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England ride the highs and lows

Posted in ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

What is the most terrifying roller-coaster you have been on? Nemesis at Alton Towers? SAW at Thorpe Park? Or following England’s World Cup campaign?

All four of England's Group B games have been compelling, particularly at the climax, and today saw another twist with Kevin Pietersen ruled out of the rest of the competition.

A significant silver lining to Pietersen’s return home is being able to recall Eoin Morgan, who had been removed from England’s initial squad due to a broken finger. How Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower would have loved to play both together.

Until his failure against South Africa yesterday, Pietersen performed consistently in his new role of opener with scores of 39, 31 and 59. However, Strauss’ outstanding form should ease the way for whoever is chosen to take over at the top of the order.

Strauss, who also suffered a blip yesterday, has shown on the highest stage his transition from Test-specialist opener to free-flowing scorer at the top of the one-day international order. Totals of 88 from 83 balls, 158 from 145 and 34 from 37 are testament to this.

The first of those innings - versus the Netherlands in Nagpur - put his side on course to overhaul a larger than expected total of 292, built around Ryan ten Doeschate’s stunning century.

Although Strauss set a strong platform, there were a few butterflies before Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara completed a six-wicket win with eight balls to spare.

However, that paled into comparison to the drama of the tie with India in Bangalore at a packed M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Morne Morkel, Stuart Broad & Michael Yardy

Stuart Broad snares Morne Morkel to clinch a thrilling six-run win over South Africa, prompting Graeme Swann to reflect: “We’ve almost had a bit of a roller coaster World Cup so far.”

Sachin Tendulkar’s fluent century underpinned a daunting 338 but Strauss outshone the 'Little Master' with an ODI-best 158 that opened up the possibility of an unlikely win.

Strauss’ departure the ball after Ian Bell, with whom he had added 170, restored the balance and - after a middle-order collapse - it was left to the tail to ensure parity. Graeme Swann and Ajmal Shahzad, who struck his first ball for six, took 13 from the final over.

England’s defeat to Ireland at the same venue may have been played in front of a smaller crowd, but contained no less drama.

Jonathan Trott and Bell’s 167-run stand propelled their team towards a total of 327. Surely too much for the Associate nation?

It appeared so at 111 for five in the 25th over, but Kevin O’Brien had other ideas. He turned the game on its head with fastest World Cup ton - from 50 deliveries - as Ireland snuck home with five balls to spare.

Following three run-packed thrillers, England changed tack in Chennai by playing out a low-scoring nail-biter with South Africa.

They appeared en route for their second heavt defeat to the Proteas is as many World Cups when Trott and Bopara’s valiant recovery from 15 for three could only yield a total 171.

With South Africa 63 without loss after 14 overs, the writing appeared to be on the wall. But three clutches of wickets - four of which went to Stuart Broad - on a tricky pitch salvaged an astonishing six-wicket win.

It led Swann to reflect: “We’ve almost had a bit of a roller-coaster World Cup so far.”

Long may it continue.