Hick cannot cure England hiccups

CRICKET WORLD CUP: Hick century is highlight in defeat of Dutch but Atherton and Stewart stay in doldrums

reports from Peshawar

England 279-4 Netherlands 230-6 (England win by 49 runs)

As expected, England beat the Netherlands in Peshawar yesterday and are now certain to qualify for the quarter-finals. However, the manner and margin by which they did so will not have comforted them. European unity may still be some way off but, on the evidence of this game, at least one small part of the mainland is moving closer to England.

The Dutch captain, Steven Lubbers, said he had "hoped to come a little bit closer," claiming his batsmen had allowed the "tempo to drift away between overs 25 and 35." Nevertheless, he thought there would be a positive reaction back home. "What we need now," he said, "is some financial help. But most of all we need games on grass against strong opponents."

Despite Lubbers' almost sombre mood, it would have been almost unthinkable for the Netherlands to have scored the 280 runs needed to beat England, particularly after their most destructive player, the Barbadian Nolan Clarke had gone for nought, lbw to Dominic Cork in the third over.

In the past, the Netherlands have relied too heavily on their three overseas players to provide a total. That changed yesterday, as Klaas van Noortwijk, Bas Zuiderent and Tim de Leede all batted well enough to see their team to their final score of 230 for 6. An effort staunchly supported by the 8,000-strong crowd, some several thousand more than play the game in the Netherlands.

In all, it was a triumph for the Dutchmen in the Dutch team, with the imports contributing just 28 runs between them - all of those coming from the bat of Australian, Peter Cantrell. The Sri Lankan, Flavian Aponso, was unable to bat because of an upset stomach.

England, even with a substantial score behind them, were far from impressive in the field, clearly missing Richard Illingworth, absent with a stomach upset. Apart from the initial few overs, when he swung the ball sharply enough to be given a seven-two off-side field, Cork lost his line, and Cantrell, a former Queensland player, calmly clipped him to leg, taking 14 runs off Cork's third over.

The fielding is showing no improvement, either, and if anything the groundwork appeared sloppier than it did against New Zealand, with barely a fielder able to pick the ball up cleanly when placed under the slightest pressure.

Two catches were dropped as well, though these were so difficult that the batsmen involved could have considered themselves unlucky had they been held. It is and remains an area of prime concern - and one that will be painfully highlighted against South Africa on Sunday, should the current poor standards continue.

Once again Phillip DeFreitas was the pick of England's bowlers. By simply bowling straight, he forced both Cantrell and De Leede to play across the line. He also dismissed Lubbers to a rare caught behind, bowling his 10 overs straight off.

It was a luxury Darren Gough would have been grateful for, after De Leede's cultured assault saw 23 runs come from three overs, including the shot of the day, a straight drive on the rise that screamed back past the bowler. Gough's skiddy bounce makes his bowling easier to time on these slow pitches than most, and he must pull his length back two yards if he wants better to control the flow of runs he is conceding at present. Out of sorts, he was promptly banished to the out-field where the locals used him for target practice, lobbing small sticks at him from the stands.

In contrast, the extra bounce Peter Martin gained from pitching just short of a good length was crucial in slowing Van Noortwijk and Zuiderent's middle-order advance, which was finally worth 114 runs.

Martin came under pressure when Van Noortwijk slashed him for four to bring up his fifty, before smearing him for six over midwicket in a brief hitting flurry that was ended by Martin's slower ball. It was a fine, mature innings, and one only marginally better than the knock played by the 18-year-old Zuiderent, who has had to seek permission from his school to be here.

Having won the toss, Atherton rightly decided to bat. His batsmen have not been at ease chasing targets of late, and they needed time at the crease without being mindful of run-rates.

It was a philosophy which Graeme Hick took to heart, scoring an unbeaten century from 133 balls in a typically functional innings.

In contrast, Graham Thorpe's innings of 89, which came off just 82 balls, was full of deft shots and he found far less fielders in the ring than Hick. But, well though these two played, there must still be concern over the form of Atherton and Alec Stewart, who was out chopping the ball on for five. Atherton, batting at No 5 - a ploy he claims is to split up the three left-handers in the middle-order - made just 10. Six weeks ago it would have been unthinkable for the England captain to not be opening the innings. That is how quickly England appear to have descended into turmoil.

Peshawar scoreboard

(England won toss)

ENGLAND

A J Stewart b Bakker 5

(11 min, 13 balls)

N M K Smith c Clarke b Jansen 31

(39 min, 33 balls, 5 fours)

G A Hick not out 104

(170 min, 133 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes)

G P Thorpe lbw b Lefebvre 89

(91 min, 82 balls, 7 fours, 1 six)

*M A Atherton b Lubbers 10

(18 min, 10 balls)

N H Fairbrother not out 24

(31 min, 29 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb12, w4) 16

Total (for 4, 182 min, 50 overs) 279

Fall: 1-11 (Stewart), 2-42 (Smith), 3-185 (Thorpe), 4-212 (Atherton).

Did not bat: R C Russell, D G Cork, P A J DeFreitas, D Gough, P J Martin.

Bowling: Lefebvre 10-1-40-1 (6-1-19-0, 2-0-14-1, 2-0-7-0); Bakker 8-0- 46-1 (w1) (4-0-18-1, 3-0-15-0, 1-0-13-0); Jansen 7-0-40-1 (5-0-20-1, 2- 0-20-0); Aponso 8-0-55-0 (6-0-36-0, 2-0-19-0); Lubbers 10-0-51-1 (6-0- 28-0, 4-0-23-1); De Leede 2-0-9-0 (one spell); Cantrell 5-0-26-0 (2-0- 13-0, 3-0-13-0).

Progress: 50: 45 min, 78 balls. 100: 80 min, 137 balls. 150: 108 min, 186 balls. 200: 144 min, 235 balls. 250: 173 min, 284 balls.

Hick's 50: 92 min, 73 balls, 5 fours. 100: 169 min, 131 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes. Thorpe's 50: 60 min, 57 balls, 4 fours, 1 six.

THE NETHERLANDS

N E Clarke lbw b Cork 0

(9 min, 8 balls)

P E Cantrell lbw b DeFreitas 28

(50 min, 44 balls, 4 fours)

T B M de Leede lbw b DeFreitas 41

(69 min, 42 balls, 7 fours)

*S W Lubbers c Russell b DeFreitas 9

(16 min, 8 balls, 1 four)

K J van Noortwijk c Gough b Martin 64

(99 min, 82 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes)

B Zuiderent c Thorpe b Martin 54

(100 min, 93 balls, 2 fours)

R P Lefebvre not out 11

(25 min, 14 balls)

M Schewe not out 11

(14 min, 12 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb4, w6, nb2) 12

Total (for 6, 195 min, 50 overs) 230

Fall: 1-1 (Clarke), 2-46 (Cantrell), 3-70 (Lubbers), 4-81 (De Leede), 5-195 (Van Noortwijk), 6-208 (Zuiderent).

Did not bat: F Aponso, F Jansen, P-J Bakker.

Bowling: Cork 8-0-52-1 (nb3, w4) (5-0-27-1, 3-0-25-0); DeFreitas 10-3- 31-3 (one spell); Smith 8-0-27-0 (2-0-10-0, 6-0-17-0); Gough 3-0-23-0 (2-0-20-0, 1-0-3-0); Martin 10-1-42-2 (w1) (6-1-16-0, 4-0-26-2); Hick 5-0-23-0; Thorpe 6-0-28-0 (w1) (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 55 min, 78 balls. 100: 98 min, 137 balls. 150: 148 min, 229 balls. 200: 175 min, 274 balls.

Van Noortwijk's 50: 87 min, 72 balls, 3 fours, 1 six. Zuiderent's 50: 95 min, 89 balls, 2 fours.

ENGLAND WON BY 49 RUNS

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and K T Francis (S Lanka). TV replay umpire: Anil Sarkar. Match referee: J R Reid.

Man of the match: G A Hick. Adjudicators: R Illingworth, J Wories (Neth) and J R Reid.

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