Million dollar prize sharpens Poms' focus

Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008, 16:14 [IST]
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Manchester: England may have looked a 'million dollars' in thrashing New Zealand by nine wickets in a Twenty20 international here at Old Trafford but how will they cope with playing for the real thing later this year?

An astonishing, by cricket standards, one million dollars for each member of the winning side is being put up by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford for a Twenty20 match between his Caribbean Super Stars and England at the businessman's own ground in Antigua on November 1.

However, the losing side won't get anything at all.

The thought of earning huge amounts of money, in a format that was pioneered professionally in county cricket five years ago as 'just a bit of a fun', appears to have concentrated England minds if this display was any guide.

Having held New Zealand to just 123 for nine, thanks to a good bowling performance led by Stuart Broad and James Anderson with good support from spinner Graeme Swann, England saw Ian Bell (60 not out) and Kevin Pietersen (42 not out) see them home with 15 balls to spare.

Afterwards star batsman Pietersen, perhaps only half-joking, said: "We've got a big game coming up in Antigua and I wanted to make sure I got some red ink (a not out) to cement my place."

England one-day captain Paul Collingwood was pleased with the way in which his side had responded to the fall-out surrounding the cash-rich match, details of which were announced by Stanford at Lord's on Wednesday.

"You can't get away from the fact that it is a massive game for us in November. Of course, there has been talk. But what they have done is put a professional performance in. There have been no distractions whatsoever.

"If anything it has been a positive for us and got the best out of us.

"I am not saying that because of the carrot that lies ahead, we played well tonight (Friday). We played pretty well in the Twenty20s in New Zealand. Tonight everything came together.

"I'm not saying it was because of the November 1 fixture. Tonight everybody knew their roles. Everything just clicked together."

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said one of the biggest problems regarding the Stanford match would arise before the players took the field.

"I think it's fantastic but the hardest thing is going to be selecting the team," the left-arm spinner said.

New Zealand, semi-finalists in both last year's 50-over World Cup and the inaugural World Twenty20, have more pressing issues to deal with ahead of a five-match one-day series against England which starts at Durham's Riverside ground on Sunday.

All-rounder Jacob Oram was forced out of Friday's match with a hamstring injury during the warm-up and is now doubtful for the rest of the tour.

"It's a huge blow to us because Jacob is one of the best all-rounders in the world so any time you lose him makes it tough to recover from it.

"I think he's out for about seven to 10 days so he could be a struggle for the rest of the one-day series.

But Vettori said the Black Caps, who've now lost seven Twenty20s in a row, including three on the trot against England, should have coped better with Oram's absence.

"When you're presented with situations like that, you expect one or two guys to pick it up and no-one did that today and that was the problem.

"I wouldn't say we're struggling in this format but we're certainly not putting the performances together that we can at the moment."

Read more about: england, new zealand, twenty20, t20, stanford, money
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