Gayle's six-pack brings baseball to World Twenty20

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The Independent Online

From Cooperstown to Cape Town is a long way, both culturally and geographically, but Paul Collingwood yesterday sought to bridge the gap. England's one-day captain suggested that batsmen in the World Twenty20 would adopt the methods and style of baseball hitters.

Thus, a game once thought to have been invented in New York State has come to a cricket tournament in South Africa. England will have their initial opportunity to demonstrate when they play Zimbabwe at Newlands today, but the evidence from the first game was compelling.

Chris Gayle, the West Indies opener, struck 10 sixes in a whirligig 117 from 57 balls against South Africa. "I noticed that when he is in his stance he's got the hitch on his back leg just like a baseball batter," said Collingwood.

This competition may witness the apotheosis of a radical adjustment in technique that has been evolving for years. Batsmen simply hit the ball longer and harder more often.

"Bats have made a difference, but batsmen have got more confidence in taking fielders on," said Collingwood.

There seems certain to be more of this, and Andy Flower, England's batting coach, observed that Dimitri Mascarenhas had adopted the stance of a baseball player when he launched some of his five consecutive sixes at The Oval last week against India.

It makes for high-octane entertainment, and England's squad – though perhaps not all their bowlers – were as thrilled by events at the Wanderers as other spectators. There may not be similar pyrotechnics at Newlands.

The altitude helps the ball to travel faster and longer in Johannesburg and it has been a wet winter in Cape Town, with the Newlands pitch looking distinctly green. It could make 160 seem formidable rather than the two scores of above 200 seen upcountry.

Collingwood's mood clearly indicated that England are excited to be here, which has not always been the case in one-day tournaments. They will make a decision on Andrew Flintoff's inclusion this morning and, although he bowled yesterday, the sight of the team physiotherapist carrying out a spare ankle brace to replace one strapped on earlier did not fill anyone with optimism." The key is that you have to be versatile," Collingwood said.

A word of caution to long-suffering England fans, who have seen the football team lose in penalty shoot-outs. In a tie here, matches will be decided by bowl-outs at stumps with no batsman, most hits to win. As of yesterday, England had not practised them.

England (from): P D Collingwood (Durham, capt), D L Maddy (Leicestershire), M J Prior (Sussex, wkt), L J Wright (Sussex), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), O A Shah (Middlesex), A Flintoff (Lancashire), J N Snape (Leicestershire), A D Mascarenhas (Hampshire), R J Kirtley (Sussex), J M Anderson (Lancashire), S C Broad (Leicestershire), C P Schofield (Surrey), C T Tremlett (Hampshire), V S Solanki (Worcestershire).

Zimbabwe (from): P Utseya (capt), G N Brent, C J Chibhabha, S C Williams, B R Taylor, T Taibu (wkt), V Sibanda, T Mupariwa, C B Mpofu, S Matsikenyeri, H Masakadza, J Marumisa, T Maruma, K Dabengwa, E Chigumbura.

Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) & Asad Rauf (Pak).