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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • EVH316 on May 7, 2010, 18:12 GMT

    In the interests of offering a fair defence to the writer, and yes, I am English, I thought I should point out to some of the more hysterical reactions to this article that he did not say 1) England are guaranteed to score at least 300 in all their T20 innings, nor did he say 2) Put your mortgage on them winning this tournament with enough time and overs to spare to cruise around the islands with their partners, or 3) Michael Yardy is the greatest left-arm spinner of all time. The column I read was entitled "England begin to gel as a Twenty20 unit". Begin to gel is all! And, do you know what? They are. Seeds of improvement since the horrid denouement of the post-Fletcher era are germinating, and all green and promising they are too. Good to see, and hopefully they`ll soon iron out the "horrid performance follows almost perfect one" that they`ve been showcasing for a while now.

  • Dwok on May 7, 2010, 12:42 GMT

    England come of age blah blah blah.... same old story. In the small amount we've seen of them they look like a reasonable team, they're unproven definitely not world beaters so 'come of age' is once again ridiculously hopeful. Having said that, the presence of the imports in the team, rightly or wrongly, has certainly given the team more skill and more spine in pressure situations.

  • Anneeq on May 7, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    Dear oh dear. When will Pakistan start getting consistent in the field?! We heard a lot about the intense fielding drill they had in the Pakistan camp, but when will they start seeing decent results? Ajmal's first drop from Kieswetter was unforgivable has to be said. But what can we say, the South Africans win the match for England yet again!!

  • SDHoneymonster on May 7, 2010, 11:30 GMT

    As if Indian fans aren't prone to sensationalism... :P

    I think someone down the board called Siva knocked Paul Collingwood. He's pretty much our most valuable t20 player - handy bowler, one of the world's best fielders, and one of the only batsmen I can think of who can adapt so easily to all forms of the game. The IPL showed he is a batsman who can clear the boundaries with ease. With him, Morgan and Pietersen, England have the most versatile middle order in the championship. Also, they have a good bowling attack suited to all conditions (lacking someone with real pace though). The only place they fall down for me at the moment is the opening partnership - not because it's a bad one, just because of a lack of experience, which at the vital moments may prove crucial. England probably won't win it - but they've definitely shown they at least can. And it's been a while since we said that about an England side in a limited overs competition.

  • Paul.Power on May 7, 2010, 11:15 GMT

    It honestly doesn't bother me that England have picked a number of foreign-born players. If they're playing for England then I want them to do well, and if they're doing well then that's all that matters. I'll admit I feel sorry for Ireland that we've stolen some of their best players (and I support Ed Joyce's efforts to requalify for them) but I'm happy to have talents like Morgan, Pietersen, Lumb and Kieswetter in the side.

  • poderdubdubdub on May 7, 2010, 11:08 GMT

    Thanks to Aussies for helping Pakistan get into the super eight. Win or lose apart its the performance in the field (dropping catches, indifferent batting etc) which makes people question are they a worthy champions? hence what hurts me most now as a Pakistan supporter is the lack of respect for this Pakistan cricket team. None of the commentators call them any favoutite anymore. The Afridi experiment has failed miserably, he is nowhere near what he naturally is, he cuts a sorry figure in the field, looks confused and rudder less, it will be a miracle if Pakistan progressed any further as they do not look capable of beating SA or NZ, unless of course if the 'cornered tigers' spirit wakes up once again!!

  • sidsway14 on May 7, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    ppl find it difficult to accept the concept of global citizenship. if they are worthy of playing they should get the chance. loss against west indies is never a loss in my book. only twice has a team lost in t20 scoring above 190. ireland. if the would have gone with a d/l method england might have lost but not in 20overs. i think we are talking about t20 here.. england is playing well to be frank. ppl should accept tht.

  • ehkhan on May 7, 2010, 7:49 GMT

    Come on guys!!! England did not win this match... Pakistan DROPPPED it!! like they have been doing since their win in the last world cup!! England played well in the WI match but not here... Pakistan are missing 2nd fast bowler Asif and Sami are not T20 bowlers.. England are an improving side but still not there....

  • Amit_Chand on May 7, 2010, 7:03 GMT

    Ha ha Andrew I liked some of your earlier posts but know what this is plain rubbish !!!!! England gotta win one match and their commentators would go delirious. Wonder what would you do to Sachin had he been on in an England Tee in stead of the Indian blues or Akram for that matter.

  • malcut on May 7, 2010, 7:02 GMT

    This is probably one of the best teams since Botham and England 1992. We should expect too see more off Lumb and Kieswetter from here on. Combined with their best batsmen at no.3, we are looking at some of the best batting line ups in the world today. they have got quality spinners in Swann/Yardy and with good swing bowling in Sidebottom and Anderson, these guys are going to be a handful in the Super Eights... Watch out for England..

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