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May 9, 2010
Report : Collingwood wants more for semi-finals
Report : New Zealand eliminated by impressive England
News : 'No Pietersen makes our job easier' - Styris
Preview : Kiwis seek another semi-final
Matches: England v New Zealand at Gros Islet
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
Graeme Swann believes this is the first time an England side has looked genuine contenders for a global one-day trophy after they put themselves on the brink of the World Twenty20 semi-finals with an outstanding 39-run victory against South Africa.
The success was set up by Kevin Pietersen's crunching 53 from 33 balls, but the twin spin attack of Swann and Michael Yardy helped suffocate South Africa's reply. After struggling to come up with a balanced side for this format England now have all their bases cover with a long, hard-hitting batting line, a solid and varied bowling attack and a slick fielding unit.
They could cement a semi-final berth before playing their final match against New Zealand if Pakistan beat South Africa, but even if that doesn't happen only a significant defeat will damage their net run-rate enough to end their hopes.
"I genuinely think, for the first time looking at a team, we can actually win this," Swann said. "It's not all hot air and bluster. I think we've played some very good cricket so far in this tournament. We are playing the exact brand of cricket we set out to, as aggressive as possible with the bat and then to create as much pressure as possible with the spinners. Two out of two at Barbados, it's worked perfectly. Let's just hope it continues."
Swann's 3 for 24 against South Africa was one of many key contributions he has made for England over the last 18 months, but Yardy's success has been the surprise package. He impressed during the warm-up matches in Barbados and continued that form in the victories over Pakistan and South Africa.
"I've always been an advocate of at least two spinners in Twenty20 cricket," Swann said. "We've struggled to nail that over the last 18 months, but I think Yards has come in and done a fantastic job - just what we need, and more than useful batting. He's been a great addition to the team."
Yardy has been described in various ways from an 'unfashionable' cricketer to even 'ugly' but Paul Collingwood has often said that it is about substance over style and that's a sentiment echoed by Swann.
"We can't all be as gorgeous as me, when we play the game," he said, unable to resist his usual humour. "He's been brilliant. It doesn't matter how you do it; if you're running up and bowling and taking wickets and keeping the runs down as well that's great from him - coming back into a squad - because there's a lot of pressure on you.
"He's done the hard yards in the county game, like I had. He knows his game back to front now, and I think that shows when he's bowling. If he does go for a couple of boundaries, he's more than happy to run up and do it again.
"The fact we've got eight overs to bowl in the middle and the ball is turning one way from one end and the opposite from the other, it makes it tricky for batsmen to get set. That's why it works so well."
The match-winning partnership of 94 between Pietersen and Craig Kieswetter on Saturday included two huge slices of luck as Kieswetter was caught off a no-ball and Pietersen edged between keeper and slip. But Swann said it was no less than they deserved after England felt hard done by in their opening match of the tournament against West Indies when the hosts won on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
"Luck evens itself out. It certainly didn't do us any favours against the West Indies - because, in my opinion, we'd have won that game fairly easily had we not been denied the chance to bowl 20 overs. The Ireland game was a hiccup, and the rain probably did save us. It would have been a tense affair all round, but I would still have backed our bowlers to keep them down.
"Coming into the Super Eights, we knew we needed to make a statement in our first couple of games. I think against Pakistan we did that, but more so today. I believe we were exceptional."
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala