x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Pietersen's baby bonus

The in-form batsman is back for the semi-final and captain Collingwood says his side is raring to go against Sri Lanka.

England's Kevin Pietersen is expected to play a key role in tonight's semi-final in St Lucia.
England's Kevin Pietersen is expected to play a key role in tonight's semi-final in St Lucia.

Kevin Pietersen will have just 20 hours to rest and re-acclimatise in the Caribbean before he takes the field for tonight's World Twenty20 semi-final. Pietersen's pop star wife, Jessica, gave birth to a baby boy on Monday morning, two days after he flew from Barbados to London to be with her. He had just produced the second of two successive man-of-the-match performances to help England easily beat his native South Africa at Kensington Oval - but was on the other side of the Atlantic when Paul Collingwood and Co scraped a three-wicket win over New Zealand to book their place in today's last-four meeting at St Lucia's Beausejour Stadium.

But Collingwood, the captain, has no worries about compromised preparation or jet-lag issues and was confident that England's mercurial No 3 will be so invigorated at becoming a father for the first time that he will be well and truly on top of his game against Sri Lanka. Asked whether it is asking a lot of Pietersen to immediately reproduce his best form within a day of switching continents, Collingwood said: "No, I don't think so at all."

He believes that the euphoria of fatherhood will ensure Pietersen is ready, and his return can only benefit his teammates too. "In this form of the game especially, your frame of mind is the crucial thing," said the Durham star. "He's going to be in a great frame of mind. He's just had a baby boy; he'll be a happy man; he's had a little bit of a break, and it might do him the world of good just to come straight back into it.

"There's nothing technical he has to change. It's just his mindset, and I'm sure his mind is 100 per cent right. He'll be a happy man, and raring to go. "He put two man-of-the-match performances in before he left. The way he's playing at the moment, getting a player back like that is a great confidence boost for all of us." Collingwood is equally convinced of his team's collective well-being. There are no signs of big-match nerves in the camp, so much so that the captain sees no point in stirring the players up with any extra motivational speeches.

"I don't need it. The guys are ready; they are excited," he said. "If there was a feeling around the camp that the guys are nervous or anything like that then maybe something would have to be said. "But the guys are so confident and focused on the jobs they've got to do, the roles they've got to play. We'll have a team meeting tonight, but let me tell you I'm not going to come out with any rip-roaring speech."

England's self-belief has been evident from the start of this tournament. Their success so far has shown it to be well-placed, and it remains as strong as ever - against opponents who were finalists when the tournament was staged at Lord's last year. "We're confident that if we put similar performances in we're going to win," Collingwood added. "We're not going overboard because we've got to give Sri Lanka a lot of respect - they're a great Twenty20 side - but if we play anything like we can, we're confident we can win."

England's unbeaten Super Eight campaign is another reason for Collingwood's optimism - because he is an advocate of the concept that success breeds success. "I know I keep harping back to IPLs and things like this, but we won three on the trot with Delhi and then kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit," he said. "It is amazing how one defeat can turn the confidence. So it was crucial to go out against New Zealand especially, once we had made the semi-finals, and put in another strong performance.

"We are confident but not too confident. The boys really do know their roles in the side and I think that, keeping that same side, it has really helped everyone to help understand their own and each other's games." * PA