England will begin their World Twenty20 campaign today with a straightforward match against the Netherlands. What should be an early-evening stroll in the park, however, has the mild potential to end in a nasty mugging.
In Dirk Nannes and Ryan ten Doeschate, born respectively in Australia and South Africa, the sons of Dutch emigrants, they possess dangerous players whose skills can be as exotic as their names. Nannes, in particular, poses a new-ball threat to right-handed batsmen as a fast left-arm bowler propelling the ball across them. He was an unexpected star of the recent Indian Premier League and until the left-handed Adam Gilchrist dismantled him had seemed to be taking Delhi Daredevils to the final.
It is unthinkable that England will lose because it would effectively end their participation in the tournament. Talks of dykes collapsing would be appropriate. But the home side are in high spirits, created by seven successive wins against West Indies in all forms of the game and a methodical victory against Scotland.
Paul Collingwood, England's captain, said yesterday: "There's a lot of confidence, a feel-good factor. We believe we can win it but I don't want to put extra pressure on the boys by saying we will win it. I'm quite happy with the position we're in." Victory over the Netherlands should secure a passage to the Super Eights. They play Pakistan on Sunday.
It is the Netherlands' first match at Lord's and although they have beaten England twice before (on matting wickets in 1989 and 1993) it is impossible to contemplate a repeat.