England break the duck finally
Bridgetown: England were outplayed in the first two editions of the Twenty20 World Cup, but this time clinically steamrollered all their opponents in the West Indies, emphatically stating that now they were ready to rule the roost in cricket`s shortest format.
Paul Collingwood`s England enjoyed an unbeaten streak in the 16-day cricket carnival, taking home their maiden ICC cricket title in 35 years, since the inception of the 50-over World Cup in 1975.
They were by far the best team in this championship, perhaps a notch or two above the rest, though Australia did make their presence felt with powerful performances until they were outplayed by their Ashes rivals in the summit-clash.
"We believed we could achieve what we set out for. I realise that we are the first English side to win the World Cup. It is good that the monkey is off our back," said an elated Collingwood.
Michael Hussey`s poetic pyrotechnics (24-ball 60 not out; 6X6, 3X4) against a fighting Pakistan when Australia needed a miracle to win was the single-most decisive innings in the championship, though it was Kevin Pietersen who walked away with the player of the series award for his aggregate of 215 runs.
Pietersen was the pivot in four English victories.
There were innings of great potent from Cameron White, as well. The unassuming middle order batsman made a ballistic 70 against Sri Lanka when Australia were in dire straits during their Super Eight match at the Kensington Oval.
He put his hands up again when the going got tough in the semifinal against Pakistan with a punishing 31-ball 43 which was laced with five huge sixes.
Also, there were remarkable performances from Craig Kieswetter (25, 41, 39 and 63), Mahela Jayawardene (100 and 98 not out) and Suresh Raina (101 and 63), but Hussey`s calculated assault in the last five overs of the innings, when Australia desperately needed to make 70, was the one that will me remembered for a long time. It was stuff of legend.
Though the Pakistan spinners, Saeed Ajmal and Abbdur Rehman, showed nerves of steel (like Harbhajan Singh) and had a binding effect on the batsmen, it was English fast bowlers, who deservedly walked away with the bowling honors. They executed the team strategy and bowling skills to a nicety.
Though Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait rattled opposition batsmen, more so the Indians, with their pace and bounce, it was Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad who impressed. They used the slower and short ball intelligently, without compromising on line and length to underline that T20 cricket will not always be the domain of the batsmen.
Apart from the title, England took the honors for fielding. They were outstanding in the outfield, perhaps a notch better than Australia and New Zealand.
But if there was a trophy for the worst fielding side, Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men would have probably won it hands down.
Sri Lanka did much better than any of the other Asian teams, who had dominated the 2007 (India) and 2009 (Pakistan) World Cups. Unlike India and Pakistan, the Lankans won two of their Super Eight games before being humbled by a professional England in the semifinal at the Beausejour ground in St Lucia.
While Pakistan showed character, pugnacity and the will to fight, India whimpered to one of their worst performances ever in the T20 cricket, losing to the West Indies and Sri Lanka, after being mauled by Australia by 49 runs in their first Super Eight match.
The 2007 title was like a millstone tied around Dhoni`s neck. The expectations were too high on a side which arrived in the Caribbean mentally and physically enervated after an exhausting Indian Premier League, which consumed Virender Sehwag to injury and inflicted niggles to Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar, which showed up during the competition.
In hindsight, India should count themselves fortunate to have won the title in South Africa, thanks to an indiscreet stroke by Misbah-ul-Haq, who chipped Joginder Sharma to S Sreesanth at short fine-leg.
Starved for a major title, the BCCI went over-board in organising a cavalcade, which rivalled England`s 2005 Ashes triumph against Australia. Perhaps, India are paying the price for winning the cup when they were not really prepared for the T20 format.
Dhoni ought to be humble. The Australians were greenhorns when the T20 concept was introduced, but worked on their shortcomings in the game for 12 months to get to where they eventually reached. And unlike India, England were hungry for a title, which they claimed in great style by decimating their arch-rivals.
Dhoni`s beleaguered boys would do well to go back to the drawing board and get their endemic fallibility against the short, rising balls sorted out before the next edition of the Cup in Sri Lanka (2012). Else, the English will continue to call the shots in T20 cricket.