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#WT20 England rewarded for brave cricket

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Shopprice South Africa

For England to have come as far as this so quickly is staggering. It is pinch me, wake up, everybody’s dreaming territory.

After stumbling through much of the World Twenty20 hanging on by their finger tips – which is what essentially matters in sport – they assembled almost a perfect performance in sweeping aside a hitherto unbeaten New Zealand in the semi-finals. A repeat performance in the final against India on Sunday is improbable but England have so defied most observers and undoubtedly surprised themselves, that anything now seems possible.

“There”s no ceiling to these guys,” said Paul Collingwood, one of England’s assistant coaches at this tournament but also the captain of the team which won this competition in 2010.

“They really have gone out there and enjoyed their cricket and performed exceptionally well.

“These guys have serious skills and it”s great to see them going out there and having the guts to do it on the big stage, and one more big effort and then it”s going to be a huge achievement.” Collingwood knows whereof he speaks because he too allowed his men to play fearless but blameless cricket which reaped its own rewards and he too had the players who could do it.

It has taken time, perhaps understandably, to alight on the most effective team in a country which is alien to most members of the squad. But eventually, if just in time, they understood that Liam Plunkett’s extra speed and control had a significant role to play. A fluid batting order in which Jos Buttler can be moved up depending on circumstances has been emblematic of a team which refuses to take a backward step while thinking on its feet.

The selection and the ethos behind it has been fundamental to their appearance in Kolkata on Sunday – and if the players think they have not experienced anything like it in their Indian sojourn so far, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Of the starting XI, only four played in England’s most recent Test team.

That number is likely to become fewer rather than increase in future. On reflection, it is extraordinary that England had not deduced before that it might be wiser to select a blend of cricketers, those gifted enough to adapt to all formats and those who can be fitted into a T20 (or come to that Test) category.

In some ways, England were ahead of their time in this respect since this was the approach they adopted in the inaugural 2007 World Cup. It failed then not because the policy was wrong but because the players were not good enough.

Fingers burned, the selectors resorted to a more conservative philosophy, which in some ways was an abrogation of duty. Deep in their hearts they probably knew it was not likely to work but that there was nothing else they could do.

After the World Cup in 2015, the nadir among low points, it was at last clear that it could not go on like this. The players and the attitude was wrong.

And so we came to the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday where just reward was obtained not only for an approach but for a perseverance to that approach. The praise is well deserved, and is tempered only by the thoughts that there was nothing to lose, nobody expected much anyway and there was no way on earth that they could return to what preceded it.

Compare and contrast this with the state of the women’s game. The team led by Charlotte Edwards for the 93rd time in T20 internationals and the 294th time in all were badly beaten by Australia again. In the professional era there has to be a reckoning and it is difficult to think that Edwards at 36 can now take the team forward as captain. It is hoped she makes the appropriate decision.

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