Before today’s game, Andrew Strauss said of England’s opposition: “The Netherlands have nothing to lose. We need to play smart cricket. You cannot afford to slip up.”
Prescient words by the England captain. With debate already raging about whether the so-called “minnows” of international cricket have a place in the World Cup, the Oranje did indeed play like they had nothing to lose, with star batsman Ryan ten Doeschate batting quite magnificently to make 119 out of an eventual total of 292 and give his team heart.
The slip-up, however was all England’s, and it very nearly cost them.
While ten Doeschate – South African-born, plays for Essex, sadly no desire to qualify for England – gave a wonderful display of beautiful, calculated aggression, England came apart. Jimmy Anderson, finding no swing, allowed frustration to get the better of him and began bowling beamers. A catch that should have been easily taken fell harmlessly to grass between two fielders staring helplessly at each other in wordless blame.
Filth was served up, the short-ball over-used against batsmen quite capable of countering it; Stuart Broad’s two wickets were, in contrast, from deliveries that were full and straight. Michael Yardy was bafflingly left out for Ravi Bopara, who, equally bafflingly, batted in Matt Prior’s erstwhile number six position.
Thankfully, on a pitch conducive to runs and against a standard of bowling at odds with the batting that had preceded it, England got home with eight balls to spare.
This isn’t T20, in which associate teams are more likely to pull off upsets (see Lord’s 2009 between these same two teams), where isolated moments can change the game dramatically and David has a chance to send Goliath crashing.
England had all the time that should have been required to bowl the Dutch out or keep them to a modest total, and perhaps, in truth, they believed they could do so easily. Perhaps it was this underestimation that helped boost Dutch courage and helped ten Doeschate to play with the glorious freedom he has so often shown for Essex.
Whatever the reason, sloppiness infected the fielding side like a virus, and India, England’s next opponent on Sunday, will have been watching this with considerable interest.
The World Cup may have started for England, but it seems they are still to get out of first gear.