After more than three months in Australia, England finally have something to show for their endeavours. Victory in the CB Series patently does not come close to making amends for Ashes humiliation. But, especially after being the third-best side for the first two-thirds of this tournament, victory must be acknowledged as a remarkable achievement.
As a rule, Australia always win their triangular tournament. Australia have won eight of the last nine tournaments; the one they failed to lift, in 2001/02, came about after Stephen Fleming hatched a plot to allow South Africa to gain a bonus point and hence eliminate Australia despite winning four games. Of the eight finals they have won, six have ended 2-0 to the hosts. For a side as consistently poor in one-day cricket to beat them 2-0 after such a demoralising winter is testament to the resilience of their makeshift side.
Australia may point to an injury to their key all-rounder Andew Symonds. But what of England’s injuries to Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Jon Lewis, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and Ian Blackwell, at least three of whom are in England’s best one-day side?
Prior to their superb sequence over the last 10 days, England had won six ODIs out of 26. They had not won four consecutive ODIs for almost 10 years, since their triumph in Sharjah at the end of 1997; that was also the last time they won a meaningful one-day tournament away from home (any excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh).
More by luck than judgement, England have cobbled together a confident outfit just in time for the World Cup. They are still unsure of their best side – especially if they are adamant Michael Vaughan must captain – but Ed Joyce, Liam Plunkett and Monty Panesar have added new dimensions to the team, in addition to an enjoyment too seldom seen from England in one-day cricket.
Above all, though, England are indebted to Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood: two men who have been constants throughout (missing just one international all tour), have stood firm amidst the humiliations and, especially in Collingwood’s case, have been rejuvenated at the last. With their spirit and skill complemented by the new trio and the returning Pietersen and Anderson, a semi-final spot – elusive for 15 years – looks eminently attainable at the World Cup.
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