Peter van Arkel led Netherlands to their historic 1964 triumph Australia. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
Peter van Arkel led Netherlands to their historic 1964 triumph Australia. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

August 29, 1964. Bobby Simpson s Australia, after winning The Ashes, went to play a one-off match against Netherlands at De Diepput, The Hague, where a rude shock awaited them. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at one of the greatest upsets in the history of cricket.

Australia had drawn the Tests at Trent Bridge and Lord s before winning the third Test at Headingley by 7 wickets. Bobby Simpson went into the defensive after that: he declared at 656 for nine at Old Trafford (scoring a 743-ball 311 himself), well into the third day; England responded with 611. They secured a 197-run lead at The Oval, following which the match petered out to a draw.

They played 3 more matches before landing on Dutch shores. Against MCC they conceded a 31-run lead, but recovered well and set the hosts 228. MCC finished on 179 for 7. They lost to Essex, Paddy Phelan taking 10 wickets; and against Kent Bill Lawry and Norman O Neill pulled off a breakneck chase of 251.

A brief history

It is generally agreed upon that the first known cricket club in Netherlands dates back to 1855 at Utrecht. Ulite Dulci, Deventer was formed in 1875; Haagsche Cricket Club, in 1878; and Rood en Wit, Haarlem in 1881. Nederlandsche Cricket Board was founded in 1883, and league matches started in 1891.

Dutch cricket survived during World War II. In fact, 1944 witnessed 300 club matches. Australia toured them in 1953 (Netherlands lost by 157 runs at The Hague), as did the West Indies in 1957 (Netherlands lost by 185 runs at Haarlem).

Demon bowlers and all that

The match at The Hague was a one-day, one-innings affair. Simpson opted out, leaving Brian Booth to lead. The team was a formidable one: in Neil McKenzie, Lawry, O Neill, Bob Cowper, Booth, Alan Connolly, Peter Burge, and Tom Veivers they had almost a Test outfit. Few gave Netherlands a chance.

Booth opted to bat on a matting-wicket laid on concrete. O Neill later recollected that the pitch was similar to the surfaces many of us had begun on.

The notice-board at The Hague Cricket Club, meanwhile, displayed a message that would have shocked, or even scandalised the British cricket-lover: Australia wint de toss en begint te batten.

Lawry and Grout walked out to open in front of 15,000 spectators. As the fielders started discussing and strategising in Dutch, the batsmen got confused. Grout eventually approached Peter van Arkel, the Dutch captain with a working knowledge of English.

Grout: Hey, sport, what s going on here?

Van Arkel: So sorry, Mr Grout, I move slip to fine leg.

Grout: Okay, just so long as you let me know.

Netherlands had in their line-up a demon fast bowler (Canberra Times), who soon dismissed Lawry for 5 and Grout for 20. O Neill and Burge subdued the attack somewhat, and at 91 for 2, it seemed Australia were in firm control.

But then, on came a banker called Wandert Pierhagen, who removed Burge. Booth followed soon. Jack Potter was hit on the head by Trijzelaar and was ruled out of the match, and Cowper hit one back to Trijzelaar. The Australians were bowled out for 197, Trijzelaar and Pierhagen taking 3 wickets apiece and EWC Vriens 2.

Going Dutch

With McKenzie and Connolly to share the new ball, 197 should have been enough for Australia. Unfortunately for them, PA Marseille (77) and Pim van der Vegt (45) showed character, putting up 99 for the opening stand.

Booth ran through his options, and it took the off-breaks of Cowper to get a breakthrough. McKenzie claimed Marseilles, and it was left to van Arkel to finish things off. As McKenzie steamed in at the inexperienced Dutchmen, their captain rose to the occasion, and how!

Wally van Weelde walked out. He would found Van Weelde Brothers Shipping Company three months after the match with his brother Hans, but he was not the best of batsmen. McKenzie bowled him for eight. They needed 46 with seven wickets in hand, but the clock was ticking.

Van Arkel scored quickly, but he lost PAL Boulman, caught by Veivers off Cowper. Then van Arkel, after an excellent 47, hit one back to Cowper himself. Vriens was trapped LBW off Cowper. Trijzelaar was cleaned up by McKenzie at the other end.

The target had come down to 17. Netherlands had 3 wickets in hand. Albert Wijhuizen had walked out to join the hard-hitting Rudi Onstein. All they had left were Rene Schoonheim (who would later play alongside Steven Lubbers and score 117 against Malaysia in ICC Trophy a whopping 18 years after the match), and the rank tail-ender Pierhagen.

Four more runs were scored from McKenzie s over. There was enough time to bowl a single over. Booth decided to go with Cowper, whose figures read 12-1-53-4 at this stage. It can only be speculated whether he should have gone for the specialist (Connolly) instead.

They needed another 13. It took Onstein 4 balls, one of which was not scored of: 6, 4, 6 he went off the other 3, and the match was sealed. I remembered looking around at the disbelief of my teammates as Onstein clubbed Bob Cowper right out of the ground.

The Australian humiliation was completed.

What went wrong?

Did the Australians underestimate their opposition? As O Neill would later recollect to David Mortimer, the game looked a pushover , though another member (Mortimer does not reveal who) confessed: I can assure you we tried our hardest to win against a side in which enthusiasm dwarfed technique.

To be fair, the Australians had clinched The Ashes, and one could not blame them for being complacent. Unfortunately, Netherlands took the match rather seriously. If Australia were the better of the two sides, their efforts that day did certainly not reflect that.

All in all, it was a much-deserved victory for the Dutch.

What followed?

New Zealand toured Netherlands the following season for a two-day match. The tourists secured a 222-run lead, but the hosts drew the match, finishing on 234 for 8. Bruce Taylor s heroics (4 for 38, 77 in 39 minutes, 3 for 17) went in vain.

– Netherlands became an ICC Associate Member, and participated in World Cup cricket 1996, 2003, 2007, and 2011.

– Melbourne-born Dirk Nannes made his international debut for Netherlands, but played for both Australia and Netherlands thereafter.

Brief scores:

Australians 197 (Norman O Neill 87; Ben Trijzelaar 3 for 41, Wandert Pierhagen 3 for 75) lost to Netherlands 201 for 7 (PA Marseille 77, Peter van Arkel 45; Graham McKenzie 3 for 48, Bob Cowper 4 for 69).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)