England ready for World T20 final showdown with Australia
England are aiming to end a one-day hoodoo stretching back over 30 years when they face Australia in the World T20 final in Barbados at 4.30BST today.
With its alluring blend of powerful batting and disciplined bowling, Andy Flower and Paul Collingwood have constructed England’s finest one-day outfit since they reached the 50 over World Cup final in 1992.
England are the only one of the eight major international teams without a major limited overs victory and despite their excellent form will have their work cut out against Australia.
Typically, Michael Clarke’s Australians are producing some awe-inspiring cricket to coincide with England’s overdue resurgence.
Their miraculous victory over Pakistan in the semi-final was described as the finest ending to a cricket match ever seen by BBC Cricket Correspondent Jonathan Agnew as Mike Hussey smeared 22 off just four balls to knock out the hosts.
The finale was a perfect illustration of how T20 has altered pre-conceptions about what is possible from a short period of time as well as underlining Australia’s immeasurable bloody-mindedness.
But with Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan lighting up the England middle order Australia are taking on the team most likely to prevent them lifting a first T20 World Cup.
Gone are the days of dithering in the powerplays and ineffective accumulation against spin, this England side bats with almost nerveless gusto.
True, the top five contains four players brought up outside of the UK, but such facts can be swept under the carpet if they combine to bring home a first ever ICC trophy.
Perhaps more essential however have been the performances from the five man attack of Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy.
Sidebottom and Broad have rewarded the selectors faith in leaving out test match talisman Jimmy Anderson while Yardy and Bresnan could both make cases for being the tournaments surprise package.
Collingwood has barely needed to call upon Luke Wright or himself as a 6 or 7th bowler and the control exerted early on by Bresnan in particular has been a highlight of the tournament.
Australia’s top order has been their weakest link so far and England will undoubtedly be looking for a strong start on what will almost certainly be a true, bouncy track at the Kennington Oval.
That will suit both sides better than the sluggish strips prepared in Guyana and St Lucia but how England cope with the rapid trio of Dirk Nannes, Mitch Johnson and Shaun Tait could determine the fate of the trophy.
Openers Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb should continue to play positively and will feel more at home against pace than spin.
If they find a way to cope with the hostility and give the likes of Pietersen and Morgan a platform on which to build then maybe we will see England’s name on a trophy for the first time.