In one of sport’s truly historic upsets, England were last night defeated by Netherlands in the World Twenty20. It was an astonishing start to the tournament – a nightmare waiting to happen for the host nation – and perhaps the most unexpected result seen at Lord’s in its 195 years.
The Dutch won by six wickets, scrambling the two runs they needed after an overthrow by the bowler Stuart Broad. It was the fourth occasion in that over that Broad might have sealed the outcome. He missed run-out chances from the first two balls and a return catch off the third.
At the last, the improbable victors had kept their nerve, their opponents had not. England had simply failed to defend a perfectly serviceable total of 162 and, although that could and should have been 20 runs more, their opponents were in control of the pursuit almost throughout. But perhaps the essential difference in the sides in a form of the game that demands attack could be seen in its most basic element: the Dutch hit five sixes, England none.
Paul Collingwood, England’s captain for the tournament, said: “We came here to today expecting to win and there can be no excuses. All credit to the Netherlands, they played better than us today. We might have got a few more runs but I thought we would be able to defend that total.”
It is the first time that England have lost a recognised international match to a minor cricketing nation. Their side contained eight Test players, the Netherlands had only two full-time cricketers. Twenty20brings everyone together. Netherlands are one of the 124 associate members of the International Cricket Council, there to make up the numbers. Until last night, they had conformed to the stereotype and although they are one of the elite band in the second division and have consistently qualified for major knockout competitions they have invariably been treated as cannon fodder.
Their veteran captain, Jeroen Smits, had warned that his side were capable of competing and had insisted that they would not be intimidated. “We’re Dutch,” he said to explain why they would not be overawed.
He took the victory in his stride and in measured tones said: “I thought we were in control throughout the chase. It’s the final of this tournament on 21 June which is my birthday and I intend to be here playing.”
That will be a road too far but qualification for the second stage, the Super Eights, is clearly within their sights. England must beat Pakistan tomorrow to have a chance and then rely on a significant margin of victory to either side in the tie between Netherlands and Pakistan.
The man of the match was Tom de Grooth, a coach at The Hague. He made a scintillating 49 from 30 balls which included one six and six fours. When he was out in the 13th over, he had given his side a fighting chance but it was no more than a fighting chance.
There was still work to do but the Dutch had been admirable in their approach. They might have caved in after losing their classy opener, Alexia Kervezee in the first over, might have called it a day when Darren Reekers followed in the fourth, could have crumbled again at the fall of Bas Zuiderent, once of Sussex.
But the fourth wicket partnership of 42 from 29 balls between de Grooth and Peter Borren gave them every reason to keep going. And keep going they did. England could never nail it and Adil Rashid, a surprise debutant for England, went for 36 runs in his nine overs.
England had made a rumbustious start after being put in with their new opening partnership of Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright both hitting the ball hard and often though with a distinctly different styles. At one point in their innings England might have been looking at a total of around 200. But they lost wickets at inopportune moments, the boundaries dried up and the sixes never came.