Ian Bell shines in Scottish gloom to keep England from more woe

England 167-6 Scotland 133-9 (England win by 39 runs (D/L))
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The Independent Online

New eras have perhaps begun with more pizzazz. But no matter. No matter at all. England will simply be relieved and grateful to escape from the granite city after a murky, drizzly day with a routine if arithmetically complicated win in a curtailed one-day international.

The grey skies, matched by the houses lining the ground here in Aberdeen, mocked England's unstated but definite intent to play more joyously. There was no play until 4pm and that there was any at all reflected the determination of officials, ground staff and players to demonstrate that it was not madness to organise an international cricket match in northern Scotland in May.

Ken McCurdie, the groundsman, dislocated an elbow when turning off the super-sopper mopping-up machine in the morning. The 23 overs a side agreed were reduced to 20 after further rain.

This conspired against the visitors. A shorter game always reduces gaps in class and talent. But England, credit to them, seemed every bit as keen as Scotland to go ahead with some cricket, any cricket.

"The players and the ground staff deserve credit for going ahead with the game," said England captain Alastair Cook. "There was standing water in some parts of the ground.

"But as a one-off occasion everybody felt it was important to get on and Scotland took some superb catches although the ball was a bar of soap. It was very wet and some of the worst conditions I have ever played in."

The teams will meet in the World Cup in New Zealand next year. If Scotland's qualification was vital to the future of the game in the country, independent or not, they are slightly more these days than simply superior club cricketers.

Most of them are now professionals, though it was a part-timer, a 23-year-old bank clerk called Michael Leask, who caused England discomfort. With an easy controlled swing of the bat, Leask made 42 from 16 balls, which contained five sixes and two fours and inflicted some embarrassment on the England off-spinner James Tredwell.

But England prevailed by 39 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method after scoring 167 for 6. As their innings was interrupted midway through and reduced by three overs, Scotland needed 173 to win.

England batted crisply given the circumstances. Ian Bell made a typically fluent 50 from 34 balls as if it was a flat one at Lord's on hot, sunny July afternoon. Nobody else timed the ball with quite such dexterity and it was a surprise when he moved too far across his crease and missed a straight ball from Rob Taylor.

Cook also had his moments, though he will need a few more before he feels restored in form and confidence. Scotland's fielding was top drawer. Two of the boundary catches by Calum MacLeod and Taylor were stunning, involving a running full length dive and a mighty last-minute leap.

England always had the affair under control after Jimmy Anderson took two wickets in a probingly accurate opening spell. Anderson presumably found conditions for his swing and seam bowling in Aberdeen in May more to his liking than in Adelaide in December. He looks full of beans again and much can be expected of him in the early months of the season.

Needing almost 12 an over for the last 10 overs, Scotland were briefly handed a glimmer of hope by Leask's unfettered striking. If his man of the match had something of a home town decision about it nobody complained. The Scots and the English did something good for cricket. But the English will be mightily glad they won.