Pietersen spares England's blushes
England 141 for 4 (Pietersen 53*) beat Scotland 136 for 5 (Smith 45) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If England had intended to lay down a marker in their penultimate fixture before the start of the ICC World Twenty20, this was not it. They duly beat the part-timers of Scotland by six wickets with an over to spare, with Kevin Pietersen allaying any lingering concerns about his fitness with a sparky performance in the field and a matchwinning 53 from 39 balls. But either side of his efforts, England were as flat as the atmosphere on a balmy evening in Nottingham. They lacked penetration with the ball, and at times were numbingly naïve with the bat. But at least they avoided humiliation, and that for the moment will have to do.
England did manage to finish with something of a flourish - Pietersen flogged the final ball of the match for six to bring up his half-century, having added 49 in 5.4 overs with Eoin Morgan, whose former team-mates, Ireland, have not had this much trouble in seeing off the Scots in recent months. At first, Morgan wasn't required to do much more than hand the strike back to his partner, although as the winning post drew nearer, he unfurled a few of his trademark hurling strokes to finish on 23 not out from 17.
Up until that partnership, however, England struggled to make headway against a side that had been beset by off-field problems in the build-up to this tournament. Luke Wright epitomised England's strange lack of clarity, as he fretted his way to 19 from 18 balls in his first England appearance since September 2008. Opening the innings with little domestic form to fall back on, he was horrendously dropped on 9 by his namesake, Craig, at mid-on, before picking out the diminutive Majid Haq with a similar stroke two overs later.
It was with the ball, however, that Haq really laid into England. Ravi Bopara had begun to bat with his customary sparkle in reaching 32 from 29 balls, but he gave his start away with a slog to long-off, whereupon Owais Shah drilled a wristy drive straight into Callum McLeod's midriff at short cover for a first-ball duck.
Scotland turned to spin at both ends, with Ryan Watson so nearly compounding the collapse when, first, Pietersen survived an agonisingly tight appeal for lbw, then two balls later, Collingwood poked tentatively at a length ball, and chipped a leading edge into no-man's land at silly point. On 7, Collingwood survived a stumping opportunity when Haq speared one down the leg-side, and his dire innings ended two balls (and another half-chance) later, when Fraser Watts made good ground at long-off to give Gordon Drummond a wicket with his second delivery.
But Pietersen endured, and so long as he was at the crease, the situation was never quite critical. He started tentatively with 7 from 13 balls, but a vast blow off Watson landed in the top tier of the stands at long-on to transform his momentum. A well-placed four past point followed in the same over, before Haq was subjected to a superlative pummel through extra cover. Pietersen then stepped across his stumps to clip Drummond through midwicket to haul the asking rate below seven an over. Only at that point was the result a foregone conclusion.
England's lacklustre day had started in the field, where, with James Anderson and Graeme Swann both resting minor niggles, they lacked a killer instinct. Scotland, however, lacked the firepower to make them pay for their reticence, even though Colin Smith did his best with a handy 45 from 32 balls.
Scotland's fortunes have been in freefall ever since they failed to reach the 2011 World Cup in the qualifying tournament in South Africa earlier this year. Though they saved their one-day status by the skin of their teeth, the ramifications were clear for all to see when their veteran seamer, John Blain, stormed out of the camp on the eve of the competition following a bust-up with his captain, Gavin Hamilton.
Hamilton memorably scored more runs for Scotland at the 1999 World Cup (217) than any player in England's ill-starred campaign, and a decade on from that performance, he showed glimpses of his past glories in a run-a-ball 20, including a clean slap for six back over Dimitri Mascarenhas's head. By that stage, however, Mascarenhas - armed with the new ball - had already struck the first blow for England, when Watts tried to slog a length delivery over long-off, but instead had his off and middle stumps demolished.
At the end of the Powerplays, England turned to their surprise selection, Adil Rashid, who had been called into the squad late as a replacement for Andrew Flintoff, despite having played a minimal role in Yorkshire's Twenty20 Cup campaign. In Swann's absence, it was a handy opportunity to assess Rashid's temperament, and though he started nervily with a series of full-tosses, he nevertheless struck with his fifth delivery, when Hamilton got underneath a slog-sweep and picked out Wright at deep midwicket.
At the other end, Pietersen's offspin was brought into the attack, which in front of a disappointingly sparse crowd, lent the atmosphere something of an exhibition feel. Smith and Kyle Coetzer soon gave England something to think about, however, with a flurry of boundaries including three sixes in five balls, as they put together an enterprising stand of 62 in 6.4 overs.
Their performance was punctuated by a lucky let-off for Coetzer on 22, when James Foster gathered brilliantly way outside off stump to create what should have been Rashid's second wicket of the innings. Foster was one of the few unqualified successes for England, but with no TV replays in this match, he was again denied a mention in the scorebook when he threw down the stumps with Ryan Watson short of his crease. He did, however, earn an assist from the penultimate ball of the innings, as Stuart Broad prevented Neil McCallum from stealing a bye in a final over that went for only two runs.
For much of the innings, England persisted with their medium-pacers, and Collingwood cut down the scoring options with a series of accurate offcutters. He eventually ended Coetzer's enterprising stand when Pietersen plucked a simple chance on the long-on boundary, and three overs later he added the scalp of Smith as well. Becalmed by the departure of Coetzer, Smith added only seven singles to his own score before climbing into Collingwood and sending a steepling top-edge straight back to the bowler.
The lack of penetration in England's bowling was a concern, although Ryan Sidebottom - in his latest comeback from injury - gave a reminder of the reasons why the England management rate him so highly, bowling full and swinging late to concede only 19 runs in his four overs. With Swann and Anderson waiting in the wings, the team surely has more wicket-taking options for later contests. It's fair to say, they will need them.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo