Scotland v England, only ODI, Aberdeen May 8, 2014

England avoid Scottish slip-up


England 167 for 6 (Bell 50, Cook 44, Davey 3-28) beat Scotland 133 for 9 (Leask 42, Tredwell 4-41) by 39 runs (D/L method)

Just for a moment it appeared there might be sunshine on Leask. Just for a moment it appeared England could be upset by a 23-year-old who has just given up his job in a bank to take his chance with a summer contract with Cricket Scotland. Just for a moment, as Michael Leask thrashed five sixes in an innings of 42 from 16 balls, it seemed the nightmare of defeat against Holland could be revisited in Aberdeen.

But in the end the romance of an underdog victory was outshone by the professionalism of an England unit who had a bit more nous, a bit more quality and a bit more experience. Leask had to be content with a man of the match award and the people of Aberdeen had to be content with the fact that they had somehow, against all the odds, pulled off an enjoyable fixture in which their team had given a more than decent account of themselves.

So England's new era began with a workmanlike victory over Scotland. It was not, perhaps, the dominant performance that some might have liked but, in wretched conditions that England captain, Alastair Cook described as "the wettest I've ever played in" a disciplined, professional England held off a rapidly-improving Associate side who they next meet in the World Cup in Christchurch in nine-months time.

Perhaps Alex Salmond knew what to expect. The leader of the Scottish independence movement was invited to the match but stayed away, quite possibly having taken one look at the weather forecast. Aberdeen has many charms, but watching cricket in bitterly cold, wet conditions is not one of them. Staging such a match at such a venue at this time of year was an accident waiting to happen. And sure enough, one of the groundstaff, Ken McCudie, sustained a dislocated elbow when slipping on the outfield in a mopping-up process that went well beyond the call of duty.

Certainly conditions could hardly have been more difficult to those anticipated in the World Cup. Rain delayed the start until 4pm, reducing the match to a 23-over encounter. It then intervened again during the Scotland innings to see the contest reduced to 20-overs a side with drizzle continuing for much of the game.

So it was never likely that England, without white ball cricket so far this season and put in on a pitch that had been under cover for a couple of days, would produce the aggressive top-order batting that their critics say will be required if they are to prosper in global events.

Instead they produced a measured, mature performance. The sort of performance that has served them pretty well in England over recent years. The sort of performance that may infuriate those who want them to bat with more urgency but that was a sensible tactic in conditions that Cook rated as "one of the worst I've ever played in."

They adapted and, through Ian Bell and Cook, posted an opening stand of 83 in 11.3 overs that laid the platform for a decent total in these circumstances.

Bell was the dominant partner. While Cook thrashed around without ever finding his timing - it sometimes looked as if he were using a broken bat - Bell sped to a 33-ball half-century and in the process overtook Alec Stewart to become the second highest run-scorer in ODI cricket for England. Twice he drove straight sixes - once skipping down the pitch to loft the offspin of Majid Haq back over his head and once punching Rob Taylor over long-off - and also reverse-swept, drove and pulled other boundaries.

"On a wicket where no-one else could time it, it just flowed for 'Belly,'" Cook said afterwards. "It was just class."

But the late acceleration never quite came. When Bell was dismissed, bowled round his legs attempting to flick over the legside, Cook became bogged down and finally departed to a fine, running catch on the long-off boundary and Jos Buttler was brilliantly caught by Taylor, jumping high on the midwicket boundary.

"Scotland's fielding was exceptional," Cook said. "We were struggling to stand on our feet. There was standing water at mid-off and I was struggling to grip my bat, so for them to take running catches was exceptional."

Eoin Morgan, who thrashed two full tosses to the boundary and one more over it, and Joe Root, improvising cleverly, pushed the score forward with bright contributions. But when Morgan edged a wide one and Root and Ravi Bopara fell to successive deliveries, Cook admitted England "weren't sure if that was a good score."

Scotland never threatened to overhaul the target. James Anderson was too quick for both opening batsmen and both Harry Gurney, who made a quietly impressive debut as a death bowler, and Chris Jordan, maintained their lengths well enough on to prevent Scotland ever getting on top of the rate.

Only when Leask, a 23-year-old from Aberdeen playing just his third ODI, was at the crease did a Scotland victory appear possible. Leask thrashed five sixes and two fours in a breezy innings of 42 from just 16 deliveries.

Just for a few minutes, with England's bowlers struggling to grip the slippery ball, it seemed the former banker might pull-off a memorable heist. But when James Tredwell, the unfortunate victim of most of the six hitting, held one back and caused Leask to drag the ball to wide mid-on, Scotland's challenge was over. Of the rest of the batsmen in the top eight only Matt Machan, who scored 33 at almost a run-a-ball, made double-figures.

There were a couple of areas of concern for England: Buttler missed a fairly straightforward chance when Kyle Coetzer had 1 and they will know that these conditions bear almost no comparisons to those expected in Australia. But in circumstances where some England sides might have gone missing, they did enough to avoid any potential embarrassment and ensured the new Peter Moores era started smoothly.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paulo on May 11, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    @JG no doubt Tredwell has been a great servant over the last couple of years, though when Australia went after him he did have no response. Also there are no real other spin options in white-ball cricket, unless one considers Briggs or Parry.

    Re Bopara I actually think he has been our best limited overs bowler recently, but I wonder how conditions based that is? Also you have to remember that Bresnan usually plays, so compared to him Bopara will always look good

  • John on May 10, 2014, 19:03 GMT

    @Codand Chips - Think Tredwell is way above any spinner for England in shorter formats. I seem to remember the last time Parry played alongside Tredwell , Tredwell's figures were much better. You have to factor in conditions - Eng were reluctant to try Root so I guess they factored in what a hard job it would be with the wet ball etc - and the fact that Leask who had already hit Ravi for 6 was on fire. For me Ravi and Tredwell (unless they hit a bad run of games) should be mainstays for their bowling in this side

  • Paulo on May 10, 2014, 13:42 GMT

    @Jason Hutchinson I've had my doubts about Bell in white-ball cricket due to the lack of willingness to attack when needed. However I felt he played well yesterday, especially given the conditions. I do think Lumb is very hard done by mind and Hales could deserve a chance given his T20I stats.

    I also agree with you re Tredwell. It's not the first time he's been completely taken apart, remember Australia at home. I guess it makes his career ODI stats even more remarkable. I wonder if Parry will get a game or 2 this summer to remind Tredwell that he's no dead cert for the world cup.

    @Chomolungma I doubt we'll be winning too many matches or pushing promotion this year. But at least Bates is getting a game.

  • Dummy4 on May 10, 2014, 12:21 GMT

    Professional performance. Potential banana skin avoided.

    Nice little cameo from Root, I am still not convinced that Bell is a short form player keeping the likes of Lumb & Hales out, but he played well yesterday. Anderson will always be a challenging bowler in English conditions, but I have my doubts in the World Cup in Australia. Leask (who might be a punt for a county in the upcoming T20 Blast) took to Tredwell, who needs to be able to counter batters that show similar aggression.

    All in all a good run out.

  • John on May 10, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    Didn't see much of the game - bar the opening partnership where Cook looked in trouble and Bell got out soon after he started to purr The scorecard is decent enough - winning a T20 game by 40 runs seems ok to me.

    Re other issues brought up here -

    1 - I've always thought England overrest players but then occasionally have a brainwave and run them into the ground (Root earlier this year) I remember Merson (in football) talking about squad rotation etc. He implied that unless a player has an injury , if he's firing then keep him going. When they are showing signs of loss of form etc is the ideal time to rest a player

    2 - re the colour of the kit - I much prefer it to the red but what a nonsense time to debut it against a team that already plays in similar colours. Is this their proper new kit then? Only seems like yesterday when they were debuting the new red kit. Seems like marketing gone into silly mode

  • Paulo on May 10, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    I assume the squad will stay the same for Sri Lanka plus 1 or 2. Lumb was unlucky to miss out but an extra batsman would have to be more adaptable, like James Vince, so they could fill in anywhere. There's no obvious bowler to come into the squad, perhaps due to the lack of List matches.

    Woakes looks like being the Jonny Bairstow of 2014, ie eternal drinks carrier and not playing any cricket before the tests. Good thing he's been released to play for Warwickshire. Personally I still don't see him as a white-ball cricketer.

    Ali's role confuses me. He rarely bowled in his previous matches and didn't exactly showcase his batting, so still selecting him when somebody like Lumb is left out is bizarre.

  • Hamish on May 10, 2014, 7:05 GMT

    @CodandChips I totally agree with respect to the Hampshire attack, especially if you're running with Balcombe who for me has never really set the game alight. I'm not a fan of that approach and it will be interesting to see if it persists throughout the season. That said, I guess if you're committed to using upper order players the likes of JV, Liam and Slug for a significant number of overs you can take the risk, but when you don't know if Slug will turn in 25 overs at 3s or 5s it can be a big risk, and Liam on a bad day isn't a joy to watch.

    Yeah, you're right, JV continues to impress. Those ground shots are delightful and, as I've said before, never mind comparing him to Vaughan, his classy style is more of a right handed Gower.

  • Paulo on May 10, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    Pretty decent performance though shouldn't read too much into it.

    Gurney was understandably nervous but looked ok. Hopefully he gets a good go vs Sri Lanka.

    Bell batted well. Cook may have struggled but I wouldn't worry about that. No disrespect to Scotland but arguably their attack is not as good as the ones Cook has been scoring championship hundreds against.

    Root outdid Bopara as a finisher. But is that really a surprise?

    I'm not a massive fan of the light blue. Arguably it's offensive to Scotland to nick their colour.

    @Chomolungma keep an eye on Vince. Also what's your view on a 3 bowler Hants attack? personally I think it's absurd.

  • Hamish on May 9, 2014, 23:09 GMT

    Aye, we nearly got you. For heavens sake lighten up you lot, it's only sport. 4 August this year is the 100th anniversary of the UK declaration of war; the first word war. This is just a game. Ach well, I'm back off to watch Hampshire. I doubt if you'll print this one, but keep up the good work Cricinfo.

  • Matt on May 9, 2014, 22:10 GMT

    No complaints here, I'm just glad we got a game in. Credit to the umpires and both sets of players, this made for an entertaining listen. Scotland are coming on nicely, it's a shame they were dumped from the domestic one-dayers so early (I appreciate it was results based but there looks to have been genuine improvement). Sounds like Bell was in decent nick. Probably too short a format for Cook but hey, they weren't to know it'd be a 20:20, not going to drop himself is he? Cracking innings from Leask.

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