England v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's June 15, 2009

An honourable exit

England may have lost to West Indies, but plenty of positives can be taken from the World Twenty20 as they finally fix both their eyes on the impending Ashes

The end, when it came, was cruel but apposite. England's dominance of West Indies this summer had been so absolute that, at times at venues such as Chester-le-Street and Bristol, their very future as an international outfit had been called into question by a doom-mongering press. But, for the only nine overs that mattered out of a cast of hundreds since the start of May, West Indies found the focus they so dearly needed to dump the hosts out of the World Twenty20.

For England's captain, Paul Collingwood, however, recriminations were pointless. His team did not help themselves by failing to score a boundary for the best part of ten overs, but after their remarkable victory over India, their bid for a semi-final berth was always going to depend on the ability of their bowling attack, bulked out by the addition of Adil Rashid, to reproduce the hostility and focus that had secured their defence of 153 at Lord's on Sunday night.

By the time the rains closed in, however, the subtlety of their selection was lost in a melee of big hits, and a target of 80 in nine overs was always going to favour the chasing team. England tried their hardest and gave a frenzied crowd plenty reason to believe, especially when West Indies slipped to 45 for 5 with four overs remaining, but in the end it was simply not to be.

"I'm very proud of the guys, to be honest with you," said Collingwood. "The way they've fought through the tournament, it's been a roller-coaster ride. At one point we had a real chance to win it, and to get into that position shows our real character, as it's not easy to defend a target off nine overs. A lot of positives come out of the whole tournament - maybe the consistency wasn't there, but we are definitely improving."

Collingwood's pride was not misplaced, in spite of a tournament record (LWLWL) that reflects England's enduring frailties in the format. For a team that tasted humiliation on the opening night of the competition to come so close to the semi-finals represents a triumph of the pyrrhic variety. England are still naïve in 20-over cricket as their batting performance showed, but at least they are no longer aloof to the format's charms.

"We're catching up, that's the important thing," said Collingwood. "Even with that lack of experience in Twenty20 cricket, we're catching up with the skills and thought processes, and we're understanding situations and pressures. We need a lot more time to get accustomed to the conditions, and it is very important that you do play more Twenty20 cricket if you want to be realistic about winning these competitions, but the boys can take a lot of credit."

England didn't look like emerging with anything remotely positive after their disastrous opening fixture against the Dutch, but with the benefit of hindsight, Collingwood conceded that the brutality of that reality check had been exactly what his players needed. The constant need to battle back, first against Pakistan and then later in another do-or-die encounter with India, brought the players closer to their public, and more importantly, closer to each other.

"When you hurt like that it hurts everyone in the dressing room," said Collingwood. "You can either go one way - fragment, go into corners and start whispering - or come together as a real close-knit unit, and that's what we did, and I'm real proud of the guys because it would have been easy to go the other way.

"Sometimes these things are real blessings in disguise," he added. "It didn't feel it at the time, it was very disappointing, but what we produced after that, the performances against India and Pakistan, proved that when we get it right we can play really good Twenty20 cricket. It would have been easy to lie down and lose confidence, but it was the complete opposite. We kept bouncing back and showed a lot of character.

"Even that first game against the Netherlands, we were all disappointed to lose it but it was an exceptional game. The people who've watched back home and turned up at the grounds have seen some excellent cricket, and from our point of view we've developed some great skills, both before and during the tournament. Being exposed to Twenty20 has been good. And we are getting better at this form of the game."

For now, however, the focus switches with dramatic haste to the great unmentionable challenge that lies ahead. For weeks and months, England have desperately tried not to utter the A word in public, but now - with an honourable exit from the World Twenty20 secured - that embargo can now be lifted. "The boys have been 100% focussed on this," said Collingwood, "but now it really is time to get the bodies, the minds and the skills right to beat the Aussies in the Ashes."

To that end, Collingwood's interim tenure as captain has, somewhat remarkably after the early impressions, turned out to be a success. Sometime next week, he will formally hand the leadership back to Andrew Strauss, with most of the key components of England's Ashes campaign in fine fettle despite their tournament exit. Ravi Bopara's form shows no sign of waning, Kevin Pietersen's Achilles issues are not hindering his run-scoring, while the key trio of seamers - Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom - are all at something close to the top of their game. There's even been the bonus of the successful blooding of Adil Rashid.

"I guess part of my job as captain was to keep the same kind of team ethos," said Collingwood. "Straussy hasn't been involved, so my job was to keep the togetherness, and to back each other up as players. We've continued to do that, and we've grown stronger throughout the tournament. Thankfully when I give the reins back to Straussy the boys will be in good spirits and determined to do well. Although we got beaten today and knocked out of the tournament, I think the boys are focussed on what's coming ahead."

As for his future as England's Twenty20 captain, Collingwood was non-committal.

"I've enjoyed it," he said. "There've been ups and downs, but this time I can safely say I've been very calm and played with a smile on my face, and I've enjoyed the tough situations. I don't know what the future holds, Straussy comes back in now, and I'll look forward to doing my normal job in the Test side. But I've thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy, because I've had a group of lads who've put 100% into the tournament."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • simon on June 16, 2009, 15:46 GMT

    I dont know about an honourable exit? particularly given most of the Sky tv pundits for example, fancied England's 11 over the Windies line up. What is surely a little unfair is the targets set in such contests? Seemingly no account is given to wickets, would it not be fairer to set a target then automatically take say three or four wickets from the chasing side before they begin? It is highly unlikely anybody is going to be bowled out in 9 overs! therefore the chasing side has licence to literally throw the bat at even more balls than they normally would, as they have nothing to fear. It is also quite easy to argue that England may have approached their batting somewhat differently if they thought they were in a full 20-20 contest? - No sour grapes, just think the rules are wrong! - good luck to WI.

  • Mainuddin on June 16, 2009, 13:56 GMT

    England should win the Ashes 5-0. They have got a devastating bowling attack. On the other hand, Australia's bowling attack is probably ranked no. 7 or 8 in the world right now. I think Adil Rashid will be a better option than Monty. Anderson, Broad, Sidebottom, Freddie, Swann and Rashid is too good a bowling attack for the Australian batsmen to handle.

  • Julian on June 16, 2009, 13:06 GMT

    I like Collingwood, but I hope this is the last we see of him in the T20 team. His fielding is still pretty good despite his age. However his batting isn't up to it in this format. He struggles to hit big shots and is a weak link in the middle order just when some big hitting is usually required. His bowling is nothing special and his captaincy is turgid. Bring in Napier for the T20s v the Aussies at the end of the summer and make KP or Bopara T20 captain.

    At least the bowlers generally did well, especially the seamers, faced as they were every game with defending totals that were too low.

  • A on June 16, 2009, 10:54 GMT

    All the points raised below are valid, but surely the whole affair shows that cricket has lost none of its ability to shoot itself in the foot on the big occcasion. With 23,000 people in, at a ground fitted with floodlights, and millions more (I assume) watching on TV, a key game in a prestige tournament comes down to a nine-over thrash. What sort of game is that? Yes, I'm an England fan, but this isn't sour grapes - good luck to the Windies for the rest of the tournament.

  • Neil on June 16, 2009, 10:30 GMT

    Having watch the standford t20 in the West Indies on a flat pitch, I must say Chris Gayle did well after losing his strike baller by removing the pace off the ball early in the innings, and England was at a lose after losing their t20 batsmen Bopara, Wright and Peterson. Well done West Indies !!!

  • Glenn on June 16, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    Being fortunate to be at the game last night, I was very proud of the England performance. In fact, both teams gave their all and showed such passion that showed T20 is now very important to players and fans alike. Duckworth-Lewis is what it is and had it been the other way round (WHY choose to bat with rain on the way, Colly ??) the West Indies would have had to deal with it.... but SURELY wickets need to be reduced to make it a fair chase. Chasing 80 off 9 with 6 wickets available would have meant that the West Indies would have been under pressure when reduced to 45 for 5, but they could simply keep hitting all the way to the death. A defeat for England but a victory for T20 as it was a great day, great atmosphere..... as a cricketing "purist" I've never been a fan of T20 but I'm warming to it rapidly if it keeps providing this level of drama and entertainment.

  • Jamie on June 16, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    That was no honorable exit, it was England at their very best in T20.Why, when they were clearly lacking firepower in the middle order, was Graham Napier sat on his backside on the bench? And why didn't Graeme Swann get a bash up the order? The early exit should come as no surprise, considering it's took the best part of 30 years for them to get to grips with ODI cricket.

  • Jimmers on June 16, 2009, 9:49 GMT

    The Duckworth Lewis calculations are always going to favour the team batting second in these situations, but it's up to the team batting first to post a decent total in the first place. 160 was never going to be enough, rain or no rain.

    I think the selection may have let England down more than anything. Luke Wright has looked out of his depth since the Pakistan game and should have been replaced either with Napier for his big hitting, or Key for his experience and T20 nouse in the field.

    The boys on the field did their best with what they had to work with, and I don't think there's any shame in going out the way they did; it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Windies go all the way if the planets align for them.

  • Walter on June 16, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    I like the way England are talking themselves up. Fact remains that in a game that they have invented they dont have the quality to really trouble the worlds best, regardless of the form. Everyone is raving about the 'venom' the bowling attack has..but if it really is that venomous why cant they defend a 'low' total?

    The hiding South Africa gave them(and the beating the received from the Windies) is a truer reflection on where they stand..Beating India was only a question of explioting a weakness exposed by the Windies. Copycats at best.

    Bring on the ashes..i cant wait to see Mitchell blow the english away!

  • Stuart on June 16, 2009, 9:33 GMT

    Even as an Aussie, who acknowledges the sound hiding dished out by a very good WI 20/20 team; I must agree with Pragmatist - 90 is way too low as a 9 over total & 110 would have been pretty well on the mark. Lets get D&L to work their actuarial analysis on 20/20 games and come up with a suitable resource table.

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