So lightning doesn't strike twice. But short of bowling and fielding in metal boots in Nagpur yesterday, England could not have left themselves more open to another shock defeat by the Dutch before eventually launching their World Cup with a badly needed win.
The batting was hardly electrifying, either, but having allowed the opposition to score 292 for six – and that is to take nothing away from a brilliant knock of 119 by Ryan ten Doeschate – Andrew Strauss's team hauled themselves across the winning line with half a dozen wickets and eight balls to spare.
It sounds almost comfortable, doesn't it? Make no mistake, though, England were sweating until the penultimate over when Ravi Bopara – the injury replacement for broken-finger victim Eoin Morgan – hit a six, the only one of the entire innings, and two fours off medium-pacer Bernard Loots.
With those blows, Bopara made sure the Netherlands would not repeat their stunning, last-ball victory over England at Lord's in the 2009 World Twenty20. Strauss's men can also say they have registered the third highest run-chase in World Cup history. But the feeling in their dressing room last night had to be one of enormous relief – and a realisation that a repeat of this sort of performance against better sides than the Dutch will bring only humiliation.
Strauss had warned his team they would be in trouble if the Netherlands played well and their own performance was 10 per cent under par. In fact, the men in orange were terrific – and England dire in the first half of the game with some dreadful bowling and fielding.
Yes, the pitch was good and the outfield fast. But Jimmy Anderson, who conceded 72 runs from his 10 overs and bowled more dross in this match than throughout his three-month tour of Australia, set the tone for a performance which only Graeme Swann saved from being a total write-off.
Anderson began so badly with the new ball that Strauss hauled him out of the firing line after a couple of overs. But it did not get any better for the Ashes hero when he returned later on – and he could have been ordered from the attack by the umpires for sending down two illegal deliveries above waist height. Unfortunately for Anderson, the officials were lenient. He stayed on and Dutch captain Peter Borren promptly hit him for three consecutive boundaries at the end of the innings.
England surely erred by not picking a second specialist spinner with both Michael Yardy and James Tredwell left redundant. Swann, who could have been excused for looking rusty after not arriving in India until Sunday night, conceded only 35 runs from his 10 overs while taking two wickets. And while it could be argued that extra batsman Bopara came in handy, another slow bowler might have kept the target to much more manageable proportions.
But it was not only the bowling that betrayed England. A side that has come to pride itself on being a top-class fielding unit had a day that will give specialist coach Richard Halsall nightmares for weeks to come. At least three catches were dropped, there were misfields and overthrows and even a complete lack of concentration by Paul Collingwood, who failed to give England a fourth man inside the circle and therefore turned the delivery from Stuart Broad that bowled Borren into a new ball.
Nothing, though, summed up England's performance in the field better than the moment when Ten Doeschate skied a shot and watched with as much amazement as anyone else as Anderson and Pietersen left the catch to one another. Ten Doeschate, the 30-year-old Essex all-rounder, had made 47 – and he went on to more than double that score before being dismissed by Broad.
"We got a lot of things wrong with our bowling and fielding," said Strauss, who could do no more, at least in public, than state the obvious. "We have to improve as the tournament goes on."
The saving grace, of course, is that England did not lose – leaving Ten Doeschate with nothing more to celebrate than a man of the match award. For a long time it looked as if the player whose three previous ODI centuries were scored against Kenya (two) and Bermuda would be a match-winner.
He began slowly, taking 12 balls to get going. From then on, though, the innings was perfectly paced with 52 coming off his final 26 deliveries as the Dutch showed how to make good use of the final power play – plundering 50 from five overs towards the end.
England could not afford to make a stuttering start. They didn't, with Strauss and Pietersen putting on 105 at the required rate. But Pietersen lost his way and it was left to Strauss to take control with a reassuring innings of 88. And yet, whenever it looked as though the favourites would win at a reasonable canter, the Dutch struck back to keep the contest on a knife edge.
Jonathan Trott fell victim to a wonderful stumping and Ten Doeschate looked every inch a hero once again when bowling Ian Bell as the batsman tried to make room with 52 runs needed and only seven overs left.
It was crisis time, but fortunately for England, Collingwood and Bopara were cool enough to cope.
England's field day
1st over, Netherlands 7-0
Tim Bresnan misfields, deflecting Wesley Barresi's shot over the boundary.
19th over, 88-2
Further sloppy fielding allows the Netherlands to add runs, as Ian Bell's needless throw bounces over Matt Prior's head and runs away for overthrows.
28th over, 136-2
Tom Cooper cuts to long leg where Kevin Pietersen drops a catch to his right.
31st over, 147-3
James Anderson and Pietersen both go for a Ryan ten Doeschate shot before leaving it for one another to claim.
41st over, 199-4
Ian Bell slides to prevent a two but kicks it a further 10 metres instead.
45th over, 239-5
Jonathan Trott's direct hit deflects off the stumps past Andrew Strauss's dive and goes for four overthrows.
46th over, 253-5
Anderson bowls a full waist-high delivery to Ten Doeschate, which is declared a no-ball. It whistles past Matt Prior's glove, conceding a no-ball and four byes.
47th over, 259-5
Peter Borren sweeps Bresnan to short fine leg but Trott fails to hold the catch.
49th over, 284-6
Stuart Broad bowls Borren, only for the umpire to signal a no-ball owing to four fielders not being inside the 30m circle.
50th over, 292-6
Graeme Swann drops a simple catch off Borren.
England v Netherlands
Nagpur: England (2pts) beat Netherlands by six wickets; Netherlands won toss
A N Kervezee c Prior b Bresnan 16/0/2/25/24
†W Barresi st Prior b Swann 29/0/6/25/48
T L Cooper c Anderson b Collingwood 47/0/3/73/83
R ten Doeschate c Bopara b Broad 119/3/9/110/160
B Zuiderent c Collingwood b Swann 1/0/0/10/18
T N de Grooth b Broad 28/0/3/31/47
*P W Borren not out 35/0/4/24/41
Mudassar Bukhari not out 6/0/0/5/10
Extras (b3 lb3 w2 nb3) 11
Total (for 6, 50 overs) 292
Fall 1-36, 2-58, 3-136, 4-149, 5-213, 6-274.
Did not bat P M Seelaar, B P Loots, B A Westdijk.
Bowling J M Anderson 10-0-72-0, S C J Broad 10-2-65-2, T T Bresnan 10-0-49-1, G P Swann 10-0-35-2, P D Collingwood 8-0-46-1, K P Pietersen 2-0-19-0.
*A J Strauss c Cooper b Bukhari 88/0/9/83/113
K P Pietersen c Borren b Seelaar 39/0/5/61/70
I J L Trott st Barresi b ten Doeschate 62/0/4/65/89
I R Bell b ten Doeschate 33/0/1/40/61
P D Collingwood not out 30/0/3/23/39
R S Bopara not out 30/1/2/20/25
Extras (b1 lb2 w11) 14
Total (for 4, 48.4 overs) 296
Fall 1-105, 2-166, 3-224, 4-241.
Did not bat †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson.
Bowling Mudassar Bukhari 9-0-54-1, B A Westdijk 7-0-41-0, B P Loots 9.4-0-74-0, P M Seelaar 10-0-54-1, R N ten Doeschate 10-0-47-2, T L W Cooper 3-0-23-0.
Umpires Asad Rauf and B N J Oxenford.
England's remaining Group B fixtures (times GMT)
27 Feb India, Bangalore, 09.00
2 Mar Ireland, Bangalore, 09.00
6 Mar South Africa, Chennai, 04.00
11 Mar Bangladesh, Chittagong, 08.30
17 Mar West Indies, Chennai, 09.00Reuse content