Transformed England promise total aggression in T20 final

NEW DELHI • Dashing opener Jason Roy pledged that England would come out "all guns blazing" in Sunday's World Twenty20 final as they look to complete their transformation from cricket's laughing stock to champions.

Just a year ago, England were licking their wounds after an ignominious exit from the 50-over Cricket World Cup in which their only victories were against minnows Scotland and Afghanistan.

But after crushing New Zealand in Wednesday's semi-final by seven wickets in New Delhi, England are now one victory away from becoming the first two-time world champions in the game's shortest format.

New Zealand's bowlers had no answer to England's aggression as Roy raced to 78 off 44 balls at the top of the order, rapidly taking the game away from a team that won all four of their previous matches in the tournament.

England were widely ridiculed for their demise at the one-day World Cup last year, which came a year after their embarrassing exit from the last World T20 in Bangladesh culminating in a tame defeat to the Netherlands.

The turnaround has been remarkable, with England ironically seeking to emulate the more aggressive style of cricket that was pioneered by New Zealand under former captain Brendon McCullum.

Players such as Roy, Joe Root and Ben Stokes have come to epitomise what captain Eoin Morgan has called a "brash" new style of play that has seen England score more sixes than any other team in the tournament.

Sunday's final in Kolkata will pit England against the winners of yesterday's second semi-final between the hosts India and a West Indies side who beat England at the group stage.

"Whoever it is, we will meet them with all guns blazing," Roy told reporters, after England cruised to their target of 154 with nearly three overs remaining.

"We had a lot of negative feedback from a few people and to be in a World Cup final now has hopefully got a few more people on our side."

England, World T20 champions in 2010, have been accused in the past of developing a siege mentality on tour under no-nonsense coaches such as Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower.

The scars left by Kevin Pietersen's acrimonious sacking in 2014 after a disastrous tour of Australia have also taken some time to heal.

But Morgan and England's Australian coach Trevor Bayliss have encouraged players to go out and enjoy themselves on the field, while a trip to the Taj Mahal pointed to a new sense of adventure off it.

"A final is the kind of thing you dream about," said Morgan. "Every player in that dressing room has worked extremely hard and made a lot of sacrifices over the past year to put us in this position."

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan described England's qualification for the final as a "remarkable achievement".

"It is a joy to watch England play with skill, execute sensible tactical plans and bully the opposition," he wrote in The Telegraph.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Transformed England promise total aggression in T20 final'. Print Edition | Subscribe