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Saturday, March 31, 2007

England beat Ireland comfortably, but not decisively

The England v Ireland Super Eight match was played at Providence Stadium which is, as Michael Atherton said to a well-nourished Ian Botham during a lull in their TV commentary stint, located amid anaconda infested fields in the Guyanese countryside.

England won the toss, batted and initially struggled against some keen Irish bowling and fielding. England's Irishman Ed Joyce left a ball from Rankin pass by and bowl him, while Michael Vaughan was caught behind from the same bowler off a ball which moved away just enough to take the edge. 2/23 in the 6th over was not a good start, but Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen improved the position without putting their side in control. Bell was out at 89 for 31 in a very slow 74b; Pietersen was more aggressive but when he was caught from offspinner Kyle McCallan for 48/47b the total was only 4/113 and 26.3 overs had been bowled.

Andrew Flintoff joined Paul Collingwood and the two gradually wrested the initiative from the Ireland, whose attack was reminiscent of New Zealand's in the days when it relied upon the likes of Chris Harris and Gavin Larsen. The English pair added 81 in 106b before Flintoff was out for, by his standards, a slow and not always confident looking 43/62b. Paul Nixon (19/15b) put on 50/ 28b with Collingwood, who looked set for a century before he was run out for 90/82b (8x4, 3x6). The game got away from Ireland a little as England hit out in the last 6 overs to reach 7/266 from their 50 overs.

Ireland, like England, started badly, stumbling to 2/11 as James Anderson had their star batsman Jeremy Bray caught for a duck and Sajjid Mahmood ran out Eoin Morgan. Niall O'Brien joined William Porterfield at the crease. They hung on, but the England bowlers, taking their cue perhaps from the anacondas in the vicinity, constricted the scoring. Porterfield was out in the 19th over for 31/68b when the score was 72, Andre Botha (18/39b) at 116 and the brothers O'Brien (Niall 63/88b, Kevin 12/19b) at 139. Skipper Trent Johnston (27/21b)and Andrew White (38/35b) accelerated the tempo and for a short time a close finish looked possible, but Flintoff cut through the lower order quickly leaving England victors by 48 runs.

Scorecard.

England were clearly the better side on the day, yet so they should have been, given Ireland's lack of experience of top class international cricket. England's top order batting is inconsistent while its attack hasn't been as penetrative as it might be, and of course it's labouring under the handicap of not bringing forward any points from the preliminary round. On the evidence of this match they don't look potential finalists, but then only a couple of months ago in Australia they looked even worse, yet they were able to lift and take advantage of some slender opportunites and win that tournament.

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