the wrong'un at long on

the sun in my eyes and a bludgeoned mass of hardened leather en route to my vicinity…

“Blood, Sweat and Treason” – Miscellaneous Thoughts On Andy Flower

For Christmas I was bought Henry Olonga’s biography “Blood, Sweat and Treason”.

Well, I asked for it.

It was an interesting biography. Quite a few cricketing biographies you read go “and then I got picked for Surrey u11s, and then I got picked for Surrey u13s, and then I got picked for the senior team, and then I got picked for England”, with a smattering of personal life in between ‘hilarious’ (ahem) anecdotes about the occasional off-field escapades with team-mates.

Olonga’s book is rather different.

Although he is easy-going to the point of horrific naivety, Olonga is not a natural comedian and a light-hearted romp this isn’t, and yet he is obviously pretty talented when it came to a lot of other things in life. The book is geared towards the career (and perhaps life) defining action of Olonga’s protest against the Mugabe regime.

Olonga was also the first black Zimbabwean cricketer, and also faced issues with injury, form, and accusations of ‘chucking’ early in his career, as well as being used and abused by a number of emergent factions within Zimbabwe and particularly Zimbabwean cricket – almost always to the detriment of the relationship he had with his team-mates. Although I intend to write further on the book at some point, at this moment I found it interesting for it’s takes on one man in particular:

Andy Flower, then captain of Zimbabwe and certainly their greatest EVER player bar Graeme Hick (of course), was first mentioned when Olonga was brought into the Test squad for his debut aged just 18:

Andy was the consummate professional and a tough taskmaster. He didn’t suffer fools gladly: he had no time for players who didn’t train properly…Andy was not to be messed with. As a captain, what he said went, and he was not the sort of guy to put his arm around you and encourage you. So if you are playing for him, don’t give your wicket away and bowl the ball in the right place or else you will know about it.

An interesting enough snippet without being overly controversial. Flower had high standards for himself, expected the same of others, and wouldn’t be shy about pointing out when others had slipped. Nothing much to see here.

What really struck me though was later in the book, the difference between Flower and Olonga in the lead up to their united protest. Flower was the instigator – an act that he should certainly be commended for – but although Olonga never actually voices the words or hints at it himself, to me it almost felt unfair that he brought Olonga into the mix.

Let me add some background to this:

Flower was one of the world’s best batsmen and had been playing with Essex in County Cricket successfully already. He had the highest Test batting average for a wicket keeper of all time (possibly this has been surpassed by AB De Villiers), and was in high demand as a respected international cricketer. Flower knew exactly the consequences of his actions, he knew where he was going, he probably knew how many years he wanted to continue playing for Essex for, and even what he was going to do after retiring from playing.

Olonga on the other hand was never a man with a plan at the best of times. He was a man trying to prove himself at the start of an international career, and he was utterly clueless about what to do after the protest, or how even to get out of the country safely if Zimbabwe had not reached the Super Sixes. Olonga’s post International cricket career has been something that he has fallen into rather than something that he had put any thought into whatsoever. This shouldn’t be a surprise – he didn’t even plan to become a cricketer.

Now I can see why Olonga, as the first black Zimbabwean to play for the national side, was important to the success of any protest. He added a vital symbolism to the act. Yet it hardly seems right that Olonga was given mere “weeks” before the 2003 World Cup started in order to secure his future from the point of being brought into the protest by Flower. These men were hardly great friends, so it was a huge leap of faith for Olonga to back the protest:

“But now I couldn’t figure out why this guy who hadn’t been prepared to give me the time of day for so long would want to talk to me now. Andy may well disagree that we got on badly. Maybe he didn’t mean to come across in that way. But it was intriguing that he suddenly wanted to talk away from the cricketing environment which, as far as I was concerned, was the only thing we now had in common.” 

And in hindsight:

I didn’t know what to make of him in those days, but now I realise he is a good husband and father, a loyal friend and a genuinely nice man. The only weak link in the chain when I was playing with him was his man-management, but he has clearly sorted that out with the passage of time and I am sure that he is a fantastic coach. The players must love him. He always talks sense and he does have a larger-than-life aura about him.” 

Now, the book was released at the peak of Flower’s coaching tenure as England coach, in 2010. I did wonder as I was reading whether or not the last few words would still be there if the book was released in, say 2015. It is impossible to say how much it is worth taking from Olonga’s book, but I think they provide a context to some of the recent grumbles about Andy Flower. He comes across as a dedicated and diligent man of method – far removed from Olonga’s markedly more chaotic, personality-led life. What is certainly noticeable is that Flower was always in control – if not of others, then certainly of his own actions.

Although this is becoming rather hypothetical, it is very easy to picture the scene of Paul Downton flying out to Sydney and being confronted with a coach who was in complete control of himself and his role. The scoreline might have suggested that there were major issues within Flower’s England camp, but by exuding complete and utter authority, combined with an assured presentation of a confident plan for a successful future might just have earnt Flower a move upstairs rather than out the door, and also helped evade the ignominy of a career busting dissection of some of the critical management errors throughout the final year of his tenure.

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A New County Cricket Summer

Usually a winter thumping brings an even greater edge to the start of a County summer. The sun pokes it’s head out, people are a year older, and there is a freshness to the game. Phrases are often bandied about at this time of year..”Places up for grabs”, “starting afresh”, “green shoots”…

This time, however, no-one wants to talk about cricket. Which is a shame for an imperious looking I. Ron Bell who is accumulating what look like serious early season runs for Warwickshire. It is a shame for Gary Ballance and Sam Robson, both of whom have made April tons with one eye on a spot in a new look England side. It is a shame for Steven Finn, who has taken the most wickets in Division 1 at an average of just 16 after a nightmare winter. On another year, it’d even be a shame for Ed Joyce who has had a dream start, the type usually reserved for the misty-eyed insides of a batsman’s head after a particularly satisfying winter net.

Instead of discussing the merits of these achievements up against each other, instead of pondering the make up of the visiting tourists to come, instead of just feeling happy that my favourite spectator sport is back – I just feel disinterested. Well not disinterested exactly, disenfranchised.

Why? The elephant in the room. Not KP. He is but one part of this.

It is clear that the ECB hold NO INTEREST in dissecting and analysing THE WORST TOUR EVER. They have seemingly rushed to scapegoat ONE  member of the “rank and file” whilst COMPLETELY EXONERATING the actual GENERALS who were “running the show” of ANY BLAME WHATSOEVER.

I won’t be going into it further. There are other sources (LINK, LINK2, LINK3) who will do that far better than I can.

I just felt I needed to say it; I didn’t want to start blogging again about other things without addressing the elephant stinking out the place. ECB, take note.

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County Predictions

After the success of last year’s predictions, I thought it unwise to stick my neck out on the line this year. Yet I’ll do it anyway.

Division One

  1. Warwickshire – 9/2
  2. Nottinghamshire – 11/2
  3. Yorkshire – 6/1
  4. Durham – 7/1
  5. Lancashire 15/2
  6. Middlesex – 8/1
  7. Sussex – 9/1
  8. Somerset – 10/1
  9. Northants 30/1

Like last year, Warwickshire are favourites. If Jonathan Trott doesn’t get thrust straight back into the England side and thus become unavailable to them, you can understand why – they’ve enough nibbly all-rounders, wicket takers and depth to be serious contenders. Again it’s hard to see Durham doing as well as they did last season – again, they’ll probably defy those expectations with a results pitch and an excellent new ball pair (with Onions tipped for England duty, I quite like Chris Rushworth for top wicket taker @16/1). Yorkshire seem to have gotten a lot of press this year but although the crop of batsmen look excellent with the addition of Kane Williamson, more significantly I doubt their firepower with the ball since Headingley seems to be a tamer wicket than it perhaps once was. My pick for this season is instead Nottinghamshire at a competitive 11/2Peter Siddle and Luke Fletcher have wickets in them, Samit Patel, Phil Jacques 28/1 and James Taylor should provide the runs. They don’t have much in the way of a spinner but I’m not sure that there will be much need for one; of course this summer will be gloomy and overcast.

I have Sussex down to struggle. A lot might depend on Ed Joyce and Steve Magoffin – never bad men to depend on, but if they lose Prior and Jordan to England duty, I don’t know if Sussex have enough quality elsewhere if Joyce and Magoffin don’t perform well. After tipping Derbyshire to do alright last season, I’ll refrain from applying the same curse to Northamptonshire, and just say that they might stay stay up over Somerset – who look particularly frail this season after Trescothick’s barren year. Lancs aren’t in any danger of doing anything at the top or the bottom.

Division Two

  1. Surrey 7/2
  2. Hampshire – 4/1
  3. Essex – 5/1
  4. Derbyshire – 7/1
  5. Kent – 9/1
  6. Worcestershire – 9/1
  7. Gloucestershire – 12/1
  8. Glamorgan – 14/1
  9. Leicestershire – 50/1

Surrey have Graeme Smith and Kevin Pieterson. There, I’ve said it. They’ll do alright – if they can eke out some consistency from Tremlett, Dernbach and Meaker with the ball then they’ll win the league. If they can’t then I fancy my local side Hampshire to pip them. Kyle Abbott (10/1) and Matt Coles could be a brilliant signings and Jimmy Adams and James Vince will provide enough runs without being picked up by England . Kent were able to let Coles go because they’ve signed Doug Bollinger (12/1) who has an exceptional record in Sheffield Shield cricket – worth a fiver on top wicket taker. Derbyshire have Madsen (@14/1) and Chanderpaul which makes them dangerous, while Essex have been tipped elsewhere. Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Glamorgan will do well to finish in the top half.

Looking at the odds, this means that if you stuck a pound on each of the six highlighted bets, you’d no doubt lose six pounds.

 

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Spinners

Certain things in cricket mesmerise me; an Ian Bell cover drive, Morne Morkel bowling around the wicket to Michael Clarke, Graham Thorpe nudging his way to a ton, the mythical entity that is Shahid Afridi, the certainty of a Ricky Ponting hook, Jonty Rhodes athleticism at backward point…cricket and cricket’s technical skills have an aesthetical pleasantness that are unrivalled across sport. I think it’s why cricket writing is so much better than other sports (and no, I don’t include my own cobbled together mutterings in that).

Yet even in a sport which contains so many micro enjoyments within itself, spin bowling is in a metaphorical field of it’s own. Get it right and you have outwitted the discombobulated batsman through a vicious combination of verve and technical application. Get it wrong and the batsman will almost certainly have both the time and piece of wood in his hands needed to punish you. An off-spinner bowling someone driving through the gate, a leg spinner clipping the off bail having pitched outside leg, Steve Smith bowling a horrific full-toss to dismiss Ian Bell.  If someone hasn’t written a poem about these moments, they should.

The best part of spin bowling is how angry it used to make me feel as a batsman – I can only assume others are the same. The few occasions I survived the pace bowlers to even face a spinner, suddenly my mindset changed. No longer would I wish to merely survive. No longer was I particularly troubled in terms of being hurt by the 12 ounce mass of hardened leather. Suddenly I wanted to be the aggressor. I wanted to launch it into oblivion. Bowl it flat, I wanted to smash it. Give it flight, I wanted to smash it. On a length, outside off stump, hitting middle, I wanted to smash it.

Quite often I would miss it.

I’d create a whole new sport based around the art; reduce bowlers’ run-ups to a maximum of three paces and use those special “grippy” pitches that England net on when touring the subcontinent, presumably to get them used to being completely bamboozled by spin bowlers. I’d insist that there are a minimum of four fielders within five metres of the bat – ideally there’d be a silly mid off right under the batsman’s snout! We’d use a new ball with an extra seam at 90 degrees to the existing one for extra turn and we’d reduce the size of the popping crease by half; stumped is, afterall, the best method of dismissal after ‘bowled’. It’d be a game based on misdirection, guile, suggestion and showmanship. I’d call it Spincket. Which is a rubbish name that doesn’t even remotely do justice to the potential of the game.

Naturally, the face of the sport would be Saeed Ajmal.

Saeed Ajmal Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan poses for a portrait during the Pakistan Portrait session at the Sheraton Hotel on February 13, 2011 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Devilishly handsome with fine hair, Ajmal is my favourite current bowler and would be the first man I’d turn to in order to promote Spincket. Ajmal has excellent control, gets significant turn and lovely loop. The fact he has a doosra makes him officially naughty and an antithesis of James Tredwell. As much as he’s decent in limited overs for England, I definitely wouldn’t let Tredwell play my game, nor Nathan Lyon. I’d let Graeme Swann play, but only to left handers. Ajmal would be the man though. He is a modern day Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqqy could definitely still play even now, as could Mushy if he’s up for it.

At the other end would be Graham Thorpe and VVS Laxman. Wristiness.  There would be double runs on offer for dabbled sweeps behind square leg – naturally. I’d also give a congratulatory run to any batsman who plays a shot so late that the ball is within a foot of the return crease. Does anyone want to play?

Steve Smith to Ian Bell

Poor shot selection

Toe ended to mid on

Full toss there to be hit

Shabby execution

Part time leg spin delight

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Afghanistan beat Bangladesh!

“The cricketing potential is huge. What they need is encouragement, not criticism. It’s not just about statistics. Our success is measured in many objectives for the individual and the team. Essentially we want to show progress and push the opposition as hard as we can.”

Dav Whatmore.

“We are just trying to help them along the way by improving standards. There aren’t too many countries where cricket is the No1 sport, so they’ve every chance.”

The ICC’s Brendan McClements.

“In a country that only hits the headlines only when some form of disaster strikes, cricket is more than a mere pastime. It’s a potential lifejacket. It tells the world that the country has more to it than natural disasters, and it provides the people with a welcome distraction from their worries”

Wisden’s Lawrence Booth.

Although these quotes are similar to some of the words being bandied about regarding Afghanistan this week, they probably do not make great reading for the country for whom they were originally penned – Bangladesh. The words describe a country whose slow progress in the early 2000′s appears less and less like any sort of progress at all: only against Zimbabwe and what was essentially a West Indian ‘B’ team  have Bangladesh found their level in Test cricket.

In limited overs cricket however there has been more success. Just two years ago Bangladesh were 2 (two!) runs away from winning the Asian Cup – a rare peak in performance which included scalps of both India and Sri Lanka. It was hoped that they would build on that showing in the 2014 Asia Cup, however a loss to a Virat Kohli inspired India (could Kohli become the greatest ODI batsman ever?) was followed by a performance which handed Afghanistan an historic first win over a Test playing nation. If David, used to fighting men of Goliath’s ilk, comes acropper against a fellow midget of the world…is this even an upset?

I wrote in October about Afghanistan qualifying for the 50 over World Cup in 2015 and like the cricket dork that I unashamedly am I had a quick glance through their stats to see if they perhaps had a world beater hidden away in there, or perhaps a core of solid players to build on for the future. Qualifying for the World Cup over nations like Kenya was certainly a surprising feat – in March 2003 the new Afghanistan was just two years old yet to even formalise a constitution, whilst Kenya were reaching the semi finals of the World Cup.

What I found was that the Afghans certainly look to have a solid enough batting line up for the level that they are at; they have four players who average in the mid 30′s with the bat in ODI cricket (Mohammad Shahzad, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari). In the grand scheme of things this is nothing outstanding in a world where stars like Virat Kohli are currently averaging nearly double that in run chases, but bear in mind that Bangladesh have just one batsman in the same bracket (the excellent Shakib Al Hassan). Of the four Afghans, it was Shenwari in this instance who hit a quickfire 81 from 69 balls to give support to Asghar Stanikzai (90*) and provide Afghanistan with a competitive total.

I also mentioned that Bangladesh appear to meet that time-honoured subcontinental tradition of being able to squeeze the enjoyment out of the middle of a 50 over innings by taking pace off the ball – Shenwari (1-23 from 6 overs) and Hamza Hotak (0-24 from 7 overs) fulfilling this role excellently in Fatullah. However what really stands the Afghan’s out is the two opening ‘quick’ bowlers Shapoor Zadran (2-39) and Hamid Hassan (2-26). With ODI averages of 27.15 and 18.94 respectively they have all the makings of a stronger new ball pair than Bangladesh have ever been able to boast. In this respect the Afghans are more in line with Pakistan in terms of cricketing heritage than Bangladesh. It is difficult to compare ODI averages like-with-like between two nations of a full ICC member and an Associate Member due to the nature of their respective regular opposition, but given Hassan especially is supposed to hit 90+mph, this Afghan side look like being capable of more than simply making up the numbers in NZ & Australia in 2015 – unlike, dare I say it, Bangladesh.

Hand up if you’re a decent new ball bowler…

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Domino Effect for Duminy Domination?

It is no longer unexpected to see a brilliant innings from AB de Villiers, and it almost was an inevitability that he notched up his 18th Test ton to drag South Africa past both respectability and then formidability in the first innings in Port Elizabeth. The 30 year old became a record breaker on Day One by reaching 50 in his 12th consecutive Test match, and then became a centurion on Day Two as South Africa grittily edged ahead on Day Two.

Most impressive about de Villiers’ Test stats are that he has managed to improve his average on taking on the extra burden of wicket-keeping duties from a ‘mere’ 50.42  to 59.89 with the gloves,  and notably his figures are not improved by ‘cashing in’ against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – he does not have a single century against either.

What was less expected on Day Two was the support de Villiers received from the other end, he no longer has the rock that was Jacques Kallis alongside him at number 4 and so looks a little isolated in the middle order. Instead it was left to an unheralded performer to back him up, and this is what happened – today was comfortably JP Duminy’s second greatest Test knock.

Duminy has flattered to deceive at Test level since bursting onto the scene with a stunning 166* in what was just his second Test against Australia (an Aussie side incidentally also containing Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle). It looked then that he would step into the South African Test side and provide a perfect lower order foil to a top order containing Smith, Amla, De Villiers and Kallis. It has not quite happened. In 22 Tests Duminy has just 3 Test centuries and a nondescript average in the early to mid 30s. For a man with 15 First Class Centuries and 10000 First Class runs at 48.13, this seems a poor return. Yet it is this First Class record combined with a handy average of 39.27 in ODI cricket (and no doubt his excellent spell for Devon!) that has seen South Africa persevere with him in spite of a less than glorious Test career to date. It was this First Class record and volume of runs that Duminy leant on during his excellent knock today which has shifted the momentum of the Test series’ back in South Africa’s favour.

In this I think that there is a lesson. Since the retirement of Paul Collingwood the England selectors have been desperately trying to find another jewel in the crown. Eoin Morgan was tinkered with and found out, James Taylor got a Test then the wilderness, Johnny Bairstow had a few to prove himself, even Joe Root went from hero to zero whilst Gary Ballance has featured in a Test, Michael Carberry had one Test at his peak before being oddly thrown in for 5 when slightly past it. Nick Compton was harshly done by, while Ravi Bopara has as many tons as Duminy from half the Tests. Who remembers Samit Patel’s Test appearances as a second spinner? For the summer coming Ben Stokes is now seen as a number 6 – but for how long?

South Africa have eschewed this scattergun approach and have taken a longer term approach with Duminy. They have basically accepted that you cannot have 11 world beaters in your side, and taken the approach that Duminy’s stats suggest that he will become a ‘good’ and steady player for them in the long term.

Now they have been rewarded for their patience with this excellent knock, I’d suggest that Duminy is now likely to add further value to their investment and is certainly likely to improve his current average in the mid 30s and push it over the “decent Test batsman” mark of 40. Ultimately Duminy will most likely never be a great, but when you have players like de Villiers in your side that isn’t the issue. South Africa’s blueprint for proven performers seems to have created a formidable unit. Other countries should take note.

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Ball of the Century

The best parts of this one is the contours of the keeper gloves and Gatting’s face. Even though you can’t see the detail on Gatt’s mug you know what emotion he’s feeling; confused and defeated.

One of the best things about the ball is the reaction of Gatting. As the Australians celebrated, he just sort of stood there confused. This accusing and bewildered stare at where the bail should be, contrasted with the group happiness at the back of the shot.

On a side note, whatever happened to Cornhill Insurance? Did they exist solely to sponsor cricket in the 1990s because I don’t think I’ve heard of them since…

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Sketch Cricket

Just mucking around with an image or two.

If this one works I’ll try to upload more tomorrow.

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ECB and PCA Statement

It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.

“Unwarranted”? ….”unwelcome backdrop”!?

Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.

“successfully”!!!!?!!!

The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.

FACT.

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

There are a lot of hints to be gleaned when reading between the lines here. Nothing concrete, of course, let alone an example.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

“People outside cricket”, like Paul Downton was 3 weeks ago?

“Attacking the rationale of”…getting rid of your best batsman?

“Questioned without justification”…try seeing our best and most exciting player be sacked without justification.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

Clearly.

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

“Uninformed and unwarranted”!?!! 0-5.

These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.

Oh, the cruel irony.

—————————————————————————-

A statement which can ONLY have been designed to add fuel to the fire. Nothing new therefore pointless and frustratingly uninformative, not to mention being really rather rude to anyone with an opinion which goes against the actions of the ECB.

I don’t necessarily want Pietersen back if he is going to be a disruptive nightmare which makes the 10 other players in a cricket team play shit. I do however want some form of good reason behind ditching our best batsman other than shoddy management. From the outside looking in, the combined trio of Flower, Cook and Prior had a lot more to do with the shambolic 5-0 loss than Kevin Pietersen, yet they are being backed to the hilt whilst Kevin Pietersen is the fall guy.

The ECB should treat it’s customers with more respect and either give us something or just shut up – Kevin Pietersen’s silence has played the situation x10 times better than they have. This is playing wildly at a ball they really should have left; it is a terrible start to Paul Downton’s tenure, another failure from Andy Flower, and hardly a strong chapter in Alastair Cook’s book.

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In Memory Of…England winning a Global Tournament

T20 World Cup, 2010 – South Africa

Group D

There was a very real danger that unfancied England might have fallen at the first hurdle, a danger exacerbated when Duckworth-Lewis contrived to give the West Indies a win in the opening fixture when they’d made no more than a decent start when chasing 191 -the tournament’s highest total to that point. As it was, West Indies’ thumping of Ireland in the opening match was enough to cruelly cement Ireland’s exit, when having limited England to just 120-8 their chase was washed out and a no result verdict was passed.

So England, Played 2 Won 0, went through as a result of run rate. Inspiring, huh.

Group E?

Having scraped through the formalities of Group D, England went into Group E (obviously).

From this point it’s worth mentioning that they didn’t lose another match.  First Pakistan were limited to 147 after being bamboozled by the mystery non-spin of Michael Yardy (4-0-19-2); Kevin Pietersen then began a run of form with a blistering 73* to guide England home with 3 balls to spare.

In the second fixture Dale Steyn (4-0-50-0) and South Africa were then sent to all parts with Pietersen (53 from 33) again starring, Ryan Sidebottom and Graeme Swann  with 3 wickets apiece sealing an empthatic 39 run victory.

A bog-standard, unmemorable victory sans a rested KP against New Zealand kept the momentum for the already qualified for semi final. Apologies to Tim Bresnan whose stats (4-0-20-1 plus 23* from 11 balls) indicate a bit of a match-winning performance; sorry Tim but I don’t remember it, and the rest of your tournament was pretty mediocre.

Semi-Finals – England vs Sri Lanka

The semi-finals awaited; Sri Lanka awaited. Sri Lanka were a well rounded side with a strong top order, big hitters in the lower order and plenty of variation in their attack. Phenomenal bowling from Broad, Sidebottom, Yardy and Swann (sorry again Bresilad) kept a much fancied Sri Lanka to 128 (Angelo Matthews 58 from 45). The mystery spin of Ajantha Mendis and the more obvious talents of Lasith Malinga could not keep Pietersen (42* from 26) from guiding England to a comfortable victory with 4 overs to spare – to face Australia in the final.

The Final

Again unfancied to be anything resembling successful, England’s bowlers limited Australia well too; Australia reaching just 147 (David Hussey 50) with a good all-round bowling performance (with Yardy and Bresnan expensive – sorry Tim). Yet again Kevin Pietersen (47 from 31) was at the fore-front of a comfortable chase, this time with Craig Kieswetter (63 from 49) also contributing and seeing England home with 3 overs to spare. Australia were not a 2006 or even a 2001 juggernaut at this point, but they were still pretty dominant in terms of limited overs cricket and really expected to see off England.

What We Learnt

Not a lot, apparently.

Five Things We Should Have Learnt

1. You can get away with starting a tournament slowly, but you won’t win unless you turn it on at the business end. The nature of England’s final two matches could not have been further from those of the opening fixtures. Momentum may or may not be a real sporting variable, but if it exists it had certainly swung in England’s favour by the end. 

2. Kevin Pietersen is a World Class T20 asset. Only Mike Hussey averaged more (boosted by four “not outs”), only Mihela Jayawardene scored more (boosted by a ton vs Zimbabwe). At the aforementioned “business end”, Pietersen averaged in excess of 100 in England’s final four matches. Irreplaceable. Sorry Rajasthan Royals and co, but I’m even considering bidding for him for my team in the Plymouth & Districts weeknight T20 league. He’d open the bowling too.

3. Sidebottom, Bresnan, Broad, Yardy and Swann. Five pretty uninspiring names, with two uninspiring bit part bowlers in Collingwood and Wright as back-up. Yet although individually they wouldn’t strike fear into anyone, as a unit they worked: Left arm over the wicket, the short right armer who bowls a “heavy ball”, the tall quick with the awkward bounce, the left arm tweaker, the off-spinner with an excellent length, plus the dibbly dobbly medium pacer and the spare 80mph bowler. The individuals in England’s bowling unit were not great, but the variation available was. And I’m not talking about Dernbach’s back of the hand long hops…

4. Fielding. David Hussey was run out by Luke Wright having reached 50 in the final to slow Australia’s late dash. Angelo Mathews was run out by Collingwood having reached 50 in the semi final. This wasn’t an electric side in the field by any means but at the key points they delivered, and some individuals in vital areas were consistently outstanding.

5. England’s batting order just felt right. England weren’t afraid to open with their Somerset produced wicket-keeper and tell him and his partner to go for it from the off. The best player (Pietersen) was at 3 and the captain Collingwood at 4. Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright were reduced to finishing roles but they rarely slowed the innings. Someone like Bresnan at 7 is absolutely fine in this format if you have confidence in the top order and you have Yardy at 8 and Broad and Swann at 9 and 10.

Kevin Pietersen

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