Canada push England close, but lose by 16 runs
Rizwan Cheema finally again showed the form he showed when he burst onto the international stage in 2008 with a big hitting innings today, and it very nearly led to Canada pulling off a remarkable upset against a well below par England.
In Fatullah, England captain Andrew Strauss won the toss and chose to bat first. He strode out to the middle with new opening partner Kevin Pietersen - who will be England's 21st opening batsman in ODI cricket since the last World Cup if he stays there for the tournament itself.
Strauss was caught behind in the second over, and Pietersen was out for 24 in the eleventh over with the score on 50-2. By this time, Jonathan Trott was well settled, and he played well in the face of some poor batting from Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood, who were both out in single figures. Trott made 57 before he was fifth out in the 32nd over with the score on 140.
Soon afterwards, Henry Osinde dismissed Michael Yardy and Luke Wright in a double wicket maiden over, and England were struggling on 158-7 in 37 overs. Matthew Prior, looking much more comfortable in his new role at number six, led the recovery, and he scored 78 from 80 balls, the top score of the innings before he was ninth out.
England went on to score 243 before they were bowled out two balls short of their full quota and, like the West Indian innings against Kenya at the weekend, owed that total to the performance of just two players.
An upset seemed unlikely, even more so when some tight bowling from Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shazad had Canada realling at 28-5 in the eighth over. But that fifth wicket brought Rizwan Cheema to the crease. Known for his big hitting, he had been in a run of bad form for the last 18 months, but shook off the cobwebs with a fantastic innings that almost swung the game the way of the Canadians.
Sharing in a 68 run partnership for the sixth wicket with Zubin Sukari and a 60 run partnership for the seventh wicket with Khurram Chohan before he was out for 93, he smashed ten fours and five sixes - including two in an over from the otherwise economical Broad - in 71 balls.
Canada were still on just 156-7 when he was out though, but Khurram Chohan was determined to stay in and help his team pull of an unlikely win. Scoring his runs more from running between the wickets rather than Cheema's boundary blitz, he scored 44 before he was the last batsman out, becoming Broad's fifth wicket, with Canada just 17 runs short of their target.
This may have been a below strength England side, with James Anderson and Tim Bresnan both recovering from injuries and Graeme Swann busy being found not guilty of drink driving in a court back home, but they were far from impressive today. They will no doubt be even higher on Ireland's list of targets at the World Cup, and on this form, are going to struggle to reach the quarter finals.
Canada meanwhile will have gained some confidence from their performance today, though their top order again let them down. It is perhaps time to admit that John Davison is no longer an opening batsman and move him down the order. Had he, and the other top order batsman, fired today, Canada would have won this match.
Canada will next play against Sri Lanka in the tournament proper on Sunday, but a Canadian will be in action at the World Cup before then, as Bryan Adams is performing at Thursday's opening ceremony.