How have they done it? Staying cool would have to be the number one reason. Coolness is contagious. It comes from the top – from the captain and the coach – and courses throughout the team.
Ian Bell personifies it. Few players look as calm as him in the middle despite being about to be on the receiving end of a 90mph missile.
He made only 27 runs from 17 balls in Adelaide, in the first of two Twenty20 internationals against Australia, after being dropped first ball, but it said enough to suggest that England should open with him in all forms of one-day cricket.
It is not just because he is in the form of his life. It is also because he hits classic orthodox shots, with added power, to beat the infield. That’s all you need at the beginning of a one-day international with the field up.
Pinch-hitting is so 1990s. If you doubt that, check the statistics for last year’s Indian Premier League. The leading run-scorer was none other than a certain Sachin Tendulkar. And do you know how many sixes he hit in a tally of more than 600 runs? Three, that’s all.
He dealt exclusively in driving and clipping, keeping the ball almost exclusively on the deck with classic shots. The way Bell is playing right now is a little reminiscent of The Little Master. Neat, compact, immaculate. Technically as perfect as it’s possible to get.
Add the positive mindset – thinking attack first and defend second – and you have the ideal batsman for one-day cricket. He doesn’t need improvisation or slogging. The pocket genius Eoin Morgan can provide that (and did at Adelaide with a sparkling match-seizing cameo).
Opening up, Bell caressed a couple of drives, there was a creamy clip off his legs, a pull and a brilliant uppercut, using the whole of his body to lift a Shaun Tait bouncer over third man for six. England were flying along at 10 an over.
It set the tone for a cool, superbly-timed run chase. Even at the end, following a sloppy collapse, England’s last pair – relative novices Chris Woakes and Ajmal Shahzad – looked calm and composed. It is amazing how confidence within a squad is infectious.
Bell always had the ability of course. We could all see that. It was just that sometimes he couldn’t see it himself. He didn’t totally feel he belonged at the pinnacle of the game.
Now he believes he does and you can see that in his poise at the crease and his certainty of stroke. The defence is watertight, the footwork decisive, the bat comes through in the most delicious arc and the ball flies off it as if shot from a gun.
There were strokes in that century in Sydney, when he executed a drive during the final Ashes Test, when the ball seemed to leave a vapour trail across the outfield and Bell just rested contentedly on his bat as he watched them go.
I guess we are going to see that a lot more in the next few weeks if England stick to their perspicacious selections and keep opening with him. Shame on all those IPL teams for not picking up Bell for £100,000 or so. They missed the bargain of the year.