Pietersen inspires England's progress
So, the hosts decided to stay at their own party after all. Having bolted halfway down the garden path in their determination to leave early, England turned on their heel and banged down the front door last night determined to get back in and in doing so qualified for the Super Eights stage. Their performance against Pakistan in their second group match was as bold, concentrated and fearless as it had been feeble, lackadaisical and fearful against Netherlands in the first.
It was essential, of course, for them to progress with any real hopes and there is absolutely no need yet for their supporters to forage in the loft searching for bunting.
But defeating Pakistan by 48 runs – and in truth the match was over well before the mid-point in the second innings – was no mean feat. It helped naturally that their leading batsman Kevin Pietersen passed a late fitness test on the Achilles injury that kept him out of Friday's defeat. England might have begged for the start time to be delayed so anxious were they to have him in their ranks and he did not let them down. In for the second over, he made 58 from 38 balls and, fortunately for Pakistan, they dismissed him just as he was about to enter his most swashbuckling mode.
Unfortunately for Pakistan they had missed him when he was on 30, the otherwise exemplary off spinner Saeed Ajmal putting down a return catch, and the fielding generally lacked crucial sharpness. Pietersen did not fight a lone battle and the partnerships he shared of 53 in 27 balls with Luke Wright and 66 in 51 with Owais Shah kept the innings merrily rolling along.
Ultimately, England might have been disappointed not to reach 200, but only once in international T20 history had a side made as many as 185 and lost. It never looked likely to happen a second time as the bowlers found their lines and the fielders were voracious in blocking off scoring areas. Perhaps it was Pakistan's fielding above all with missed run-outs, and a failure to take catching chances, that proved crucial.
Pakistan might be as starved of international cricket of cricket as other teams are sated with it, but they came into this competition not only as runners-up in the inaugural World Twenty20 two years ago but also with the best record of all countries in the shortest form of the game, having lost only three of their 17 matches.
Pakistan's defeat was so decisive that for them to progress they in turn must nail the Dutch and the Dutch, in the language of the moment, look in no mood for a clogging.
To England's immense credit, they had clearly agreed that there was no point in a cautious approach. So much opprobrium had been heaped on them after their loss at Lord's on Friday night that their reputations could not diminish further. They played as though they knew it.
The loss of Ravi Bopara early might have affected this thought process but Luke Wright has been given instructions to attack. There is nothing cultured in his approach and he will fail as often as he succeeds but he was measured in deciding what he ought to hit and when he hit a six in the fourth over it was one more maximum than England had managed throughout their innings against the Dutch.
Pietersen struck three more, Owais Shah and James Foster, with effortless pushes over long off late on, one each. England failed to score from 48 balls but hit more than against the Dutch and it was the boundaries that made the difference. That took audacity.
Pakistan would have liked to have come out slugging but England were too smart. Opening with Dimitri Mascarenhas, one of three changes in the side, they were rewarded when he removed Ahmed Shahzad in the third over thanks to a splendid catch by the captain, Paul Collingwood, running back from cover.
Stuart Broad, who was unfairly maligned for his shortcomings in the final over at Lord's, did what good players do. He came back. The two wickets he took in successive balls in the sixth over, including the dangerous Salman Butt, fatally undermined Pakistan's innings and there was nowhere for them to head but respectability after that.
This they barely achieved as their captain Younis Khan, perhaps batting too low, could not find a partner. For England it was a triumph on all fronts from selection to execution.
They had decided to play two spinners in their attack after seeing the ball turn in the first game of the day between South Africa and Scotland and if it was likely that Adil Rashid would have been omitted he thoroughly justified his late inclusion. Rashid is far from the finished article but there was not much wrong with him and much right last night as he conceded only 24 runs in his four overs.
True, he came on when the opposition were staring down the barrel but equally he probably provided their last remaining hope. He will be hard to dislodge now and although England's batting looks thin with Mascarenhas at six it was a balance that worked last night. Who knows, England may be ready to boogie.
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