England had never won a limited over trophy, the year before they had lost at home to one of the sports minnows: Netherlands. Surely, they couldn’t end the run in the Caribbean?
When the ECB introduced the world to a new form of cricket in 2003, few could have predicted the beast that would be unleashed. T20 cricket paraded the sport to a whole new generation of spectators and managed to appeal to both young and (some) old in equal measure. Originally seen as a domestic competition, a way of counties drawing bigger crowds in, it has grown to become the most profitable form of cricket and will surely one day, in the not too distant future, be the most played form. Yet somehow, it feels like T20 has never really found its place in the cricketing world. The English traditionalists see it as “disturbing the peace”, an unnecessary and degrading form of cricket that ruins the ceremony and wonder of First Class cricket. Their worry, and this is by no means unfounded, is that eventually Test match cricket will be redundant. It doesn’t bring in as much money as T20 does and youngsters these days are learning to hit sixes like Chris Gayle rather than block, nudge and nurdle like Trotty. There are those in the world who see Test cricket as boring and upper class, a form of the sport which doesn’t appeal to the working class generation. Both views have valid points, but both are also flawed. The future of the two formats will be interesting to watch although I suspect that the history, skill and determination of Test cricket will outlive the fireworks of T20. I mention all of this because my personal opinion is that all forms of cricket are as important as the other. T20 appealed to the 21st century due to the unfortunate, and hopefully one day reversible, reduction of intelligence in society – see ball, hit ball is a lot easier to understand then playing for 5 days and ending up with no result. I don’t like that side of T20, but I’ve always been appealed to the fun nature of it. There is nothing better than sitting down and watching a 3 hour sporting event in the evening, something that the patience required for Test matches doesn’t give you. 3 hours is the perfect length of time for a sporting match, it gives you time to soak the atmosphere and enjoy it yet doesn’t feel like too long a time to become disinterested.
The first T20 international was held between Australia and New Zealand on the 17th February 2005. It was played in a less than serious manner, yet two years later the inaugural world cup was held in South Africa. Twelve teams took part, the ten test playing nations as well as Kenya and Scotland and the tounament was won by India. England had enough quality to get through the group stages yet fell apart in the super eights, culminating on the 19th September when Yuvraj Singh blasted Stuart Broad for 6 6’s in one over. Stuart Broad was at the centre of another mishap at the 2009 World Cup, held in England. The tournament opened on the 5th June with a match between England and the Netherlands, which was expected to be a stroll in the park for England. However, Holland managed to get into a position where they needed 2 runs to win off the last ball. Broad was bowling and fielded off his delivery. He decided to shy at the stumps, in an attempt to win the match, but the ball was never going to hit and even if it did it wouldn’t have been a run out. Netherlands took the two runs and won the game, which remains the greatest shock in World T20 history. Despite impressive victories over Pakistan (the eventual winners) and India, England once again didn’t get further than the super 8’s. What are the reasons for this? I think the main one was that England didn’t pick T20 players on their T20 qualities; rather they preferred to choose players who they knew and liked. Eoin Morgan made his debut in that match against Holland, a positive sign, yet Robert Key also played in that match – and you could hardly say that Rob Key is suited to play T20 cricket! There also seemed to be a lack of thought processes from the England management teams, they thought that the game was as simple as see ball, hit ball and try to bowl as fast as you can.
However, in the year that followed that Netherlands defeat, everything changed. Collingwood, the captain, and Flower, the coach, worked together to properly look at the various options around the county circuit. 6 new players came into the squad, but while that is less than half of the actual squad, the players that came in made a huge difference. For a start, the 2009 openers Bopara and Wright were both included yet neither opened. The new opening partnership was Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb. The biggest improvements on the bowling side were the introduction of all-rounders Bresnan and Yardy. For me, the greatest change from 2009 to 2010 was the introduction of a settled line up. Almost throughout the whole tournament in the West Indies, England played the same XI. Namely: Lumb, Kieswetter, Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan, Wright, Bresnan, Broad, Yardy, Swann, Sidebottom. The bowling attack had balance to it with Broad and Sidebottom offering the pace, Bresnan the control and two very different styles of spinners. The batting line up had power and skill in equal measure plus it wasn’t burdened with past failures. With the back-up players being Anderson, Bopara, Shahzad and Tredwell, England had all bases covered should there be an injury or a dip in form.
The start of the tournament was a mixed day for England. Batting first against the hosts, with rain in the air, they scored 191 including a partnership of 95 between Morgan (55) and Wright (45*). The score of 191 should have been enough yet it started raining. The West Indies innings got reduced to 6 overs with only 60 to get. With 10 wickets in hand and Gayle in their ranks, the West Indies won by 8 wickets. The weather being an issue is a phrase one does not associate with the Caribbean and yet for the second match in a row, there was rain in the air as England took to the field. Once again England were put into bat yet this time, against neighbours Ireland, they could only make 120 – a quick fire 45 from Morgan being the key. The score was generally perceived to be about par, nothing more but it was expected to pose a challenge for the relatively inexperienced Irish line up. Luckily for England, we never got to see how close Ireland would get to it as the rain came and washed out any chances of more play. Ireland had been 14-1 at the time from 3.3 overs. Due to a superior net run rate, England progressed to the super 8s (basically, England got through because they didn’t lose as badly to the West Indies – hardly a convincing way to progress from a group!). It appeared to me, and many experts, that this World Cup campaign was simply going to follow the pattern of the rest – England clearly being the 8th best T20 side in the world.
The super 8s drew England against Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand. The first match of the next stage of the tournament saw England take on Pakistan. England won the toss and elected to field and thanks to a controlled bowling performance, they restricted Pakistan to 147. After a positive, but not spectacular, start to the England chase, Pietersen came to the crease and blasted 73* off 52 balls. He got able support from Kieswetter and Collingwood but for the first time in the tournament, Morgan failed. As this happened with only 8 runs from 2 overs needed for victory, it didn’t matter and England won by 6 wickets with 3 balls left. In between the Pakistan match and England’s next one there were victories for South Africa and New Zealand. This meant that victory for England over South Africa would go a long way towards guaranteeing their passage into the semi finals. England won the toss and elected to bat; scoring 168 with another quick fire 50 from Pietersen (53), 41 from Kieswetter and fast scoring knocks from Collingwood and Morgan. South Africa never got close, only 4 batters got into double figures with a high score of 39 from JP Duminy. Sidebottom and Swann got 3 wickets; Broad and Yardy got 2 as they ripped through the talented line up of SA and skittled them for 129. When Pakistan beat South Africa in 2 days time, England were guaranteed their place in the semi-finals before they played their final match, which was met with a sigh of relief in England as Pietersen had flown home to witness the birth of his child. New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat, making a total of 149, with Ross Taylor scoring 44. Despite Kieswetter, Bopara and Collingwood failing, Lumb got England off to a good start and Morgan’s 40 took them to within touching distance of the total. However, they still needed a cameo of 23 from 11 balls off Tim Bresnan to finally reach the target. England had progressed through the Super 8s winning 3 out of 3 games, an unprecedented achievement.
Their semi-final opponents were Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s passage through to the semi final had both highs and lows. They lost to New Zealand in their first match before Jayawardene scored a century to see them to victory over Zimbabwe. In the Super 8s they lost to Australia, sandwiched in between victories over West Indies and India. They won the toss in the semi final and elected to bat. Angelo Mathews made 58 but no other batter made it into the twenties as they limped to 128 off all their 20 overs. After Kieswetter, Lumb and Pietersen all made scores above 30 there was no chance for Sri Lanka and England chased the total down with 4 overs to spare. I’ve mentioned the batting a lot during this but it is just as appropriate to praise the bowling. Sidebottom and Bresnan had perfected the use of the slower ball bouncer, which was fooling a lot of batters and the spinners were taking wickets and being economical. Every single piece in the England jigsaw was working and they were just improving as the tournament went on, led excellently by Paul Collingwood. There was no-one who could deny they didn’t deserve to be in the final.
Going into the final, England had a terrible record in World Cup finals (Won 0, Lost 4) and had a pretty bad record against Australia in World Cup Cricket too (Won 3, Lost 7), with those figures including Champions Trophy matches. So, when Michael Hussey launched an incredible assault against the Pakistan bowlers to win that semi final, it was with a heavy heart that we realised to win the tournament; England had to get the better of two hoodoos. To make matters worse, Australia were the only side left in the competition that were unbeaten. They had beaten Pakistan twice, once in the group stages, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and West Indies. England won the toss and chose to field, a decision that seemed vindicated when both Watson and Warner fell early on, with both scoring 2 runs. When Brad Haddin fell for 1, the score was 8-3 and Australia were in deep trouble. A run a ball 27 from Michael Clarke followed, in a decent partnership with David Hussey before Swann got Clarke out. The most aggressive part of the innings followed, with White coming to the crease and he scored a quick 30 before Collingwood threw the ball to Luke Wright, his only over of the tournament, and Wright managed to get Cameron White out. When D Hussey fell for a well made 59 the score was at 142-6 and Australia only added 5 more runs to that in the 4 remaining balls to get to 147. Sidebottom once again picked up the most wickets, with 2 at an economy rate of 6.50 and Swann was the most economical bowler with his 4 overs only going at 4.25 an over and including a wicket.
148 was the score England needed to get to win their first limited overs tournament, it wasn’t going to be easy but with a batting line up that had been going well it was definitely possible. The first over was bowled by Tait and with his 4th ball he managed to get Lumb out, caught by David Hussey. Lumb had looked in fine touch all tournament; and so it would have been understandable had England looked nervous after that. However, all it did was start the Kieswetter-Pietersen partnership which took the game away from Australia. Pietersen made 47 from 31 balls but it was Kieswetter who stole the show with 63 from 49. Both tore the Australian attack apart, both looked in dominating form. Unfortunately, both got out before the end and at 121-3 after 14 overs, Australia had a little glimmer of hope. That hope was dashed by the very assured partnership between Collingwood and Morgan, who carried England to a 7 wicket victory with 3 overs remaining.
When England got West Indies 147-8, still 71 runs short of victory, in the 2004 Champions Trophy final, held in England, everyone thought the one day final duck was over. That partnership managed to get the 71 runs needed and the wait went on. When the chance to win another World Cup on English soil disappeared in 2009, no-one would have predicted the losing streak would have ended just a year later. Thanks to hard work, taking risks, thinking outside the box and executing plans to perfection all the years of hurt was ended, and to top it all off we managed to defeat the old enemy in the final! T20 cricket isn’t to everyone’s taste in England, but because of how well we were playing, it felt like T20 finally became accepted in most people’s hearts over here. This wouldn’t be included in most people’s lists but I felt incredibly proud of how England played in this tournament and the feeling of winning a multinational tournament is one that I hadn’t experienced before, it’s one that will remain with me for a very long time too!
Gareth’s Awards: this is the section where I hand out two special awards for absolutely anything that became memorable from the event.
Unsung hero of the tournament: While Pietersen, Morgan and Sidebottom rightly stole the headlines for wonderful displays throughout the tournament, I feel that it is right to praise another player. Namely Paul Collingwood. Collingwood is one of my favourite cricketers of all time; I loved everything he brought to any side. Not only was he a wonderful batter, he was a decent bowler and a fantastic fielder. He proved in this tournament that he was an outstanding captain as well. He knew his best team and, aside from KP becoming a father, managed to keep them together. He had hunches which usually worked, such as bowling Wright in the final, and fittingly he hit the winning runs. He didn’t have the best time with the bat but this turned out to be a sort of farewell to his international career. One of the most reliable players in England’s history, he got on with his job with minimal fuss, never craved headlines and never made enemies. He deserved this moment in the sun, like he deserved to leave the test arena with a historical series win in Australia. England have never truly replaced him.
Breakthrough player of the tournament: This one is a real tough one because the England squad really was inexperienced. There is an argument that this was the time when Pietersen and Morgan finally fulfilled their T20 potential. Cases can also be made for Lumb and Bresnan but for me the breakthrough player had to be Craig Kieswetter. Plucked out of almost nowhere, he made an impact on the world with good batting and solid, and sometimes unbelievable, keeping. That innings in the final is one that lives long in the memory and he forged a good international career on the success of this. Despite him not being in the England squad for a while, I refuse to believe that his international career is over – I still think he has move to give.