Colly Flowers In Victory
England have defeated Ireland by 48 runs in the World Cup Super Eight match at Guyana's Providence Stadium.
Paul Collingwood delivered another match-winning performance to prevent England from suffering further embarrassment and get their Super Eights campaign under way.
England'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 the day before their vital Group C match with 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 defeat to Ireland's mixture of part-timers, which was only averted after another stunning display from Durham all-rounder Collingwood, whose crucial contribution sealed a 48-run victory.
Having hit successive centuries to inspire England's shock Commonwealth Bank series success in Australia, Collingwood 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.
He 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.
In fact, for long periods during Ireland's reply, Collingwood's contribution looked like being the major difference between the sides with Ireland keeping pace with England's effort for the large part of their reply before subsiding to 218 all out.
Having chosen to bat first, England would have hoped one of their top three would have made more of a statement against an Irish squad containing 12 amateurs.
Once again, though, their top three all 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 8ins seamer Boyd Rankin, which seamed back in and knocked back his off-stump.
To compound his brief innings, Joyce also dropped Irish wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien on nine who went on to top-score with a determined 63 to follow 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 and 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 they wanted the pair of them at the crease to accelerate, Flintoff chopped onto his stumps for 43.
Collingwood was aided in his late assault by both Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara, who played useful cameo innings, before being run out with three balls remaining.
Ireland's reply began in a similar fashion by losing 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 their qualification for the last eight.
For the third time in succession against Associate member opposition, England's attack struggled to finish the opposition off – a worrying sign with matches against Sri Lanka and Australia on the horizon next week in Antigua.
Given a reprieve by former team-mate Joyce, O'Brien battled sensibly to hit a determined half-century and hold Ireland's innings together.
Any slim hopes of another major upset were effectively ended when O'Brien and brother Kevin fell in successive overs to leave Ireland struggling on 139 for six.
But a quickfire 58-run stand between captain Trent Johnston and Andrew White 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.
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