The 2010 triumphant campaign was plotted by Collingwood, Flower and an eclectic talent-group
For longer than it cared to remember, England had a rather uppity response to its stunted development in limited-overs cricket. In reserving suspicious (even condescending) stares for ODIs, and later T20Is, the establishment installed a defence-mechanism in place.
As the self-proclaimed vanguard of Test cricket, England could get away with its superciliousness towards the shorter versions, or so it thought. Elsewhere, up-and-coming teams found ODIs and T20s to be a springboard for speedy ascent to elite territory.
And, here, England hadn’t a single World Cup victory; trips to the final in 1979, 1987 and 1992 was the closest it came.
Even the very thought of England’s maiden World title arriving in the most condensed format seemed preposterous. But, on May 16, 2010, at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, Paul Collingwood’s men freed England of its anachronistic shackles. That the triumphant campaign was plotted by two astute men with the help of an eclectic talent-group made for a gripping narrative.
Collingwood, nearly 34 then, wasn’t a charismatic leader in the Imran Khan mould. He was more John Miller from Saving Private Ryan than Ethan Hunt of the Mission Impossible series. The England coach, Andy Flower, was cut from roughly the same cloth. For all his methodical bloody-mindedness, the former Zimbabwean captain wouldn’t resist a selection punt or two.
South African flavour
There was a rich South African flavour to things as the Johannesburg-born openers, Craig Kieswetter (222 runs, average: 31.71) and Michael Lumb, were drafted in to devastating effect.
Also, Flower plumped for injury-prone left-arm paceman Ryan Sidebottom (10 wickets) over James Anderson. Along with Graeme Swann (10 wickets), Sidebottom and Stuart Broad produced a cohesive bowling show. Many of Flower’s decidedly left-field choices did leave doubters murmuring, but he was vindicated handsomely in the end.
There was, of course, Kevin Pietersen, whose burgeoning happiness manifested in England’s upward curve in the tournament.
With 248 runs in six matches (average: 62), Pietersen was the player-of-the-tournament. Personally, too, he was in a good space “dashing across the Atlantic” for the birth of his first child during the Super Eight stage. In the beginning, though, England ran the risk of an early exit. After it was edged out by the West Indies in a rain-marred encounter, England found itself defending a modest total against Ireland.
This time, inclement weather ensured the contest was abandoned, and England progressed to the Super Eights only by virtue of a better net-run rate than Ireland.
Once it got there, England was unstoppable, winning all its three games with minimal discomfort. Pietersen racked up two man-of-the-match awards on the trot with fifties against Pakistan and South Africa. Against New Zealand, Eoin Morgan (183 runs, 36.60) stepped up to the plate.
The semifinal and final, too, were anything but the nervy affairs that they were built up to be.
Chasing 129 against Sri Lanka, Kieswetter and Lumb provided a racy start. Pietersen took over after that, scoring an unbeaten 26-ball 42 to finish the game with four overs to spare.
In the final, electing to field, England gave the marching orders to three of Australia’s batsmen in 13 deliveries.
As the day wore on, a below-par target of 148 was furiously chased down by man-of-the-final Kieswetter (63 off 49 balls) and Pietersen (47 off 31).
A grateful Pietersen later said: “The nights and the dinners I had with Colly [Collingwood], reassuring me of how to play when you lose sight of how you should be playing coming back from the injury I had, really helped.” The significance of the occasion wasn’t lost on Collingwood either.
“We knew it was a monkey on our back. We’ve won a World Cup, and you can never take that away from us.”