For what it's worth – and it should make considerable amounts on the gold markets – Paul Collingwood thinks that England can be Twenty20 champions of the world again. Since he expressed this belief as they plummeted to another inglorious defeat against South Africa they ought to listen carefully.
Collingwood, a heroically unsung cricketer, remains the only England captain to have led the national team to triumph in a major one-day trophy. The side that he led in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in the spring of 2010 won going away from the field. They were a delight.
"I think England are in a good place," said Collingwood. "I think they are a lot better than we were two years ago with skill levels and that's even without Kevin Pietersen in the side.
"Steve Finn is at a level we had last time. He is a wicket-taker. I think we have another great chance. One of the biggest things in Twenty20 in a World Cup is the mental state, your confidence levels going in.
"Hopefully they will go in with a couple of wins under their belts. Because we had this fresh wave, with players coming in – Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb – and it felt like, 'Let's go for it'."
England can hardly be in a confident mental state after their heavy defeat against South Africa on Saturday at the Emirates Durham ICG in the first of three T20s in the NatWest Series, which are effectively warm-ups for the World Twenty20, which starts in Sri Lanka next week.
After being put in, they lost a clutch of wickets early and mid-innings and were woefully short of a competitive target at 118 for 7. Although South Africa lost three early wickets, a fourth wicket stand of 90 between Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy – a record for the fourth wicket by any team against England in Twenty20s – saw them home with an over to spare.
England's sole consolation was that Hashim Amla, scourge of their summer, wasn't involved.
It was a turn-up bordering on astonishing when England won the title in the West Indies. They had shown no real form before the tournament and took a huge risk in fielding debutants Kieswetter and Lumb to open the batting from the start. But somehow it worked.
Collingwood, now Durham's captain, who attended Saturday's match, said: "The approach was we had never really won anything by going at things conservatively and playing in the English style so let's try a more aggressive route. You have to identify why you haven't won things in the past."
He revealed that although Pietersen was player of the tournament with 248 runs at a strike rate of 8.27 an over, it was not all hunky dory even then. Pietersen missed the last group match to fly home for the birth of his first child and although the impression given at the time suggested differently, it seems it was not pre-planned. "Kind of not," said Collingwood.
Pietersen will not play in this tournament – and may never play again for England if continuing negotiations about his return fail to work out – but Collingwood appears relaxed about that. "It would be a better team skill-wise with KP," he said. "But would it be a happier team?"
Collingwood's successor as captain, Stuart Broad, recognised the side's poor performance on Saturday. But with another match at Old Trafford today there is no certainty of improvement. It is the wrong time of year and a fundamental reason they will struggle to defend their title.
"It's a tricky time of year," Broad said. "You don't want to be netting all the time, because we've had quite a long cricket season. You've got to actually manage your time well."
Managing an innings would be a start.
* England's women will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their five-match series against West Indies at Old Trafford today.
The hosts won Saturday's opening match by eight wickets with Holly Colvin proving the star of the show.
The slow left armer finished with superb figures of two for five from her four overs as the West Indies could only make 71 for eight off their 20 overs. England reached the target within 10 overs.
OLD TRAFFORD DETAILS
Teams: England (from) S C J Broad, capt), J M Bairstow, R S Bopara, T T Bresnan, D R Briggs, J C Buttler, J W Dernbach, S T Finn, A D Hales, C Kieswetter (wkt), M J Lumb, E J G Morgan, S R Patel, G P Swann, L J Wright.
South Africa (from) AB de Villiers (capt/wkt), H M Amla, F Behardien, J Botha, JP Duminy, F du Plessis, J H Kallis, R E Levi, J A Morkel, M Morkel, J L Ontong, W D Parnell, R J Peterson, D W Steyn, L L Tsotsobe.
Umpires R Illingworth & R Bailey.
TV Sky Sports 1, 6-10pm. Highlights: Channel 5, 12.10-1.05am.
Weather Overcast with a chance of rain. Maximum temperature: 18C.
Odds: England Evens. S Africa 4-5.
S Africa lead series 1-0. Third and final match is at Edgbaston on Wednesday.Reuse content