England unconvincing in victory

England came through the group stages of the World Cup with many question marks hanging over their heads. Having associate nation Ireland first up in the Super Eights gave the side the perfect opportunity to answer their critics and dispel those quesition marks by putting in the dominant performance that was lacking against Canada and Kenya. However, that failed to be the case as the worrying areas of England’s side continued to struggle and the Irish fought in the same manner that saw them progress this far. Though England came through the game to claim the 2 points, the manner of their victory was some way short of convincing.

The biggest question mark looming over the England side is that of the top order. The lack of runs from Joyce, Vaughan and Bell so far in the tournament has frustrated England’s followers, and after winning the toss and electing to bat, they failed to produce again.

The tall and impressive seamer Boyd Rankin made inroads into England’s lineup immediately. Irish born Ed Joyce was bowled by Rankin in the first over for 1. The 22-year-old then removed Michael Vaughan (5) as the English captain pushed forwards at a good ball and edged to wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien.

Bell and Pietersen steadied the ship for the English with a partnership of 66, but they yet again failed to take advantage of the powerplays and soon after the fielding restrictions were relaxed, Bell brought an end to his painfully slow 31 when he edged an attempted cut from flame haired Kevin O’Brien’s bowling into older brother Niall’s gloves.

As has been the case many times in ODI cricket, though, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood were on hand to rescue England. Pietersen had outscored Bell 41 to 14 in their partnership, going about his business in his usual swaggering fashion. The #1 ranked ODI batsman in the world had crunched Trent Johnston for 3 fours in the Irish captain’s first over, and despite getting tied down after Bell got out and giving a catch to William Porterfield off McCallan when just 2 runs short of a half century, Pietersen’s innings was crucial in keeping England’s run rate at a decent level.

Whilst Pietersen played as Pietersen does, Collingwood played as Collingwood does. Playing through to the end of the innings and rotating the strike are two things that Collingwood excels at, and today was no exception. Allied with allrounder Andrew Flintoff, who made a good 43 to find some form despite still looking out of sorts at times, Collingwood steered England towards 200 steadily. And after Flintoff played onto his stumps in the forty-third over, the Durham man upped a gear and powered England closer to a score they should be getting against associate nations.

Collingwood’s assault on Johnston, whom Colingwood slog-swept for six in addition to clubbing several fours off the captain’s bowling, and Andre Botha, who Collingwood creamed for two sixes though the legside, was ably aided by Paul Nixon, who hit 19 off 15 balls, including clearing long on for a maximum off Botha’s bowling before failing to do so the next ball, giving Eoin Morgan a catch.

Collingwood was ran out taking a sharp single in the last over, a reward for Ireland’s effort in the field. His magnificent 90 had underpinned England’s batting yet again, guiding the side to 266-7.

In reply, Ireland’s innings started as catastrophically as England’s. Jeremy Bray slashed his first ball to Ravi Bopara at point. Eoin Morgan (2) soon followed him back to the pavilion, ran out by Sajid Mahmood’s skillful fielding coming out of his follow through. Mahmood raced to the balland flicked it out of the back of his hand onto the stumps as soon as he’d pick it up to leave Morgan just an inch or two short.

William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien battled to get the Irish back in the match but had to rely on some luck to help them out. Ed Joyce dropped O’Brien off Mahmood with the kepper-batsman on 9, one that he would have been expected to take although it was above his head. The pair were also aided by Flintoff’s first spell uncharacteristically lacking both bite and accuracy. Flintoff came back and induced a leading edge from Porterfield, taken by Bell to remove the opener for 31, however.

O’Brien kept going on his merry way. The hero of Ireland’s shock victory over Pakistan clocked up another half century. However, Vaughan’s introduction of Panesar and himself into the attack put any hopes of an Irish victory to rest.

The two spinners choked the Irish batsmen, pushing the required run rate up to 11.60 by the time they were both finished. Panesar brought an end to Botha’s innings of 16 when the South African born allrounder hoiked the slow left armer straight up in the air and saw the ball met by Flintoff when it came back down. Kevin, the younger O’Brien brother, followed when Panesar trapped him lbw. However, part time off-spinner Vaughan shoved Panesar out of the spotlight with a beautiful piece of bowling to remove Niall O’Brien for 63. The Northamptonshire keeper was deceived in the flight as he charged down the wicket and stumped by Nixon.

Trent Johnston (27) and Andrew White (38) bludgeoned England’s seamers at the death to typify Ireland’s never say die attitude and show up England’s bowling and pedestrian fielding, but Flintoff wrapped up the tail with 3 wickets.

The result, however, will not convince the English media or public. Points earned: 2. Lessons learned: 0.

England 266-7
Paul Collingwood 90, Kevin Pietersen 48
Boyd Rankin 2-28, Kevin O’Brien 1-26

Ireland 218 all out
Niall O’Brien 63, Andrew White 38
Andrew Flintoff 4-48, Monty Panesar 2-31

England won by 48 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Paul Collingwood 90(82), 1-38

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