A month or so ago, I looked at the England side due to go and play in the West Indies in the Third ICC T20 world cup. For the record, I questioned the logic behind this tournament taking place with the international schedule so packed, and just ten months after the last tournament in England.
However, I stand corrected, and not just because England won. The cricket played was exciting, high quality and showed up the IPL as a low rent imitation. International T20 cricket has come of age in this tournament. Whilst this probably means there were no upsets, the cricket has largely been excellent. Well, except for some of the fielding.
I thought England's selection to be bold, with Flower taking note of the England Lions who had impressed and adding them to his names he already had pencilled in. I thought the team had huge potential but I couldn't bring myself to say that England could win. Somewhere the talent would not shine through, they would crumble chasing scores, or they would be undone by a mystery spinner. But win they did, and here, whilst no doubt the team are still drinking into the night, are my thoughts on they key elements.
1. The First Six Overs.
Quite simply England took full advantage, and, other than a weak showing against Ireland, they were usually in a dominant position by the time the field went back. Kieswetter and Lumb didnt make big runs (Until Kieswetter made 50 in the final), but they took the pressure off Pietersen and the middle order. Likewise, England's seamers were never built up to the same degree as Australia's much vaunted trio, yet were usually effective at keeping the opposition behind the rate in the first six.
2. Spin Spin Sugar.
Before the tournament, if you had asked who the leading spinners would be, you would have looked at the mystery spinners like Mendis, or indeed Harby, or in fact anywhere but Hove, Sussex. The combination of Michael Yardy's near-medium paced left arm, and Swann's flighted and intelligent off-spin was excellent, keeping it tight, and taking key wickets. An inspired selection from left field, and a quality bowler in all formats of the game.
3. Plan A.
England played their cricket with a clear plan in place, which, was based on their strengths as a team, rather than worrying about the threat posed by their opponents. The basics of this plan were so good, that very rarely did England have to resort to Plan B. Collingwood only needed to bowl himself for one over during the whole competition. Likewise, when Yardy finally took some tap in the final, Collingwood called up Luke Wright for his only over in two weeks. It went for just 5 runs, and included the wicket of the dangerous Cameron White.
4. Strength in Depth
Many of the teams that fell by the wayside were guilty of only being successful if their gun players fired. For Sri Lanka, this meant Jayawardena had to get runs, likewise Chris Gayle for the West Indies. Although England had their stars, they also had players capable of filling the breach. As mentioned above, England hardly bowled Collingwodd or Wright, and found useful late order runs from Wright and Bresnan when required.
This was in essence the difference between the two teams that contested the final. Whilst Australia arguably had a stronger late middle order, England played five specialist bowlers, and had two more good options should they be needed. Australia had basically three bowlers, some part timers, and Shane Watson, who bowled dross throughout. (went at 10 an over during the competition). Australia's powerful batting got them out of jail against the lesser teams, but England, for once did not take their foot off once they had got their noses in front.
5. Form is Temporary.
Lucky for England then, that their star batsman, KP, was consistently on form in virtually every game. KP usually has an off game, or a scratchy start somewhere, but I felt he could be relied on for runs, and, with Eoin Morgan, formed a destructive pair with very contrasting styles that made them difficult to bowl to.
Overall England were the side with the superior tactics and players and deservedly ran out winners. Andy Flower must be given the utmost credit. What will now be interesting is to see what happens when sides are picked for 50 overs cricket. The winning spirit from this side is something I am sure they would like to bottle, but, and here's the thing..who will be dropped to make way for Andrew Strauss, the England Captain?