Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canada v EnglandRizwan Cheema took England's bowlers to the cleaners in a feisty performance

Canada v England, World Cup 2011, warm-up match

Cheema's onslaught gives England a big scare

Rizwan Cheema took England's
 bowlers to the cleaners in a feisty
 performance at Fatullah
 © Associated Press

Rizwan Cheema gave England a massive scare in their opening World Cup warm-up match against Canada, as he blazed 93 from 70 balls from No. 7 to give life to a faltering run-chase at Fatullah and raise the very real prospect of an embarrassing upset. However, five wickets for Stuart Broad on his return to competitive action, allied to a greater knowhow at the death, enabled England to defend their middling total of 243 despite being outgunned on the boundary count. Having recovered from 28 for 5 inside the eighth over, Canada's challenge finally ended on 227, with 23 balls left unused.
It was a sloppy display from England at an admittedly outlandish venue, although one that they ought to have been familiar with, having launched their tour of Bangladesh on the same ground in February last year. But it was Canada who looked the most at home in the conditions, as Cheema made light of a dramatic top-order collapse, which included first-over wickets for both the fit-again Ajmal Shahzad and Broad, who had not bowled in a match since tearing stomach muscles at Adelaide in December, but who ended up being England's saving grace with match figures of 5 for 37.
There had been no inkling of the drama to come when Canada lost half of their batsmen in the space of 44 balls, including the veteran John Davison, whose whirlwind century against West Indies in 2003 is the stuff of World Cup legend. However, Cheema has previous in that regard as well. At King City in August 2008, also against West Indies, he had battered the bowling to all parts in a 69-ball 89, and this time he produced ten fours and five sixes, including two in an over from the otherwise impressive Broad. While he remained, Canada held out hope of a major scalp, but with his hundred in sight, he took the aerial route once too often, and picked out Ian Bell at long-off.
Still their challenge was not finished, as Chohan - who had earlier impressed with the ball - dug in for a spirited 44 from 74 balls to take the game right down to the wire. Canada entered the final ten overs needing 47 to win, and a clumping Chohan six off James Tredwell took the requirement down below 20. But Tredwell extracted Harvir Baidwan for 14, via a catch to Paul Collingwood, before Broad returned to seal the deal, striking with the first ball of his ninth over to trap Chohan lbw.
If England seemed an unsettled outfit, that fact was telegraphed at the toss, when Kevin Pietersen was revealed as Andrew Strauss's 13th opening partner, and England's 21st in ODI cricket since the 2007 World Cup. Though Pietersen made an indifferent 24 from 27 balls in his new role before chopping on to Chohan, the message from the England management was that this tactic was intended to be a permanent measure for the duration of the World Cup.
The timing of the reshuffle is hardly opportune - Pietersen has only ever opened in six of his 223 List A matches, and never at international level, while England's first World Cup fixture is looming against Netherlands at Nagpur in less than a week's time - but in the absence of Eoin Morgan in the middle order, the team think-tank has decided that an injection of urgency in the opening overs is the best way to balance the loss of such a pivotal player.
England won the toss and batted first, only for Strauss to fall to a strangle down the leg side in the second over of the game. However, Jonathan Trott, whose berth at No. 3 seems set in stone, did what he does best, anchoring the innings with an unhurried 57 from 81 balls, while Matt Prior - the man who opened the batting in Australia last month - showed he was unaffected by a reversion to the lower order, as he upped the tempo with a fluent 78 from 80 balls in the latter stages of the innings.
In between whiles, England allowed themselves to get bogged down against Canada's nagging repertoire of spin and medium pace. Chohan and Baidwan claimed three wickets apiece, while the legspin of Balaji Rao proved tidy in a ten-over spell that conceded 38 runs and claimed the scalp of Collingwood, whose 9 from 21 balls was another scratchy affair that ended with a wild charge down the pitch and a routine stumping.
When Luke Wright was trapped lbw for a five-ball duck, England were dicing with humiliation at 158 for 7, but Prior and the lower-order boosted their total with some urgent strokeplay. Broad, back in the side after a two-month lay-off following his torn stomach muscle in the Adelaide Test, clubbed 22 from 27 balls to help hoist the total to 243. At 28 for 5 in reply, it looked like being more than enough. But in the end, England barely bellyflopped over the line.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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