerships were key today. The two guys at the top have given us real impetus and I think their spin was going to be the main threat and we didn't have to push on too hard."

It was Yardy, though, who played the vital role and it didn't look like he would have after his opening over. England's quicks had been disappointing in the first six overs; Ryan Sidebottom hasn't done much to justify inclusion ahead of James Anderson and Tim Bresnan struggled with his line as Pakistan built a threatening platform at 71 for 1. Graeme Swann made the breakthrough, but it was Yardy who really tightened the screws.

He impressed during the warm-up matches with his round-arm action proving difficult to score off. His last three overs conceded just seven and brought two important wickets against a team who should be adept at playing spin. The fact that England had the resources to pull around a wayward start is a sign of the strides they are making.

"We can improve on that performance, there were certain areas we weren't very good at today but in the end we got the two points," Collingwood said. "At the start we gave them too much width and were very sloppy at the end of the innings as well. When you have a team down like that you have to kill them off."

There remains a determination by the pacemen to bang the ball in when they see a pitch with some carry, but in Twenty20 that becomes a dangerous tactic because top edges can fly for four or six as happened in the final over from Bresnan. It's hard to top edge a yorker for six.

That is one of the main reasons why Sidebottom has been selected ahead of Anderson, but he couldn't find his range on this occasion as he sprayed two attempts wide of off stump and a third came out a low full toss which was driven for six by Abdul Razzaq. Anderson is one of the best three swing bowlers in the world (alongside Dale Steyn and Mohammad Asif) and can count himself unlucky not to be playing. He is also a brilliant fielder.

However, it's always a positive sign when holes can be picked after a convincing victory. A win in their next game against South Africa will put England into the semi-finals and then they will be serious challengers.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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