HAD he been so disposed, Ted Dexter had only to saunter across the road from his mock Georgian townhouse yesterday to discover that the brave new world of English cricket was already up and running. All right, so the standard bearers are clad in pleated culottes rather than sponsored flannels, but you can't have everything.
Long before Karen Smithies' side had finished batting, their passage to Lord's on Sunday had been booked. By early afternoon, Australia, short-odds favourites to win the fifth Women's World Cup, had been rolled over for 77 by New Zealand at Beckenham, where a subsequent 10-wicket defeat left their Antipodean betes noires with the only unbeaten record in the round-robin stage.
The respective run-rates meant England could afford to lose here and still progress to the final, but there was never the slightest danger of the Netherlands pooping the party. The game, however, had begun amid much acrimony. The sloping pitch, according to Smithies, was 'an absolute disgrace', not least since one boundary was some 100 yards distant, a fair haul for Ian Botham, let alone less muscular mortals.
The hosts were also greeted by a banner erected by some rather peeved Dutch supporters, although to translate 'You're Allemaal Eikels' literally would be a mite distasteful. Suffice to say that the organisers were accused of being inefficient plonkers.
After wading through 50 overs to acquire 40 against New Zealand and winning just one of their first six matches, a similarly cruel description could be applied to the Dutch team. They nevertheless stuck to their task well, Wendy Gerritsen taking three for 38 with her bustling seamers to prevent the England batsmen from running amok.
Still, Jan Brittin and Carole Hodges dug their customarily solid foundations before Smithies and Barbara Daniels thrashed 83 for the fifth wicket in 20 overs, hectic stuff compared with the slo-mo fare elsewhere.
The Dutch response, sadly, was a case of the agony and the ennui. The tendency of the weaker sides to seek self-respect via survival at the crease has been one of the less attractive features of this event and by the time England had quelled the resistance we were in the 54th over. By now, mind, the grins far outnumbered the yawns.
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