Cloggered by the Dutch but England can still win Ashes

Expect Flower's men to be contrary, even if Pietersen must be a doubt for key series

What fun it will be in August. People all over the country and indeed the world will shake their heads in wonder and ask: "How on earth can a team lose to Holland and win the Ashes in the space of a few weeks?"

If this conversation seems to be entering the realms of fantasy after what happened to England at Lord's on Friday night, it is what the team must cling on to in the coming weeks. It is all they can cling on to because in the space of a few hours too much went wrong.

There was an injury to their leading batsman, Kevin Pietersen, which seemed all too predictable. This must cast doubt over him for the rest of the summer, although England with what seems like foolhardiness, insisted yesterday that he may still be available against Pakistan today if the cortisone injection he was given takes effect.

There was the selection of a debutant, Adil Rashid, who had not been in the squad a week earlier and, with equal predictability, looked out of his depth at a critical moment. Selected as one of only four specialist bowlers, he had to bowl the 17th over which went for nine runs. And there was the culmination – defeat to Holland by four wickets in the opening match of the World Twenty20. England played cricket which was far from nerveless and were outplayed. It was a stunning turn of events.

Sometime one of the leading cricket countries was bound to lose a game of Twenty20 to one of the lesser nations. The fact is that the shorter the format, the less the gap in class. But for England, as the host nation, to become the first by going down to Holland was catastrophic.

In 1983, an Australian side containing Allan Border and Dennis Lillee lost the opening match of the World Cup to Zimbabwe, who were then mere qualifiers. Twenty years later, Kenya beat Sri Lanka and reached the semi-final.

But this was a match at Lord's against a side with nine part-time players representing a nation where cricket is frequently still played on matting wickets. It could have been designed to ease England's passage to the next phase.

The result, one which forced you into laughter because the alternative is that the tears would never subside, put into perspective the advances that England have made in the past few months, against an increasingly pitiful West Indies. If ever a warm-up victory of the overwhelming nature England had managed two days earlier provoked false assumptions, that was it. It was meaningless and nothing that the West Indies did yesterday against Australia lent it gravity.

Since only five members of the team who lost on Friday are likely to play in the Ashes, the effect may not necessarily be profound. But England were insistent that their previous feelgood factor was transferable so it might work the other way too.

Andy Flower, the team's coach, said with his usual candour: "The guys were under pressure after the way the Dutch started. It was a difficult situation in that some of the Dutch players played with complete freedom. To a certain extent I actually enjoyed watching them play with such freedom and enjoyment and passion."

England, however, got much wrong and the mood 24 hours later remained one of disbelief. They should not lose to Holland at the home of cricket.

Pietersen's late withdrawal was hardly ideal despite his failure so far to make an impact in Twenty20. He awoke on Friday with severe pain in the achilles tendon injury which had caused him to miss the one-day series against West Indies. He had a cortisone injection in his back, which the team's medical staff thought might be causing the achilles pain.

Flower said: "There's a reasonable chance he might play on Sunday but they are terrible injuries. I had an achilles problem for about five years while I was playing. They hang around for a hell of a long time and with our schedules we don't get any huge chunks of time off. You need months to get rid of those sort of problems altogether."

That seemed as pessimistic as it could get. It indicated that Pietersen might be patched up but that he may be playing with injury and discomfort through the Ashes and beyond. To the layman it seems to make sense to rest him now and give him some chance of rest before the summer's later challenges.

"Before we made the final selection leading up to this tournament I specifically asked for medical advice on that," said Flower. "If the medical advice had suggested resting him leading up to five Test matches against Australia we would have done so. I don't necessarily think that advice was wrong."

The selection of Rashid was befuddling. He was neither impressive nor unimpressive on his winter sojourn with England where he had limited opportunities. But in the nets he did not look ready for international cricket. He has had a slow start this summer and small wonder for he has hardly been operating in conditions conducive to leg spin. Yorkshire left him out of their opening two Twenty20 matches when he was called up by England to replace the injured Andrew Flintoff.

"We decided to play a leg spinner against all the Dutch right handers," said Flower. "Rashid also bowled very well against the West Indies and we thought he'd be a wicket-taker." As it happened, Rashid took one wicket and it was possible to wonder if England had been playing, say, South Africa, a side full of right-handers, whether they'd have given a maiden international cap in the first match of a world tournament to a 21-year-old reserve.

England might have got what they deserved. Their innings which started in a blaze fell badly away. Paul Collingwood, their captain, sometimes looked perplexed (though T20 can do that to anybody), the throwing at the stumps was poor yet again.

Flower defended his captain. "Over the last few months and even in the last couple of days leading up to this game, I think we have had some really good leadership," he said. "Colly led the team well. I think we were outplayed in the second half on Friday."

But as Flower also observed, Twenty20 is the perfect game to play for underdogs. So England to beat Pakistan at The Oval today, resurrect their Twenty20 ambitions and Ashes here they come.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week