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Collingwood expects England's best

NatWest International T20

Stuart Broad & James Anderson

"It’s been pretty easy for the guys to be 100% focused on the job in hand," assured Paul Collingwood ahead of the first T20 game

England return to Twenty20 international cricket for the first time since ICC World Twenty20 glory in the Caribbean, and captain Paul Collingwood expects them to respond to the occasion appropriately.

The first of two NatWest International T20 matches at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff takes place tomorrow, with England up against the previous world champions in the shortest format.

Pakistan are, however, without Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, after they were charged by the ICC for various offences against the world game’s Anti-Corruption Code.

Collingwood reiterated the message of team director Andy Flower yesterday; that England simply will not allow themselves to get dragged into any complications regarding their opponents.

Collingwood said: “There are distractions but there were in the Twenty20 World Cup final as well - but good distractions. Unfortunately this week it’s been a different kind of distraction.

“But as Twenty20 captain it’s been pretty easy for the guys to be 100% focused on the job in hand.

“The guys are just looking to getting out there and playing the game.”

Though the sides are undergoing a switch from the longest form of the game, Collingwood is certain that England’s resounding victory in the final npower Test will act as a spur.

In a world-record eighth-wicket partnership of 322 that turned the match at Lord's on its head, Jonathan Trott hit 184 and Stuart Broad a career-best 169, to leave Pakistan utterly demoralised and heading to defeat by an innings and 225 runs.

“As players going out there we performed exceptionally well in the Test series and deserved to be winning the series,” added Collingwood.

England

Sunday's opener in Cardiff is England's first T20 since beating Australia by seven wickets in the World Twenty20 final in May

“To have a world record partnership like that from Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad to get us back in the game from the position we were in - it was absolutely fantastic as players to be involved in something like that.”

Kevin Pietersen was absolutely central to England ending their long drought in ICC events in May, striking 47 to beat Australia in the World Twenty20 final at Bridgetown.

His 248 runs in six matches was second only to Mahela Jayawardene’s tally of 302 for Sri Lanka.

But the decision to drop England’s finest batsman for both NatWest T20 and ODI series, after he struggled for form in the npower Test series, will be vindicated in this winter’s Ashes, Collingwood assures.

Pietersen’s loan arrangement with Surrey already seems to be working, with the batsman on his way to a hundred in the Clydesdale Bank 40 match against Sussex at Hove soon after Collingwood addressed the media.

Collingwood said: “For him to be dropped, there’s obviously a bigger picture there to be looked at in terms of the winter that we've got coming up.

“Surrey have taken him on to hopefully get him back into form and win games for Surrey.

“If he does that, gets the confidence back, it’s great for England in the long run.

“The selectors and management thought it was a better decision to play for Surrey than play these Twenty20s or one-dayers.

“I think that’s a good decision in the long run.”

Shahid Afridi returns to lead Pakistan, having resigned the Test captaincy and retired from that form of the game following their defeat by Australia in the opening MCC Spirit of Cricket Test at Lord’s in July.

Shahid Afridi & Pakistan

Shahid Afridi nets before returning to lead Pakistan in the first international match since he retired from Test cricket in July

They are expected to have Abdul Razzaq and Umar Akmal available at Cardiff, despite the back and face injuries they suffered in Pakistan’s eight-run win over Somerset at Taunton on Thursday.

Afridi said: “These two Twenty20s and one-dayers are a big challenge for me as a captain. The boys know how important this series is for us.

“We are here to play cricket. The boys know that. They want to win, motivate themselves - and as a captain, that is what I want.”

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