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May 16, 2010
News : Subtle anchor role weighs Clarke down
News : Clarke concedes he was 'not up to scratch'
News : Pietersen rewarded for hard slog
Matches: Australia v England at Bridgetown
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
The transformation is complete. The ECB can hunt for those keys to the trophy cabinet, silverware is on the way to Lord's. As they have been since the start of the Super Eights, England were magnificent as they powered past the previously indomitable Australia.
It was quite fitting that Paul Collingwood was there in the middle to hit the winning runs with a six and two fours. He had been a reluctant leader of this side when it was decided that Andrew Strauss didn't have a place in Twenty20, but along with Andy Flower, who is developing a reputation as one of the game's finest coaches, has formed a limited-overs unit that might already be regarded as England's greatest of all time.
Collingwood had a lean tournament with the bat but that didn't matter a jot as he was chased around the Kensington Oval by Kevin Pietersen, followed close behind by their ecstatic team-mates. After waiting 35 years there was a lot of pent-up emotion to release. What made the achievement even more remarkable was that England cruised to victory and any nerves were purely with the English fans who have been so used to one-day failure.
"This is a very special moment," Collingwood said. "This is right up there, with the best, the guys deserve everything they've got today. We've won a World Cup, and you can never take that away from us. We thoroughly deserve the victory, because the way we've played throughout the tournament has been consistent and also [we've been] taking the game to the opposition.
"We've had a lot of belief, and the guys have thought very well for themselves and made the right decisions. In the end, we've turned up on a big occasion like this and we've performed. I'm absolutely delighted with the guys. We knew it was a monkey on our back. We knew what it meant, and that is why I am so pleased that these last two performances in such pressurised situations were absolutely spot on."
In fact, they played like a side that had been winning tournaments for years. After the tension in Guyana where the weather nearly scuppered their chances, everything the team has touched has turned to gold. Ryan Sidebottom, a controversial selection ahead of James Anderson at the beginning of the competition, continued to justify his place with two vital early wickets (and he stayed fit throughout). Even the move to give Luke Wright his only over of the tournament, when Michael Yardy proved expensive, paid dividends as he removed the dangerous Cameron White.
England began the chase in a measured fashion, aware of the new-ball threat from Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait, but they were still well ahead after the Powerplay with 41 for 1 compared to 24 for 3 by Australia.
Craig Kieswetter converted his start into a substantial contribution and Pietersen completed a memorable week with a stroke-filled 47 that included a front-foot drive for six off Tait. England's limited-overs cricket has never been so vibrant with the one-day side also making significant strides, and all of a sudden the World Cup next year isn't something to be dreaded.
"You can see from the way the guys have gone out from the first ball, believing in themselves, taking it to the opposition and playing a brand of cricket that is unlike England in the past," Collingwood said. "I think a lot of credit goes to every single player in the dressing room, to have the confidence to go out there and really give it their best shots and have no regrets. I think we have done that throughout the tournament and it has certainly paid off."
Never has an England team fielded better - Stuart Broad's horrid drop off David Hussey notwithstanding - while they have also rarely seemed a happier unit. That is obviously easy to do when you are winning, but the strides the side have made in the 18 months are remarkable given the state they were in when Pietersen and Peter Moores lost their jobs. A large part of that has been down to Andrew Strauss, whose efforts weren't forgotten by the Twenty20 skipper.
"Straussy comes back as captain, and we'll get his team ethos and ideas," Collingwood said. "That's been a big part of this victory as well - what Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have done over the past year. It's been magnificent, and they've got the team pointing in the right direction."
After the fallout from the 2005 Ashes victory celebrations, English cricket has learnt to handle success with a little more composure. An open-top bus tour is unlikely and the likes of Yardy, Tim Bresnan and Eoin Morgan will have to wait a little longer for their MBEs. As was the case after last summer's Ashes triumph there is already talk of looking forward, but the team will enjoy this victory first.
"We're not going to get carried away - well, we are for the next couple of days," Collingwood joked. "We're going to savour the moment and enjoy it, because we deserve to. But good teams kick on, and that's exactly what we'll get drilled into the guys. We've got a lot more potential as well - that's the scary part about it. We can go even further.
"But this is what we came here to achieve, and we've done it. The next step is to savour the moment, celebrate as a team - and then we'll come across the next hurdle."
The biggest issue facing the team is now a race to get home before ahead of the volcanic ash cloud, but given what they have achieved over the last two weeks they might be able to beat that as well.
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