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May 12, 2010
There will be no rousing speech or chest-thumping patriotism from Paul Collingwood when England take the field for their semi-final against Sri Lanka because he doesn't think his team needs it. The prospect of securing a place in their first major final since 2004 is motivation enough.
"The guys are ready; they are excited," he said. "If there was a feeling around the camp that the guys are nervous or anything like that then maybe something would have to be said. But the guys are so focused in the jobs they've got to do, roles they've got to play. We'll have a team meeting tonight, but let me tell you I'm not going to come out with any rip-roaring speech."
England have been the surprise package at this tournament (Australia were always going to get the hang of Twenty20 eventually) and there has been a supreme confidence about their play since a nerve-wracking evening in Guyana when they feared a short run chase would give Ireland a chance of piping them. That would have been a cruel exit and since then they have shown how far they have developed as a Twenty20 unit.
From the power-packed top order led by the selfless styles of Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter to the in-form middle order of Kevin Pietersen (who is due back in the Carribbean on Wednesday afternoon after being at the birth of his first child) and Eoin Morgan right down to the allrounders in Luke Wright and Tim Bresnan who have contributed important innings England have their batting bases covered. With the ball the seamers have held their own while the spin duo of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy have excelled. In the field they have been as sharp as anyone, barring perhaps the Australians.
Pietersen raring to go
They have also shown an adaptability and quickness-of-thinking that hasn't always been an attribute of England's one-day cricket. When the batting suffered mini wobbles against West Indies and New Zealand there was calm consolidation before the accelerator was pushed again - on both occasions by Morgan. With the ball there has been no one-dimensional game plan and the only aspect we have yet to see is how flexible the batting line-up can be and how the bowlers react of a sustained onslaught.
"This is certainly the most powerful England side that I've played in, definitely," Collingwood said. "When you look at all the guys going down to probably number ten, everyone can hit sixes, so also what the guys are doing with the ball, a lot of credit has to go to them as well because they are thinking for themselves a lot.
"Whereas maybe in the past they were always kind of guided by the captains or whatever but they really are going out there and thinking for themselves and thinking what the oppositions strengths and weaknesses are and adjusting the fields accordingly, that's been one of the crucial things in our development."
Collingwood has admitted he feared for England's future in the tournament as Duckworth-Lewis played a major part in Guyana and all he wanted was a chance for his team to show their full potential.
"It hasn't surprised me at all, but we've got to take all that talent we've got on the team sheet out into the middle," he said. "Thankfully, we've done that [so far]. There were times against Ireland, where we were close to going out of the tournament.
"You were thinking 'all this potential we've got, and we were nearly going out'. We had that little bit of an early scare, which wasn't probably a bad thing - because it kickstarted us into something special."
This is England's second semi-final in a row after they reached the same stage at the Champions Trophy in September. On that occasion they were hammered by nine wickets against Australia, but there is now a far more confident air about the side.
"I think the belief is the key thing," Collingwood said. "We have done a few different things in training, there have been a couple of different selections that have proved crucial as well and overall that has given the side a lot of belief in areas that we were probably a little bit weaker. Once you see these guys on the team sheet its kind of, oh, we can take the opposition on now."
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?