Collingwood makes the difference

Paul Collingwood ... inspiring performance.-AP

The Durham all-rounder, who inspired England to victory in the CB Series in Australia recently, came up with another stunning performance to put the match beyond Ireland. Myles Hodgson reports.

Paul Collingwood delivered another match-winning performance to prevent England from suffering further embarrassment and get its Super Eight campaign under way. The team's World Cup challenge has already suffered its share of humiliations with a group of players and members of the backroom staff being caught in a nightclub less than 48 hours before their vital Group C match against Canada.

There was also the episode involving key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who lost the vice-captaincy and was dropped for a match for taking a pedalo off the beach on the same evening.

The biggest humiliation of all, though, would have been a defeat to Ireland's mixture of part-timers, which was only averted after a stunning display from Durham all-rounder Collingwood, whose crucial contribution sealed a 48-run victory for England.

Collingwood, who hit successive centuries to inspire England's shock Commonwealth Bank Series success in Australia, hammered 90 off only 82 balls to propel his side to a challenging 266 for seven.

It was a match-winning innings, which included eight fours and three sixes, and earned him his fourth Man of the Match award in seven one-day internationals. Collingwood helped add a crucial 94 runs in the final 10 overs and 65 in the last five with another superlative display of late hitting which appeared to have put the game firmly beyond the plucky Irish. England's top three batsmen struggled to make their mark with openers Ed Joyce and captain Michael Vaughan falling inside the first six overs, and Ian Bell struggling throughout his unconvincing innings of 31.

In fact Dublin-born Joyce, playing against his former Irish team-mates, had a day to forget after shouldering arms to the seventh legitimate delivery of the day from 6ft 8in seamer Boyd Rankin, which seamed in and knocked back his off-stump.

To compound his miserable batting performance, Joyce also dropped Irish wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien who, on nine then, went on to top score with a determined 63, following up his half-century during the group stages against Pakistan.

Vaughan had an equally miserable start to the day, scoring only six before edging Derbyshire recruit Rankin behind to leave England nervously creaking on 23 for two.

England's back-to-basics policy — designed to keep wickets in hand for a slog later in the innings — was again in tatters and Kevin Pietersen, newly installed as the world's top one-day batsman, set out to play his own way by progressing to 48 at faster than a run a ball. He may have progressed at an even faster rate but both he and England lost momentum with Bell struggling to score off a slow pitch and finally edging behind after a painstaking 74-ball innings.

Pietersen fell just five overs later, clipping to mid-wicket as he tried to force the pace, and it was left to Collingwood and all-rounder Flintoff to guide England towards a competitive target. They added 81 in 17 overs, but just as England reached the stage when it wanted its batsmen at the crease to accelerate, Flintoff chopped the ball onto his stumps for 43.

Collingwood was aided in his late assault by both Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara.

Ireland's reply began in much the same way as England started its innings; it lost two wickets inside the first four overs. But just as England expected a landslide, Ireland showed the type of resistance which surprised Pakistan and led to its qualification for the Super Eight.

Enjoying a reprieve by former team-mate Joyce, O'Brien battled sensibly to hit a determined half-century and hold Ireland's innings together. However, any slim hopes of another major upset were effectively ended when Niall O'Brien and brother Kevin fell in successive overs to leave Ireland struggling on 139 for six.

A quick fire 58-run stand between captain Trent Johnston and Andrew White at this stage magnified England's failure to find a ruthless streak, which was exposed on several occasions during the group stages. It was left to all-rounder Flintoff, who claimed two of the lower order wickets to finish with four for 43, to complete an unsatisfactory but deserved victory.

THE SCORES

Super Eight: England v Ireland. England won by 48 runs.

England: E. Joyce b Rankin 1; M. Vaughan c N. J. O'Brien b Rankin 6; I. Bell c N. J. O'Brien b K. J. O'Brien 31; K. Pietersen c Porterfield b McCallan 48; P. Collingwood (run out) 90; A. Flintoff b Johnston 43; P. Nixon c Morgan b Botha 19; R. Bopara (not out) 10; S. Mahmood (not out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-13, nb-3) 18. Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs) 266.

Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-23, 3-89, 4-113, 5-194, 6-245, 7-258.

Ireland bowling: Langford-Smith 7-0-38-0; Rankin 7-1-28-2; Johnston 10-0-70-1; Botha 10-1-56-1; K. J. O'Brien 4-0-26-1; McCallan 10-0-38-1; White 2-0-8-0.

Ireland: W. Porterfield c Bell b Flintoff 31; J. Bray c Bopara b Anderson 0; E. Morgan (run out) 2; N. J. O'Brien st. Nixon b Vaughan 63; A. Botha c Flintoff b Panesar 18; K. J. O'Brien lbw b Panesar 12; D. Johnston b Flintoff 27; A. White c Nixon b Collingwood 38; W. McCallan b Flintoff 5; D. Langford-Smith lbw b Flintoff 1; W. Rankin (not out) 4; Extras (lb-3, w-9, nb-5) 17. Total (in 48.1 overs) 218.

Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-11, 3-72, 4-116, 5-139, 6-139, 7-197, 8-209, 9-210.

England bowling: Anderson 7-1-35-1; Mahmood 8-2-34-0; Flintoff 8.1-1-43-4; Collingwood 6-0-38-1; Panesar 10-1-31-2; Vaughan 9-0-34-1.

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