England’s 2015 World Cup campaign is up and running thanks to a Moeen Ali masterclass in Christchurch with the opener hitting 128 with the bat before taking two wickets to beat Scotland by 119 runs.
Considering England’s performance against New Zealand last Friday, this was a much improved display that will start to rebuild the confidence of Eoin Morgan’s men with Ali, Ian Bell and Steven Finn the standout performers at the Hagley Oval.
England kept faith with the same side that were humiliated by New Zealand which meant there was no recall for Ravi Bopara or Chris Jordan as they were inserted to bat after Morgan lost the toss.
England’s platform to reach 300 for the first time in the 2015 Cricket World Cup was laid by Ali and the watchful Bell who shared a 172-run partnership at the top of the order.
The pair batted for 30 overs with the Worcestershire man being the aggressor as he hit five maximums and 12 boundaries while the more conservative Bell only found the rope twice in his 54 off 85 balls.
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Despite the pace of Bell’s innings the partnership was not too far off a run a ball which was a perfect tonic for Morgan’s men after a disastrous opening to the World Cup.
However, as soon as Bell departed thanks to a catch from Kyle Coetzer off the bowling of Richard Berrington the wickets of Ali, Gary Ballance and Joe Root soon followed to leave England 203-4 with just under 14 overs remaining.
Ali did manage to go past his highest ODI score, beating his 119 he made in his maiden century against Sri Lanka but he will be disappointed not to have kicked-on to reach a score of 150+ with Majid Haq removing the all action opener for 128.
In completing his century, Ali became the first Englishman since Chris Broad to hit an ODI 100 in New Zealand when he reached three figures in 1988 when Ali was just eight months old.
With the Yorkshire pair of Ballance (10) and Root (1) back in the changing room the attention turned onto the out of form England skipper and Morgan showed glimpses of his undoubted class on his way to a 42-ball 46 which included a pair of sixes and four boundaries.
The Middlesex man and James Taylor put together a 49-run partnership before Taylor became one of Josh Davey’s four victims when he was stumped by Matthew Cross for 17.
Jos Buttler then chipped in with a valuable 24 with a strike-rate of above 170 but when he was dismissed England could only manage three runs off the last over as they reached a much more respectable 303-8.
Scotland always faced an uphill task if they were to chase 304 to win as they have never beaten a Test playing nation while they have only ever chased a score of 300+ once, against Ireland in 2011. That challenge looked even steeper when they lost a wicket in just their third over. James Anderson was the man to strike, removing Calum MacLeod for four, caught behind by Buttler.
Coetzer and Freddie Coleman then stabilised to an extent as they saw out the opening 10 overs until a brace of bowling changes did the damage. Firstly, Chris Woakes struck with his very first ball with Coleman picking out Morgan at midwicket for 7.
Finn was then thrown the ball and he was also successful in his first over, removing Sussex batsman Matt Machan for five to leave the Scots struggling on 54-3 as the run-rate started to rise in Christchurch.
Captain Preston Mommsen then formed a solid partnership with opener Coetzer but just when it looked like they might be building an innings to challenge England they were back in the pavilion in consecutive overs thanks to off-spinners Root and Ali.
The duo had shared 60 runs when Mommsen miscued a Root delivery to Broad for 26 while Coetzer fell in the 27th over with Woakes snaffling a straight forward chance at long-on as he departed for 71. The Northamptonshire batsman fell just five runs short of Gavin Hamilton’s record of 76 for the highest score by a Scotsman in a World Cup which came against Pakistan in 1999.
That was the end of the Scotland resistance with Morgan taking his second catch as Berrington only lasted 13 deliveries for his eight to hand Ali his second wicket to follow his superb century earlier in the day.
Finn then chipped in with a further two wickets before Anderson and then Woakes returned to polish off Scotland’s innings for 184 with Finn the pick of the bowlers taking 3-26 off nine overs, a great response to his display against New Zealand on Friday.
England now turn their attention to Sunday’s clash against Sri Lanka where a victory would put them back on track to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the tournament.