Kieswetter and Pietersen seal title for England
Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen powered England to their first ICC global title with an irresistible 111-run stand for the second wicket, as Australia were outmuscled in a battle of the bowlers at Bridgetown. Despite a brave recovery led by David Hussey, who made 59 from 54 balls, Australia's hopes of claiming the only world title to have eluded them were devastated from the moment they lost three wickets in 13 legitimate deliveries in a stunning start to the contest.
Chasing a target of 148, Kieswetter and Pietersen broke the back of the chase in an 11-over alliance, but fittingly it was left to England's captain, Paul Collingwood, to seal the victory with 18 balls to spare. At the moment of victory, he was mobbed by his jubilant team-mates as they poured out of the dug-out, with incredulity and triumph writ large on their features. Barely 12 months ago, Collingwood was leading England to defeat against the Netherlands in the opening contest of the 2009 event. Now he has joined football's Bobby Moore and rugby's Martin Johnson in captaining England to a world sporting title.
The difference between the sides was underlined by the boundary count. Whereas Australia managed eight fours and three sixes in their 20 overs, and just two fours in the first 12 overs, England clattered 12 fours and five sixes in 17, as their confident and attacking batsmen targeted the weak links in the Australian bowling line-up - in particular Shane Watson - to motor past a mid-range target. England, by contrast, showed no weaknesses with the ball or in the field, as their multi-faceted five-prong attack tore onto the offensive with an aggressive but highly strategic display.
The start of the contest was sensational, as Australia crashed to 8 for 3 with a wicket in each of the first three overs. Ryan Sidebottom, a controversial selection a week ago but an automatic choice now, settled England's nerves and exacerbated those of the Australians by removing Shane Watson with the third delivery of the match. A lifter outside off was slashed through to Kieswetter, who fumbled the initial take only for an alert Graeme Swann at slip to dive forward and grasp the rebound in the heel of his hands.
One over later, the dangerous David Warner was run out for 2, as his captain, Michael Clarke, called him through for a tight single at short cover, only for Michael Lumb to swoop and score a direct hit with his underarm shy. And before Australia had had time to regroup, they were undermined by misfortune as well, as Brad Haddin was adjudged caught behind off his hip - brilliantly caught, in fact, by a full-stretch Kieswetter - as Sidebottom snaffled his second.
The effect of the early breakthroughs was to hand all of the initiative to England's charged-up attack, who came at Australia with a Test-match intensity. While the pace in the pitch encouraged the seamers to bend their backs, they were sensibly sparing with the short balls, and instead concentrated on pinning the batsmen to the crease with arrow-straight but undriveable lengths. Had Lumb's aim been slightly better, he might have added two further run-outs from short cover, as Clarke betrayed his anxiety with a succession of nip-and-tuck quick singles.
It wasn't until Clarke nudged Sidebottom through fine leg in the fifth over that Australia registered their first boundary, and though he added a second when he pulled a rare long-hop from Bresnan through mid-on, the score was 34 for 3 after seven overs when England turned to their spinners, Swann and Michael Yardy, with licence to apply the tourniquet. And when Collingwood leapt superbly at short midwicket to snaffle an attempted flick from Clarke, Australia had slumped to 45 for 4 in the tenth over.
Not for the first time in this tournament, however, Cameron White had the power and the intent to lift Australia's tempo. He chose the 13th over of the innings, Yardy's third, to make his move, as he followed a David Hussey swipe for six with four, six, four in consecutive deliveries. With 21 runs in the over, Australia were suddenly back in business on 80 for 4, and with two further fours in consecutive overs, White had moved along to 29 from 17 balls when Collingwood opted to introduce Luke Wright for his first over of the tournament.
The ploy paid quick dividends. Targeting the yorker with every delivery, Wright stifled the swinging blades before drawing White into a wild slash outside off. Broad, who moments earlier had made a mess of a swirling top-edge at deep cover off Hussey, called bravely and chased down a fine low chance as he ran back towards the rope at point. Michael Hussey joined his brother to nudge and swat 47 runs for the sixth wicket in 22 balls, but Australia's final total of 147 for 6 was, as Clarke later conceded, at least 25 runs short of parity.
For once, Lumb was unable to jump-start England's reply, as he clipped airily to mid-on in Shaun Tait's first over to fall for 2 from four balls, but Kieswetter - who was at his happiest with the ball pitched up in his half - cracked Dirk Nannes for consecutive fours, either side of a lengthy delay to fix the malfunctioning sightscreen. He added a third four when Tait overpitched in his subsequent over, and with Pietersen looking typically busy at the crease, England reached a healthy 41 for 1 in their Powerplay, a position that was comfortably ahead of Australia's 24 for 3 at the same stage.
With their platform secure, England never looked like faltering. The legspinner Steven Smith was nailed through the covers for Pietersen's third boundary, before Kieswetter collected consecutive fours in Watson's first over - the first a touch fortuitously as David Hussey fumbled at mid-off. Clarke had no choice but to recall Mitchell Johnson for his third over, and though he stemmed the flow a touch, Watson's medium pace was meat and drink for the now pumped-up Kieswetter, who mowed a massive six over midwicket in an over that leaked 16 runs.
Back came Tait with Australia desperate for a wicket, but Pietersen met him with an imperious lofted drive over mid-on for four, before opening his stance to drive a glorious six over extra cover, and take the required rate down below a run a ball. Two balls later, Kieswetter dabbed a wide ball through point to bring up a 40-ball fifty, and celebrated by slashing Nannes for four through third man before belting an astonishing one-handed six over backward square leg.
With just 30 runs needed from the final seven overs, Pietersen gave Smith the charge and holed out to Warner at long-off for an excellent 47 from 31 balls, but at 118 for 2, Australia knew they still needed a miracle. That prospect became a touch more probable six balls later, when Kieswetter gave himself too much room to a Johnson yorker and was rather comically bowled for 63 from 49 balls, but to judge by the grim faces in the England dug-out, no-one was particularly keen on laughing just yet.
Eoin Morgan, however, swept Smith powerfully for six over square leg to mop their collective brows, and when Collingwood pulled the luckless Watson off the front foot over midwicket for another six, the result was beyond doubt. A swat through fine leg brought the scores level, and one ball later, the title was secure, and England's limited-overs hoodoo had finally been laid to rest.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.