2015 ICC World Cup: Moeen heroics give England first points


February 23, 2015

Brief Scorecard: England 303 for 8 (Moeen 128, Bell 54, Davey 4-68) beat Scotland 184 (Coetzer 71, Finn 3-26, Moeen 2-47) by 119 runs

Moeen Ali's century was only the second by an England batsman in ODIs in New Zealand, England v Scotland, World Cup 2015, Group A, Christchurch, February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015

Brief Scorecard: England 303 for 8 (Moeen 128, Bell 54, Davey 4-68) beat Scotland 184 (Coetzer 71, Finn 3-26, Moeen 2-47) by 119 runs

Moeen Ali's century was only the second by an England batsman in ODIs in New Zealand, England v Scotland, World Cup 2015, Group A, Christchurch, February 23, 2015

Christchurch, New Zealand – England picked up their first points of the 2015 World Cup, but the manner in which they secured a 119-run win over Scotland on Monday (February 23) did little to erase the significant doubts that exist over their ability to play top-flight One-Day International cricket. England wheezed to 303 for 8 when they should have breezed past 350 after the start they got. And, after having Scotland in serious trouble in the chase, they allowed them to take the game deep. Either of these errors would have been seized upon and turned into match-winning scenarios by some of the stronger teams in this tournament.

England went into the game with an unchanged team, choosing to stick with Steven Finn, whose bowling had been taken apart in the two games leading into this one, and Gary Ballance, who seems yet to convince himself or cricket watchers that he belongs in the No. 3 position in ODIs. Put in to bat under overcast skies, England’s openers were far from convincing first up, but Scotland’s bowlers lost sight of the method in their anxiety to claim the prize.

Spraying the ball on both sides of the pitch, Iain Wardlaw and Josh Davey let the batsmen off the hook and once the ball stopped swinging, Moeen Ali took full toll. Hipster beard waving in the Christchurch breeze, Moeen swung his bat in clean arcs, his hands coming through the line with flair that would have done Saeed Anwar proud. Even when he was not to the pitch of the ball, Moeen was able to control it, hitting into gaps or over fielders.

It was a good thing Moeen was so fluent, for Ian Bell chose the worst possible day to play an utterly scratchy innings. On match eve, Bell insisted that England could not afford to play defensive cricket, or go back to old tactics where an innings was built and wickets preserved for a slog in the last few overs. In the light of those comments, his innings was humorous, had it not been so difficult to watch. It was almost as though Bell was mocking himself as he managed just two boundaries in an innings of 54 that consumed 85 balls.

Moeen brought up his half-century in only 39 balls, and when he acknowledged the crowd’s cheers upon reaching hundred, there were enough overs left in the innings for him to have a comfortable crack at Robin Smith’s England record score of 167 that has stood for a staggering 22 years.

England had laid a fantastic platform, getting to 172 for no loss at the 30-over mark, but Bell punched one straight to mid-off, and soon after Moeen (128) slogged one to the midwicket fielder.

Just as surely as spring gives way to summer, the complexion of the game changed, and where once runs flowed like a laughing brook, now pressure built with an air of inevitability.

With a launchpad built, England should have sent Jos Buttler up to take the game on, but instead stuck with Ballance at No. 3, a move that typified England’s typewriter approach to ODI cricket in the smartphone era. Ballance duly failed, making his third consecutive score of 10, off 18 balls, and at no stage looked comfortable against an attack that struggled to get movement either in the air or off the pitch. Joe Root tickled Davey to the ‘keeper and England had lost four wickets for 23 runs in the space of six overs. In five Power Play overs, where the pace should’ve picked up, England managed just 22 runs, losing two wickets.

Eoin Morgan began the rescue operation with James Taylor, but the two were forced to consolidate early on. Scotland sneaked in a few quiet overs, and with the partnership on 49, and the batsmen looking to get a move on, a wicket fell at the worst possible time. Taylor shuffled down the pitch to Davey, who fired the ball in wide and Matthew Cross, the wicketkeeper, smartly gloved the ball and dove back to break the stumps. It was the kind of stumping that lifted the entire fielding team, a moment of brilliance.

Taylor’s dismissal proved a blessing in disguise for England as it brought Buttler to the crease with a bit of time to tee up the big shots. Unorthodox, but always looking to be aggressive, Buttler’s 24 from 14 balls lifted the innings, and Morgan joined in the home-stretch fun. Clearing his front leg and tonking the ball back down the ground with power, Morgan collected a 42-ball 46 to take England to 303 for 8. England had lost their last seven wickets for only 102 runs, and if they continue to tell themselves they are doing just fine in ODIs, a few hard knocks may be in the offing.

Scotland were full of optimism when they began their innings, but a combination of scoreboard pressure and the extra pace of the England attack meant that it would take something extraordinary for an upset to unfold. Kyle Coetzer hit the ball sweetly at the top of the order, clattering his way to 71 even as wickets fell with regularity at the other end. Once they were three down for only 54, the chase was in deep trouble, but the depth in batting meant that the innings stretched long enough to allow the crowd to guzzle as much beer as they liked. And this showed towards the end of the innings, when a streaker bounded onto the field with an urgency and sense of purpose England failed to show at any point. Try as they may, the stewards could not tackle the crowd’s hero, and a lithe leap at the end of his sprint allowed him to make it out of the ground.

Scotland, however, could effect no similar jailbreak, and were bowled out for 184 in the 43rd over, giving England victory by 119 runs.

Courtesy: Wisden India