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England made to work for victory in UAE


England kept their cool to complete an awkward run chase and prevail by three wickets against an ICC Combined XI in the first warm-up match of their tour of the United Arab Emirates.

Andrew Strauss' men got a little more than they bargained for, after the captain opened up the contest by declaring almost 100 runs in arrears yesterday.

But the skipper himself made good on his intent with a fluent 78 at the top of the order as England made a fine start to their pursuit of 261 to win in a minimum 69 overs after the Combined XI had declared on 164 for nine this morning.

From 133 for one, it gradually became too close for England's comfort as wickets fell in clusters thereafter. But Steve Davies and Stuart Broad ensured all ended well, as the tourists not only got off to a winning start but had to work for their success too.

With Pakistan due to arrive tonight for a three-Test series starting on January 17, and a three-day match still to come for England against a PCB XI at this same GCA ground before then, Strauss' team can claim to be well advanced in their preparation despite the loss of first-choice seamer Tim Bresnan through injury and some other minor niggles.

On a benign pitch which surprisingly gave up a stream, occasionally a clatter, of wickets but rarely quick runs, today's target appeared from the outset to represent a useful test of England's mettle.

Strauss and Alastair Cook took advantage of the absence of injured strike bowler Hamid Hassan in an opening stand of 63 in less than 12 overs until the latter was much too early on a pull in Craig Williams' first over and fell to a fine catch by Majid Haq.

Jonathan Trott was in grave danger of departing caught down the leg-side for the second time in the match, this time for a duck, until the umpires concluded the edge off Boyd Rankin had not quite carried.

Strauss dominated the second-wicket stand, bringing up his 67-ball 50 with his 11th four. But he too was to pay for an aerial pull, off Haq.

Kevin Pietersen then managed only a single before falling to a tumbling catch by Rankin at mid-on off his Irish compatriot George Dockrell, the second wicket in the space of six balls.

Trott and Ian Bell steadied the chase again either side of tea, but neither could complete the assignment.

Trott's attempt to dominate Mohammad Nabi (three for 66) failed when he reined in to defence from up the wicket and fell to a sharp bat-pad catch at short leg.

Eoin Morgan went cheaply to Rankin, the latest of several in this match to fall to a catch behind down the leg-side.

Then after Bell's bizarre dismissal, paddle-sweeping Nabi via a deflection into the hands of slip running round to the leg-side, at 199 for six the outcome was in the balance.

But Broad and Davies, who survived one close call off Nabi with a half-chance to wide mid-off on 20, did not panic.

Broad had a moment of fortune too, reprieved with 18 still needed by a poor throw and Nabi's failure to gather when he seemed sure to be run out.

The seventh-wicket pair were therefore able to settle the match in a stand of 61 - with almost nine overs to spare, even though Broad holed out with scores level.

Earlier, Mohammad Shahzad's second 50 of the match had frustrated England this morning.

Broad (three for 22) struck in the fifth over of the day, to take his match haul to seven wickets, when Nabi mis-pulled to mid-off.

But Shahzad again looked in control. He brought up his 76-ball half-century with an edge wide of the slips for his ninth four, in a James Anderson over which cost 16 runs.

He had been joined by Christi Viljoen, whose match tally went past 100 following his first-innings 98 before he was run out when he was sent back for a single and unable to beat a throw from Monty Panesar - on as a substitute fielder for Graeme Swann.

Shahzad then aimed one big shot too many at Pietersen's stand-in off-spin, holing out at long-off - and after Rankin missed a swipe at Steven Finn, Will Porterfield called his batsmen in.

:: Swann did not bowl and stayed off the field with tightness in a leg muscle, until coming out to bat with one run required.