Match Analysis

New England bury old clichés on way to final

The traditional staid tactics, has-been batsmen and bowlers too callow to land a paper dart, let alone a yorker, are nowhere to be found in the current England squad. So just who are these imposters?

The latter stages of an ICC world event can feel, up in the press box, a bit like the gathering of the clans. Representatives from cricket's myriad nations, some of whom may have been circling one another throughout the tournament without ever quite finding themselves in the same city at the same time, are finally drawn together for reunions that, in many cases, span decades.
The press lounge at the back of the stand can be a fascinating place to loiter at such events, as conversations get picked up from where they were left off in the Caribbean in 2007, or in Sri Lanka in 2012. And generally, where England are concerned, those have tended to revolve around staid tactics, has-been batsmen and bowlers too callow to land a paper dart, let alone a yorker.
By the end of Wednesday night's freak show of a performance, however, as observers from Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh began melting into the night - some bound for Mumbai and others heading straight for the final in Kolkata - every single comment focused on the same incredulous theme. Who are these imposters? What has happened to the England team that we know and love to mock?
England teams are not meant to play like this - with flamboyance, and aggression, and with savvy in the big moments. They are meant to blow cold and colder at world events, with the occasional tepid upsurge as they kid their supporters into believing they might yet have the wherewithal to mend their sorry ways.
But there's no artifice about the alchemy we've been witnessing in the space of the past three weeks. England have genuinely learned from their mistakes, they have genuinely trusted their talents, and they have genuinely shown faith in one another, to the extent that on this night in Delhi, they were able to bury the very team that prompted their own resurrection following last year's dismal World Cup. Now there's gratitude for you.
On the eve of England's semi-final in Delhi, their coach Trevor Bayliss had called for his players to aim for the perfect performance, only to check himself in the very next breath and admit that such a performance has never been produced, and probably never will be. And sure enough, the loss of two wickets in two balls, including the captain Eoin Morgan for his second golden duck of the week, ensured that the wait must indeed go on.
But up until that moment… well. In the brief but intense history of the World T20, there can't have been many more credible contenders for the crown.
If it is said that winning the World T20 is all about peaking at the right time - and Morgan, a member of the victorious 2010 side, knows and swears by this mantra - then the surge of indomitability that England brought to their knock-out of New Zealand was as forceful as a Jason Roy uppercut over point.
What is more, as a consequence of England's progress, there has not been one single press conference mention for He Who Must Not Be Picked
Neither India nor West Indies will be cowed by what they witnessed ahead of their own showdown in Mumbai - teams powered by personalities as vibrant as Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle genuflect to no one. Yet you can be sure that each will have raised an eyebrow of respect, in particular at the exploits of Roy at the top of England's innings and Jos Buttler bookending the chase at No. 5 - from where he scotched any notion of an anxious dribble to the finish by pressing the beast mode button and flogging three sixes in four balls to seal the game with a whopping 17 balls to spare.
Gayle, in particular, may also have noticed that something has clicked among the England bowlers whom he beasted in the tournament opener for a brilliant 47-ball hundred. First there was Ben Stokes, who closed out Saturday's gripping win over Sri Lanka with a nerveless diet of yorkers, and now this evening he was matched in the "execution" stakes by the rejuvenated Chris Jordan.
Here was a man whose form had been on a precipice going into the opening fixtures of the World T20. And yet England's insistence that Jordan was their go-to man for the death overs has somehow turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All winter long, the management had been clinging to a single Jordan over like an article of faith - his remarkable concession of a solitary run in the whitewash-sealing super over against Pakistan back in November.
That, plus his unrivalled ability in the field, was sufficient reason to put up with his moments of uncertainty. Tonight, it was payback time, and Jordan's stifling spell of 4-0-24-1 added another deluge of confidence to a dressing room already awash with positive vibes.
On the night, the most stunning and insurmountable point of difference between England and New Zealand came at the end of their respective innings. Whereas Buttler alone battered 23 runs from the last five deliveries of England's, New Zealand mustered a grand total of 20 from the final four overs of theirs, in which time they also shipped five momentum-shifting wickets.
It is true that several of those came from full tosses and long hops, but the pressure created in between was intense and undoubtedly contributed to the mass downfall. It was as if England's players had all discovered mojos that had been stuffed unceremoniously to the bottom of their kit-bags in the final days of the South Africa tour, and were now running them up the flag pole and flaunting them in the favourable winds.
"The momentum that we carried over from the end of their innings to ours was outstanding," Roy said. "They've grown in confidence, the bowlers, from the Sri Lanka performance. It was just perfect."
In their march to the final, England have flown in the face of the doubters, haters, pundits and sages, all of whom questioned - with differing degrees of relish - how a squad containing ten cricketers who had never before played in India could possibly adapt to life in the sport's most frantic lane.
Well, they have done just that with a blend of bravery, camaraderie, application and skill. And now, Roy added, their reward is to go off and play "just another game of cricket. It just happens to be at Eden Gardens in the World Cup final in front of 100,000 people." It was, he added, "pretty cool".
What is more, as a consequence of their progress - and it is safe to say it now, given how spectacularly England have brought on-field closure to the thorniest off-field saga of them all - there has not been one single press conference mention for He Who Must Not Be Picked.
The politicking and bickering that accompanied England's initial attempts to move on from Kevin Pietersen has given way to a serene realisation that, across all three formats, the country has now landed a young and dynamic team that it can be proud to support. This is how lines in the sand should be drawn, on pure playing merit and nothing else besides. It's taken an eternity but the deed has now been done. This time, there really is nothing left to say on the matter.
There was, however, one last sublimely awkward moment this evening, when the acrimony might just have managed to seep back into the public domain for one last encore. From the back of the press conference room, an Indian journalist presented Roy with a convoluted, multi-faceted masterpiece of a question, which required an answer that peeled back the layers like a banana skin.
One of the subclauses, almost certainly an innocent enquiry, happened to include the question "who is your idol?" Roy snorted involuntarily - his admiration for KP, his team-mate at Surrey, is no secret in English circles. Those in the know held their breath, wondering whether his name was about to be invoked in the hour of Roy's coming-of-age innings of 78 from 44 balls. But in the end, despite a follow-up prompt to get specific, he ducked a delivery for the first time in a belligerent evening's work, and turned his attention back to the very-near future
There is no reason whatsoever for England not to believe in victory on Sunday night. However, much like the team that they beat this evening, and which also lost the World Cup final in Melbourne last year, it is hard to see how there can be any recrimination should England fall short.
Like Brendon McCullum's New Zealand, Morgan's England - and it is his team, in spite of his dearth of runs - has already exceeded every expectation bar their own. And they have done so in a manner that has united fans and neutrals in admiration. Not least those at the gathering of the clans in Delhi.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket