England declared their intentions yesterday in the World Twenty20. It seems that this time they are not only here for the ride as they cast aside the champions, Pakistan, in their first Super Eight match, propelled by an overdue but welcome innings from Kevin Pietersen which was reminiscent of his greatest days.
Before the flags of St George are paraded on every street corner some caveats should be offered. First, England, even in Twenty20, have flattered to deceive previously before finally imploding on an altar of hot air. Secondly, Pakistan had one of those days when nothing went right – and when it looked like going right they ensured it went wrong.
The 2009 winners not only donated too many of their wickets but then proceeded to drop three England batsman in defending a total of 147 for 9. England reached their target with three balls to spare, tighter than they might have wished but not disconcerted by the loss of two late wickets. With Pietersen contributing serious runs at last, his unbeaten 73 in 52 balls all joyously made, it was ultimately the perfect start to this series of three Super 8 matches.
With South Africa and New Zealand to come on Saturday and Monday, one win should be sufficient to take them to the semi-finals for the first time. From there, anything can happen.
While England have spent the winter trying to play down Pietersen's lack of form they will be delighted that he has at last rediscovered it. Having taken a superb running catch on the boundary during Pakistan's innings he batted as crisply and assuredly as he has done since his return to the side following his Achilles injury.
It was of course typical of Pietersen that there should be a scare as he pulled up in pain while sauntering a single. For a few seconds it seemed that he had suffered an injury which might require months of treatment and recuperation, not to mention surgery, as both team doctor and physiotherapist ran on.
After a couple of minutes, during which a spray was produced, Pietersen continued. He is due to leave the tournament any time with his wife, Jessica, about to give birth to the couple's first child. England were reminded yesterday of what they will miss.
He drove straight and hard, lashed the ball through the off side and whipped it through the leg side with all the old pizzazz. Dropped when he offered a blistering return catch to Abdul Razzaq on 21, he remains some sight in full flow and England's middle order in this tournament really does bear comparison with those belonging to other sides.
England were given a sound start by Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter though both were dropped, Kieswetter to a sitter at mid-off before scoring. Pietersen and Paul Collingwood put on 60 for the third wicket which effectively made the tie safe.
Pakistan made more than they ought to have done considering the wickets that fell – usually donated – at regular intervals. An innings that had started with a flourish and then begun to founder, seemed ready to peter out before unexpectedly taking on some belated new life.
It was another gentle reminder that in Twenty20 the game can never be considered up. Pakistan came out slugging, England came out bombing. The first ball of the innings, short and fast, was dispatched for six by Kamran Akmal and for a few overs under the bright sunshine it seemed that it might be their day.
England bowled and fielded as well as they have in the tournament so far – though the evidence of the two rain-affected matches in Guyana was admittedly scant. None of Pakistan's batsmen turned good starts into something more substantial and they allowed the England spin pair of Mike Yardy and Graeme Swann once more to be deeply influential.
Yardy's first over was ordinary but he responded powerfully, flighting the ball and making it difficult. In his second over, the 11th of the innings, three wickets might have fallen and three did as Kieswetter missed stumping Umar Akmal, Misbah ul Haq slashed to short third man and Shahid Afridi called for a suicidal run. That was the turning point and although Pakistan managed 24 unlikely runs in the final two overs there was no way back.
* South Africa's total of 170 for 4 proved too much for New Zealand in the second match in England's group last night. Albie Morkel was the star, hitting an unbeaten 40 in just 18 balls before his brother Morne struck twice to help restrict the Kiwis to 157 for 7.
Kensington Oval: England (2pts) beat Pakistan (0pts) by six wickets; England won toss
†K Akmal c Kieswetter b Broad 15/1/2/18
S Butt c Collingwood b Swann 34/1/3/26
M Hafeez c Broad b Yardy 18/0/2/14
U Akmal c Pietersen b Sidebottom 30/1/2/25
*S S M K Afridi run out 0/0/0/1
M K Niazi b Yardy 13/1/0/14
A Razzaq c Bresnan b Sidebottom 10/1/0/9
F Alam c Kieswetter b Broad 1/0/0/3
M Aamer c Yardy b Bresnan 3/0/0/7
S Ajmal not out 13/1/1/5
M Asif not out 0/0/0/0
Extras (b 1,w 7, nb 2)/10
Total (9 wkts, 20 overs)/147
Fall: 1-31, 2-71, 3-77, 4-77, 5-102, 6-118, 7-120, 8-132, 9-132.
Bowling: R J Sidebottom 3-0-28-2, T T Bresnan 4-0-36-1, S C J Broad 4-0-25-2, M H Yardy 4-0-19-2, G P Swann 4-0-28-1, P D Collingwood 1-0-10-0.
M J Lumb st Akmal b Ajmal/25/1/3/13
†C Kieswetter c Akmal b Razzaq/25/1/3/27
K P Pietersen not out/73/2/8/52
*P D Collingwood c Akmal b Afridi/16/0/1/15
E J G Morgan b Ajmal/5/0/1/7
L J Wright not out/1/0/0/3
Extras (lb 3, w 3)/6
Total (4 wkts, 19.3 overs)/151
Fall: 1-44, 2-65, 3-125, 4-140.
Did not bat: T T Bresnan, M H Yardy, G P Swann, S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom.
Bowling: A Razzaq 3-0-22-1, M Asif 4-0-43-0, M Aamer 4-0-25-0, S Ajmal 3.3-0-18-2, M Hafeez 1-0-12-0, S Afridi 4-0-28-1.
Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) & R E Koertzen (SA).