England supporters picking through the facts and figures behind their team's wholly unimpressive 16-run World Cup warm-up victory over Canada in Fatullah yesterday can be excused for coming to the following conclusion: here we go again.
For one reason or another – and usually it has been a combination of stuck-in-their-shell cricketers and out-of-date tactics – England have embarrassed themselves at each of the last four tournaments. And, while these are early days, few people would want to bet a fortune against it happening again.
Whereas just about everything went right, and looked good, in the build-up to the Ashes series, England's World Cup campaign is currently clouded in uncertainty.
There is still another warm-up match – against Pakistan, tomorrow – in which to sort out a few problems, and next Tuesday's opening fixture against the Netherlands should not be too taxing, at least in theory. But there are already a number of questions for captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower to answer.
Is it right to turn Pietersen into a one-day opener at the 11th hour?
Typically, Kevin Pietersen is bullish about joining Strauss at the top of the order, expressing his "excitement" despite managing only 24 in his new role yesterday. But it does smack of desperation on England's behalf.
Pietersen is England's 21st one-day opener since the last World Cup – and the 13th different batsman Strauss has accompanied to the middle. What is more, the new recruit has only done the job on half a dozen occasions in domestic cricket so his experience is strictly limited.
On top of that, it was only a few weeks ago that Matt Prior was reinstated in the 50-over team and given the task of opening against Australia. Now he is back in the middle order.
Will England be hurt by injuries?
The selectors were quick to jettison batsman Eoin Morgan because of a broken finger which they thought required surgery and now apparently doesn't. However, several other players flew out last weekend with doubts lingering over their state of fitness. Tim Bresnan (calf) was not ready to play yesterday and will probably miss tomorrow's game as well. As for Paul Collingwood (back), Graeme Swann (back) and Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring), England can only hope their injuries really have cleared up. That still adds up to a lot of recent casualties in a squad of 15 – and now Jimmy Anderson is nursing a stiff back.
Where is Swann?
England's No 1 spinner, and one of the team's likeliest match-winners in sub-continental conditions, has been given paternity leave (although he spent part of yesterday in court being found not guilty of drink-driving) and is likely to join the squad by the weekend. But is he fully fit?
Have England picked a squad
capable of making a challenge?
Without Morgan, the batting looks functional rather than exciting – although Pietersen could address that problem if he gets going against the new ball. But where is the potential crackerjack? Perhaps the selectors should have gambled on someone like Craig Kieswetter. Even Canada hit more fours (22 to 15) and sixes (six to three) than England. As for a bit further down the order, maybe England should have bitten the bullet and accepted that even a portly Samit Patel might be a better spinning all-rounder option than James Tredwell or Michael Yardy.
But on the bright side...
At least Stuart Broad is back and bursting with energy. Sent home from the Ashes with a side injury, he belted 22 off 27 balls and then took five for 27 to just about keep Canada at bay as they chased a target of 244.
Opener John Davison is Canada's greatest ever cricketer with an ODI batting average of 29.46 and one century. But the 40-year-old, who was born in British Columbia and raised in Australia, was not in fine fettle yesterday, having being bowled for one by Ajmal Shahzad. It was Pakistan-born vice-captain Rizwan Cheema who scored a superb 93 off 71 to give Canada hope. Cheema (above) is one of 10 Asia-born players in the side, which is captained by India-born wicketkeeper-batsman Ashiah Bagai.
Canada v England: World Cup Warm-Up Match, Fatullah: England beat Canada by 16 runs
England won toss
*A J Strauss c Bagai b Chohan 1
K P Pietersen b Chohan 24
I J L Trott c Desai b Davison 57
I R Bell c Bagai b Chohan 8
P D Collingwood st Bagai b Balaji Rao 9
†M J Prior b Baidwan 78
M H Yardy c Surkari b Osinde 6
L J Wright lbw b Osinde 0
S C J Broad b Baidwan 22
J C Tredwell not out 11
A Shahzad c Cheema b Baidwan 10
Extras (b4 lb1 w12) 17
Total (49.4 overs) 243
Fall: 1-4, 2-50, 3-64, 4-86, 5-140, 6-158, 7-158, 8-209,9-224.
Bowling: H Osinde 8-1-42-2, K Chohan 9-0-34-3, P A Desai 4-0-25-0, H S Baidwan 9.4-0-50-3, W D Balaji Rao 10-0-38-1, Rizwan Cheema 4-0-17-0, J M Davison 5-0-32-1.
J M Davison b Shahzad 1
N R Kumar b Broad 3
R Gunasekera c Prior b Broad 7
*†A Bagai c Pietersen b Broad 5
S Hansra lbw b Shahzad 1
Z E Surkari c Collingwood b Yardy 22
Rizwan Cheema c Bell b Broad 93
K Chohan lbw b Broad 44
Hiral Patel c Strauss b Collingwood 13
H S Baidwan c Collingwood b Tredwell 14
W D Balaji Rao not out 6
Extras (lb4 w12 nb2) 18
Total (46.1 overs) 227
Fall: 1-3, 2-6, 3-19, 4-20, 5-28, 6-96, 7-156, 8-178, 9-207.
Did Not Bat: H Osinde, P A Desai.
Bowling: A Shahzad 8-1-44-2, S C J Broad 8.1-0-37-5, L J Wright 4-0-25-0, M H Yardy 10-0-40-1, J C Tredwell 8-0-36-1, P D Collingwood 8-2-41-1.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and Enamul Haque.Reuse content