Dubai - Little-known Namibian batsman Christi Viljoen fell two short of his maiden fist-class hundred as England's bowlers were given a good work-out in their tour opener against an ICC Combined XI here on Saturday.
The 24-year-old right-hander struck his highest first-class score of 98 to help his team recover from a precarious 177-8 to 281 all out on a typical slow pitch at the Global Cricket Academy Ground here.
In reply, England closed the first day at 16-0 with Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss unbeaten on eight each, both seeking a good innings before the first Test against Pakistan starts here on January 17.
England will play another three-day match, against a Pakistan Cricket Board XI, also in Dubai from January 11-13.
England, who won the toss and decided to bowl first, were given a good start by fit-again paceman Stuart Broad who dismissed the Irish opening pair of William Porterfield (one) and Paul Stirling (seven) and Scotsman Kyle Coetzer (one) in his first three overs.
Stockily-built Afghan batsman Mohammad Shahzad produced an aggressive innings of 51 off just 58 balls before Combined XI were rescued by Viljoen.
Viljoen added 59 for the eighth wicket with Scotland's Majid Haq (26) and another fighting 96 for the ninth wicket with Ireland's Boyd Rankin, who made 43.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, who took 3-99, ended Viljoen's fighting, caught by James Anderson.
Viljoen, whose previous highest score was 87, hit 13 boundaries and a six during his 189-ball knock.
Broad finished with 3-42 while Anderson and Steven Finn took two wickets apiece.