England make hard work of vital win
But while England have avoided adding their name to the list of upsets from Saturday, the performance didn't quell the major doubts surrounding the team. As against New Zealand the batting faltered with the loss of three top-order wickets, this time for eight runs, then there was a lack of cutting edge from the bowling attack when the threat of the new ball had disappeared.
After Liam Plunkett grabbed two in his first spell, Ashif Mulla provided the England attack with a wake-up call as he launched 58 off 60 balls in a fifth-wicket stand of 97 with Abdool Samad. The runs came with ease, but after falling to 65 for 4 in the 17th over the target was always out of reach, although the lower-order kept the entertainment going. It highlighted the importance of the breathing space created by the 81-run stand between Collingwood and Ravi Bopara plus the eight-ball 23 from Paul Nixon.
Joyce and Michael Vaughan started with England's first century opening stand in 27 matches, both playing neatly although Joyce survived chances on 30 and 46. The top order, though, went in familiar fashion and all helped their own demise leaving the century count among them at a miserly one. Vaughan drove to point, Ian Bell top-edged an attempted slog-sweep and Joyce's reverse sweep proved his downfall after a return to form. Sunil Dhaniram was responsible for the latter two, but his day got even better with his third victim - Kevin Pietersen caught and bowled after a delivery stopped on a slightly two-paced surface.
In 16 balls England had been sent into a position of needing a partnership to ensure their mini-collapse didn't become a more major issue. Bopara, Andrew Flintoff's replacement at No. 6, quickly looked at home and his sharp running and strong on-side play kicked the innings back into life.
Collingwood was his usual self, biding his time before unleashing in the closing overs as Canada lost their disciplines. Samad was banned from the attack in his sixth over after bowling two waist-high full tosses, although England didn't have much trouble scoring off them with Collingwood's fifty taking 41 balls. The 65-ball stand put England into a comfort zone, then Nixon provided a thumping finish as he reverse-hit the death bowlers over the ropes. The final ten overs brought 98 runs.
Bopara continued to impress in his first World Cup match with a delivery that nipped away to take Ian Billcliff's offstump, but Canada refused to back down. With England feeling safe from defeat the foot came off the gas, allowing Mulla and Samad to find the boundary. Both hit sixes and Mulla was especially strong through the leg side until his fun was ended by a smart piece of work from Nixon. Yet, even when Panesar struck in the next over they couldn't run through the lower order.
Dhaniram completed a solid allround day while Desmond Chumney showed his power as England were forced to bowl out their 50 overs. By batting out time, Canada put up a better show than against Kenya and managed their highest total in World Cups. It is something they can take with them after their tournament concludes, although the age of their team is a major issue.
England will claim they did what was needed, but for reasons on and off the field this wasn't a day to inspire confidence. Their final match, a must-win to quality for the Super Eights, is against Kenya on the same pitch, which will be even slower and lower. They may not have it all their own way.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo