England, already champions of the world, broke the Twenty20 world record last night. Nothing seems impossible for these tourists. One week the Ashes, six days later the first team to win eight successive matches in the shortest form of the game.
They beat Australia with one wicket in hand by striking a single from the last ball of the match. The improbable hero of the hour was the debutant fast bowler Chris Woakes, who went in on a hat-trick, saw off that, hooked the fastest bowler in the world, Shaun Tait, for six and dutifully eased the team home. Needing three from the final two balls he square drove two and then clipped one casually over mid-wicket. Job, as it were, done.
About the only musical track not to be played here last night when a game of cricket was fitted into a prolonged session of Pick of the Pops was "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now". Perhaps it was, perhaps it was submerged by the rest of the cacophony.
But the way England are playing it may take a runaway 10-ton truck packed with heavy duty explosives to stop them. If England could win last night as wickets went down faster than fingernails in the tourists' dugout, they can win from anywhere. The man of the match was Shane Watson who scored a forceful 59 and then took four wickets in 12 balls, which looked as though it would be enough. But it was Woakes, 21, in his first match and an unexpected member of this squad, who stole the glory at the last.
"It was a fantastic performance by him," said England's captain, Paul Collingwood. "I haven't seen any of his batting but Andy Flower said he was a serious batsman. Graeme Swann was a bit disappointed he was ahead of him in the batting order and as soon as he hit that six off Tait Swanny just doffed his cap at Andy and understood why he was behind him.
"You never know what you're really getting with new players but he responded superbly. The six was incredible really. Tait had given him a bit of gyp the ball before that. He told me he was was expecting the next ball to be a bit short and he hit it out of the middle. He thinks about the game as well and that's a crucial thing. It's very exciting."
Woakes himself, who finished on 19 not out from 15 balls, was as calm in reflecting on his performance as the performance itself. "At first I was number 11 on the sheet and I didn't expect to bat," he said. "But I got my promotion. I didn't think the result was ever in doubt."
It was a cracking contest, everything that Twenty20 should be about and a splendid advertisement for this form of the game. There will always be those misguided souls who perceive T20 to be an abomination, a blight on the face of the earth which has less right to exist than bordellos in rural Sussex, but in the parlance they don't get it. This was high-octane cricket played by high-octane cricketers.
Two other teams, Pakistan and South Africa, had also recorded seven victories in a row. None had managed eight simply both because so much can go wrong and the margins are so fine. "It was a great game of cricket," said Collingwood. "I thought it had everything. There was some serious batting throughout the game. I thought in the end we should have seen it through a little bit easier but Twenty20 cricket can be a bit like that and we just scraped through. I'm delighted with the record as well, it's a huge achievement for the team."
Australia made 157 for 4, but it should have been at least 20 runs more. They started at a blistering pace and when Watson blasted 26 from Swann's first over it was possible to fear the worst for England. A tired team, the Ashes in the bag, this frippery was all too much for them.
This is to overlook that the new England seem not to be like the old England in any regard. They are not world champions for nothing – it was in the World Twenty20 last May that their victorious sequence began – and they believe they can rectify any poor position. So when Watson was out, bowled by one from Mike Yardy which skidded through his attempted cut, they were right back in the game.
Swann bowled his subsequent three overs while conceding only 14 more runs and Woakes, not the fastest new kid on the block, did his bit in assisting the England strategy of bowling full outside off to deny Australia scoring opportunities, or at least make them work hard to create them.
Tight as ever in the field, they must have reckoned at what is now described in these matches as half-time (Oh, for our lunch and tea of long ago) that they could overhaul the total. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen were briefly rampant and Australia's fielding yet again was shoddy. After Bell was dropped off the first ball of the innings, he proceeded to hit three fours off Shaun Tait who was bowling like the wind, one a vintage back foot cover drive that would have graced any game at any time. Dropped again at point in the next over, he cut Tait square for six.
But England kept losing wickets. For a few overs, it seemed that Eoin Morgan, as he has done so often in the past year, would guide them home. He was in scintillating form and his hooked six off Brett Lee into the second tier of the new, as yet unnamed, stand, might have persuaded the veteran fast bowler that continuing in the game is not the worth the candle.
Then Morgan did something unMorganesque by loosely driving his third ball to extra cover. When Yardy was caught behind off the next ball, England were 130 for 7, still needing 29 runs from 27 balls.
Woakes looked the part immediately and when he hooked the second ball of the 17th over into the Chappell Stand – standing up tall on the front foot – it was a spine-tingling moment. He lost the more experienced Tim Bresnan to a remarkably athletic running catch by Lee (career back on again) and Swann to a dreadful attempt at a glory shot. But it mattered not. It was time to go with Woakes.
England's T20 record
v Pakistan (May 2010, Bridgetown) Won by six wickets
v South Africa (May 2010, Bridgetown) Won by 39 runs
v New Zealand (May 2010, Gros Islet) Won by three wkts
v Sri Lanka (May 2010, Gros Islet) Won by seven wkts
v Australia (May 2010, Bridgetown) Won by seven wkts
v Pakistan (Sep 2010, Cardiff) Won by five wkts
v Pakistan (Sep 2010, Cardiff) Won by six wkts
v Australia (Jan 2011, Adelaide) Won by one wkt
Australia v England (T20): England beat Australia by one wicket; Australia won toss
D A Warner c Shahzad b Yardy 30/0/5/28/44
S R Watson b Yardy 59/3/6/31/35
D J Hussey b Bresnan 28/1/1/27/31
*C L White c Pietersen b Woakes 6/0/0/9/13
A J Finch not out 15/0/1/14/20
S P D Smith not out 15/0/1/11/12
Extras (b1 lb1 w2) 4
Total (4 wkts, 20 overs) 157
Fall 1-83, 2-92, 3-115, 4-133.
Did Not Bat †T D Paine, S N J O'Keefe, M G Johnson, B Lee, S W Tait.
Bowling C R Woakes 4-0-34-1, A Shahzad 4-0-25-0, T T Bresnan 4-0-28-1, M H Yardy 4-0-28-2, G P Swann 4-0-40-0.
I R Bell c Smith b Johnson 27/1/4/17/20
†S M Davies c White b Lee 4/0/1/2/5
K P Pietersen c Hussey b O'Keefe 25/1/3/11/19
*P D Collingwood c Paine b Hussey 16/0/2/20/29
E J G Morgan c Hussey b Watson 43/1/5/33/40
L J Wright lbw b Tait 0/0/0/2/2
T T Bresnan c Lee b Watson 11/0/1/11/18
M H Yardy c Paine b Watson 0/0/0/1/0
C R Woakes not out 19/1/1/15/21
G P Swann b Watson 6/0/0/5/7
A Shahzad not out 0/0/0/3/3
Extras (lb5 w2) 7
Total (9 wkts, 20 overs) 158
Fall 1-16, 2-49, 3-63, 4-99, 5-104, 6-130, 7-130, 8-141, 9-154.
Bowling S W Tait 4-0-40-1, B Lee 4-0-41-1, M G Johnson 4-0-27-1, S N J O'Keefe 2-0-16-1, S R Watson 4-0-15-4, D J Hussey 2-0-14-1.
Umpires S D Fry and B N J Oxenford.Reuse content