Collingwood's England on the verge
Paul Collingwood’s England have a chance to make cricket history tomorrow - and the captain insists they are ready to do it.
Victory over a mighty Australia team at Kensington Oval will deliver the World Twenty20 title to England, and this country’s first International Cricket Council tournament triumph too.
England have tried and failed for 35 years to do that, reaching four finals to no avail along the way.
But one more win - a fifth in succession at this tournament, against unbeaten opponents - will put Collingwood’s Twenty20 team in a league of their own in English cricket, and allow the man himself to note he has gone one better than illustrious predecessors Mike Brearley, Mike Gatting, Graham Gooch and Michael Vaughan.
The captain is confident too that he has the right personnel to rise to the challenge of writing a new chapter.
“There are a lot of guys in our side that haven’t experienced finals - but I really do sense they are ready,” he said.
“The guys seem very relaxed going into such a big occasion, and that’s a great sign.
“I think if you have played in big matches it does help. But if you are fresh into a side and you don’t know what it’s all about it can sometimes help.”
England yesterday watched on television in Barbados as Australia pulled off an astounding three-wicket win over Pakistan in St Lucia, where Mike Hussey unleashed a frightening array of huge hits in an unbeaten 60.
There is an alarming depth to Australia’s batting, with Hussey coming in at number seven.
Yet Collingwood’s England remain fearless: “We always knew what Australia were capable of. Whoever we played against in the final were going to be a strong side.
“Nothing surprised us yesterday. All we can concentrate on is our game.
“There’s plenty of confidence in our side, the way we’ve played throughout this tournament has given us a lot of belief.
“We believe we’ve got the skills to beat any side on the day.”
England will not be toning down their gameplan, to dominate from the outset, either - even though carving sixes to all parts off the pace of Australia’s new-ball pair Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes may prove a hazardous business on what is expected to be a quick surface.
New opening pair Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb will go out with the same orders they have played to all tournament, to try to get England off to a flier in powerplay.
“We’ve got a plan of action against every team. Right the way through the tournament, we have been very aggressive - and I don’t want to change our mindset going into the final,” said Collingwood.
“There would be no reason at all to change anyone’s mindset in the 11 that are going to play tomorrow.
“That’s why the guys are going to go out with confidence and belief and keep doing the things they have been doing well throughout this tournament.
“We have done it against fast bowlers, against (South Africa’s Dale) Steyn and (Morne) Morkel - they are two very fast bowlers.”
If there is an amendment it will come in which hitting areas to choose - against Tait’s low-slung action and Nannes’ whippy, tight lines - rather than whether to use the pace or attack it.
“We have got different angles tomorrow,” added Collingwood.
“That is probably the only thing we have got to contend with. But we have played against pace bowling before, and I believe the guys have got the skills to do it."
For many, the prospect of an ‘Ashes’ showdown will add an extra spice to tomorrow’s match.
But Collingwood is putting the occasion first, and the opponents second.
“I don’t think you need any extra motivation. This is a ‘World Cup’ final, no matter who you’re playing against.
“This is what it’s all about; this is why we play the game of cricket.
“This is literally the ultimate. You’ve got through to a ‘World Cup’ final; you’re playing against the old enemy, Australia. It doesn’t get much better than this.
“You’re going to see two very good sides with a lot of confidence, going head to head.”
Australia have rarely been tested in this Caribbean campaign, until they had to dig deep to sneak past Pakistan.
England, however, have also built up a winning habit - and with an unchanged team almost certain to take the field, Collingwood has an inkling they may yet have the edge in a heavyweight tussle.
“Belief is pretty much the key factor. We’ve gained a lot of that right the way through the tournament,” he said. “The confidence is sky high.
“But we haven’t won anything yet - that’s the thing. We’ve got to a final, but it means nothing until we win a ’World Cup’.”