Why England Pushed the Competition Aside For T20 Glory.
Last weekend, England achieved what they had failed to do for 35 years. They won a World Cup. Having lost in four finals before last weekend, you can understand why many doubted England's ability to win. Whilst Australia has a habit of winning, England does not. Instead, we tend to under-perform, as we did at the last world T20 or choke as we did in those four previous finals.
So, what was different this time? Well, firstly and most obviously, our team has a strong South African influence. For all the complaining and claims that South Africa has won this World Cup, I would argue that their greatest influence has been a mental one.
Chief of the "Foreign Legion" is Kevin Pietersen. He has been around for six years now and has bought his self confident, self believing attitude to a team that was often prepared to roll over.
The top three batsman are all of South African origin and have displayed an aggressive style of batting far more common throughout South African cricket than it ever has been on village greens or in the county grounds of England. The base provided by these three has been magnificent—the opening combination of Lumb and Kieswetter has more often than not provided a very solid base.
Even when one of them fails, as happened in the final, KP is there to rebuild the walls. In the final, KP and Kieswetter put on 111 off 68, effectively winning the match for England.
It would be foolish not to argue that our adopted players haven't played a huge role in our new found success, but I believe that their presence will bring huge benefits to the English game. If they can help make the more aggressive and modern style of batting more popular, England will be in a far better position than they ever have been before and probably won't need any South African or Irish batsmen.
It isn't just batting that has bought us success. The bowling unit, entirely English, has played a major role in the T20 success. Many, myself included, were shocked by the exclusion of Anderson and the inclusion of Sidebottom at the start of the tournament. This opinion seemed to be well founded after he had a miserable time of it during the first few games.
However, when it really mattered, he showed his true worth and contributed impressively. In the final he picked up 26 for two off his four overs, taking the key wickets of Watson and Haddin.
Swann, so often the hero over the last year, bowled solidly throughout, he was miserly and took important wickets—Sangakkara in the semi-final and Michael Clarke in the final. Yardy wasn't always as successful but that he can bat as well means that England can bat right down to ten with Collingwood claiming that they can all hit sixes.
Add in the clever variations of Broad and the fast developing Bresnan and England have a bowling attack that does the job without having any superstars. If one bowler fails, England have got exceptional backup. Luke Wright bowled just one over in the tournament yet that over, in the final, went for just five runs and claimed the crucial wicket of Cameron White. All in all, England has developed into a bowling unit that is effective and dangerous.
Paul Collingwood has led England magnificently. He hasn't had the best tournament with the bat, but he has used his IPL experience to improve bowling tactics, field positions and how the England innings have been paced.
The fielding has been important, the runs saved by stopping the ball going for four and holding hard catches have made the job far easier for England. With run outs in both the semi-final and the final, England are also forcing the batsmen into mistakes that cost them dearly.
Overall, England has developed a team, seemingly out of nowhere, that is capable of beating anyone and everyone. Whether they can keep up the success, as England rarely does, is another matter. I am not too concerned about that right now though; I am revelling in the fact that we can now say "England World T20 champions".
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