England ended 35 years without an ICC trophy to win the World Twenty20 title
By Sam Lyon
It might have been 35 years in the making, but some will argue that only made England's triumph in the World Twenty20 in the West Indies on Sunday all the sweeter.
Their first ICC title, after failure in 19 competitions and four finals, prompted jubilant celebrations from the players, staff and those supporters lucky enough to have lapped up England's demolition of Australia from the stands in Barbados.
But it is a remarkable turnaround for a country that invented the short form of the game in 2003, but has been little more than also-rans at international level in previous years.
In the previous two World Twenty20s, England have never progressed past the Super Eights stage, and only last year they lost five of the eight completed Twenty20 games they played.
So... where did it all go right?
First and foremost, credit has to go to the selectors for abandoning a long-standing and frustrating tradition of relying on the tried-and-tested, "safe" options in an England XI, and opting instead for players rich in ambition, aggression and intent.
Left-field selections such as Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter and Michael Yardy - and even the decision to leave star Test bowler James Anderson on the sidelines - proved inspired.
The only time England changed their XI through the entire tournament was when Ravi Bopara replaced Kevin Pietersen against New Zealand - and England won that match as well.
"People forget our selectors have done a good job," Geoffrey Boycott told BBC Sport. "They've looked around the counties, they've brought in people like Kieswetter, Lumb, Tim Bresnan and Yardy, and they've excelled.
"You can't play as a team unless the selectors pick the right players. It's a like a football manager - they pick the right players to fit into the team in the right way, and the selectors have done very well."
The most notable difference, was in the batting.
Having endured years of nudgers and nurdlers, England bit the bullet and turned to players who, while potentially more erratic, were willing and able to smash the ball out of the park.
Lumb and Kieswetter were the tournament's stand-out opening pair, time and again providing a platform for the side with a confident and often brutal approach to the opening six-over powerplay.
Kevin Pietersen, coming in at three, was named player of the tournament thanks to an average of 62 in six innings, at a strike rate of 137.77, while Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright displayed their explosive power in innings-turning stands against West Indies and New Zealand.
Even captain Paul Collingwood, who might not have had the best tournament with the bat, and Bresnan, at seven, shared 10 crucial boundaries between them.
In fact, of those who batted for England, not one - with the exception of Bopara in his single match against New Zealand - had a strike rate of less than 100.
As Collingwood, a veteran of 176 one-day internationals and 29 Twenty20s, said: "This is certainly the most powerful England side I've played in. When you look at all the guys going down to probably number 10, everyone can hit sixes."
As Pakistan might have admitted after their semi-final defeat by Australia, though, it is no good dominating with the bat if you can't back it up with the ball. And England's bowling unit shone.
It is telling that, of the 108.2 overs England bowled in the tournament, 106.2 were delivered by the same five players.
Well-laid plans were executed every match. Bresnan and Sidebottom opened up and more often than not bagged early wickets; Stuart Broad, as first change, provided a one-man show on a paceman's variations - bouncers, yorkers, slower balls, leg-cutters, off-cutters, length. The twin spin attack of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy suffocated and frustrated the opposition in the middle overs, before Sidebottom, Broad and/or Bresnan saw the job home through the crucial final overs.
Swann, also the most frugal of England's bowlers, and Sidebottom led the way in terms of wickets with 10 apiece, while Broad bagged eight.
But from the Super Eights onwards, every bowler put his hand up at one time or another.
Yardy's 2-19 off four overs strangled Pakistan, Swann and Sidebottom shared six wickets against South Africa, Bresnan yielded just 20 runs off his four overs against New Zealand and Broad's 2-21 put paid to Sri Lanka's hopes in the semi-finals.
Even Wright, in his solitary over for the tournament in the final against Australia, went for just five and took the crucial wicket of big-hitter Cameron White.
The bowling unit, though, must also doff their caps to England's fielding efforts - marked as the best in the tournament alongside Australia.
England barely dropped a thing.
Stuart Broad's spill of David Hussey in the final aside (and even then he made up for it with a spectacular take to dismiss White in the next over), England's hands were safer than houses.
Pietersen's run and jump to dismiss Umar Akmal in the Super Eight stages was a cracker, Broad's pouch on the boundary while keeping his legs inside the rope to send New Zealand's Aaron Redmond packing was smart, while Collingwood and Kieswetter both took beauties in the final.
Michael Lumb's run-out of David Warner in the final also reflected an increased athleticism that helped them pressurise and restrict opposition teams.
"The athleticism of our fielding throughout the tournament was exceptionally good because at times we've been a bit ponderous in years past," noted Boycott.
Paul Collingwood's role as captain has undoubtedly been crucial. The man who bowed out of the one-day captaincy in 2008, unable to cope with the pressures of the job on and off the field, has returned a better skipper.
The Durham maestro has generated a harmony in the dressing room, one full of "thinking" cricketers afforded the freedom to express themselves with bat and ball.
"Whereas maybe in the past they were always kind of guided by the captains, they really are going out there and thinking what the opposition's strengths and weaknesses are and adjusting the fields accordingly," said Collingwood. "That's been one of the crucial things in our development.
Collingwood's England thrashed Michael Clarke's Australia in Barbados
"The guys are so confident and focused on the jobs they've got to do, the roles they've got to play. We are confident, but not too confident."
Coach Andy Flower, too, deserves a heap of credit. The Zimbabwean's high standards have ensured a fitter, fresher, more dynamic side than arguably England have ever fielded in the one-day arena.
His training drills have impressed upon his team the need - and skill - to hit sixes, to mix up their bowling, to take catches, to throw down the stumps - and all of them combined paid dividends.
"England looked the complete unit," former England paceman Simon Jones told BBC Sport. "The boys are enjoying themselves and enjoying each other's successes. Everyone's putting their hands up and they are playing as a unit, which is not something we've seen before in one-day cricket with England
"It's a sure sign of Andy Flower, Collingwood and his team working really well together."
For some, though, there's no getting away from the fact that England's team has more than a hint of foreign influence about it.
Even aside from the fact that the coach, Flower, is Zimbabwean, the starting line-up in the final boasted four players born outside of England's green pastures.
Kieswetter, Lumb and Pietersen - England's top three - were all born in South Africa, while another of their batting stars Eoin Morgan is as Irish as Riverdance and Guinness. The 23-year-old even played against England for Ireland the last time those two sides met before the group stages in the Windies.
Those four were far and away England's most prolific batsmen, Pietersen, Morgan and Kieswetter had the three best averages, and the quartet's strike-rate was better than everyone's except Wright and Bresnan.
At the end of the day, though, does it matter?
Not according to Boycott: "Yes we have a number of South Africans in the team and we'd prefer them to be English. But the rules are as they are and the selectors have done a tremendous job."
And another former England captain Nasser Hussain, too, insisted on his commentary with Sky Sports on Sunday that he "has no problem with the selectors picking the players that are available to them".
But there are dissenting voices. Former skipper Michael Atherton, in his Times column, noted: "There is a reason why the achievements of Collingwood's team will not go down in English folklore: people do not generally regard this England team as an "English" team.
"As a liberally minded chap, I am happy that England's "foreign legion" have the opportunity and freedom to make their careers here. In that sense, the team do reflect something of the country. But the public are not fools.
"They know that Collingwood's team are not representative of the health of the English game in general, and that without Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen, who learnt their cricket elsewhere, England's batting would have a far more anaemic look. In that sense, they will not be loved as the heroes of '66 were."
The selections do not sit well, either, with BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, who wrote: "I understand both sides of the argument and I have sympathy for everyone involved. But I feel very uncomfortable about the likes of Kieswetter playing for England. The England selectors are going down a dangerous alley. It is up to them to make sure the integrity of the England team is kept intact and we need to keep it just that - an England team."
IMPACT ON COUNTY GAME
So will the infiltration of Kolpak and overseas stars impact negatively on the development of young English stars, or will England's success serve to inspire them to greater things?
"There has to be an incentive for county players to play for England and when you see someone like Kieswetter come in and overtake others to get the nod, it must be extremely disheartening," Agnew argues.
"I feel so sorry for the likes of Chris Read and James Foster - while only last year we were all told that Steven Davies was the best thing since sliced bread. Now Kieswetter is opening the batting and keeping wicket.
"The fact is that it is very difficult for players to adopt another country. I remember asking Craig White about that a few years ago and he said you cannot do it. Of course you can't."
Ask Dimitri Mascarenhas - a man who, himself, grew up in Australia before representing England in one-dayers and T20s - though, and he paints a rather different picture.
"This World Twenty20 success, and the way it was won, will only inspire players and teams at the county level. I know all the boys at Hampshire are raring to go and get the new Twenty20 domestic campaign going on 1 June, and I'm sure it's the same across the country."
England's success in the West Indies was described immediately after the game as "as good a feeling as regaining the Ashes in 2009" according to the likes of Collingwood, Broad and Swann.
So what can it mean looking ahead in all forms of the game?
According to England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier, England's success in Barbados will drive them to greater things in all forms of the game.
And, as always, he already has one eye on the next Ashes series, which gets under way in Brisbane in November.
"This certainly sets up the whole Ashes series wonderfully," he said.
"But, more than that, world cricket is on the up, and cricket in England and Wales is on the up. This is a really wonderful occasion and a truly remarkable achievement by England."
Ashes holders and World T20 champions - English cricket certainly has plenty to celebrate, with, potentially, even more to come.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.