England overcome Dutch courage

Ryan ten Doeschate celebrates his century against England

By Jamie Alter

Nagpur: February 22, 2011

England s day began sloppily, reached a crescendo when they couldn t hit the stumps, catch a ball or remember where to stand, but their batsmen managed to get it all together and held their nerve to wrap up an absorbing game in Nagpur. In a match that Netherlands threatened to run away with, Ryan ten Doeschate produced a stirring century to set England a target of 293, but ultimately, the stronger side was able to seal a six-wicket win with eight deliveries remaining.

In their World Cup opener, against an Associate team, it was England who appeared to be the weaker side as Netherlands batsmen delivered a strong statement of intent. Led by Man of the Match ten Doeschate s brilliant 119, Netherlands launched a stunning assault on a shabby England, who offered too many loose balls down the leg side and who s fielding left much to be desired. Dropped on 47, ten Doeschate made England pay with an outstanding innings; Netherlands scored 121 in the final 15 overs and England were rattled.

The tone for England s performance in the field was set very early on. James Anderson s first spell was erratic and Stuart Broad served up two maidens as well as a 13-run over. Alexei Kervezee and Wesley Barresi were harsh on anything down the leg side, and throughout the innings England s fielders were kept busy in the region between deep square leg and fine leg.

Barresi and Tom Cooper took Netherlands to 57 for one after 11 overs before Swann struck. All it needed was someone to partner ten Doeschate, and Cooper succeeded. The pair ticked off singles with the odd poached boundary Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen were each taken for easy boundaries as Netherlands prospered. Being instinctively aggressive, ten Doeschate went for his shots and, despite the loss of the openers, promptly dealt with anything pitched up or dropped short.

England had an opportunity at 145 for three, but they squandered it. Ten Doeschate charged Swann and miscued a lofted on-drive, only to look on as Anderson and Pietersen ran in and failed to call for the skier. Ten Doeschate was on 47 then, and duly raised his fifty off 59 balls in the same over.

Tom de Grooth continued the good work, pulling off some meaty shots while taking the pressure off ten Doeschate. Ten Doeschate breezed through the sixties and seventies, smashing Collingwood for six and fiercely pulling Anderson for four, and it was a measure of the ease with which he was batting that he had enough time to hang on the back foot and repeatedly collect runs to the leg side. With ten Doeschate going well on 84, Netherlands opted for the batting Powerplay at 209 for four. A 64-run partnership had put Netherlands on course, but there was worse to come for England, who completely lost the plot in the last few overs.

Anderson served up full tosses and short balls, let balls flies past outstretched hands, Swann dropped a catch, and the worst was when Broad bowled Peter Borren only to see the umpires recall the Netherlands captain because there were only three fielders inside the circle. It was shockingly ordinary cricket from England.

The nineties were a blur for ten Doeschate as he collected fours off Bresnan and reached three figures off 98 balls courtesy overthrows. Netherlands looted 50 off the batting Powerplay, losing just one wicket, and ransacked 53 off the final five. Ten Doeschate hit nicely between mid-on and midwicket, and Borren (35*) added his worth, as Netherlands capped off an impressive batting performance.

In the end, though, the total was inadequate. England had used 21 opening combinations from the end of their 2007 World Cup campaign, and this evening their preferred combo was Andrew Strauss and Pietersen. Pietersen had never opened in an ODI before, and the idea behind the promotion was to allow him more time to dominate. He drove his first ball for four, but thereafter it was Strauss who bludgeoned Netherlands new-ball attack. Mudassar Bukhari s inconsistent line was punished with three fours in the opening over and that set the tone for Strauss innings, during which he produced characteristic flicks, cuts and drives.

Pietersen failed to really find top gear, scoring a sedate 39 off 61 balls before he drove a catch to cover off Peter Seelar s left-arm spin. Strauss was 57 then, and looked good for a century before choosing an untimely moment to pull Bukhari, on return to the attack, out to Cooper in the deep. The asking rate increase past six Netherlands bowled 12.1 overs without conceding a boundary but some smart running never allowed England to sweat during the middle overs. Jonathon Trott broke the shackles by twice taking two boundaries off the 28th over, but an intriguing tussle continued as Trott and Bell fell to leave England sweating.

Netherlands tried hard but couldn t dislodge Paul Collingwood, who kept his nerve and pinched priceless boundaries to settle a tense chase, and Ravi Bopara, who marked his return to the side with a brutal 30 off 20 balls in an unbeaten 55-run stand.

Brief score:

England 296 for 4 in 48.4 overs (Andrew Strauss 88, Jonathan Trott 62, Kevin Pietersen 39, Ian Bell 33, Paul Collingwood 30*, Ravi Bopara 30*; Ryan ten Doeschate 2 for 47, Peter Seelar 1 for 54) bt Netherlands 292 for 6 in 50 overs (Ryan ten Doeschate 119, Tom Cooper 47, Peter Borren 35*, Wesley Barresi 29; Graeme Swann 2 for 35, Stuart Broad 2 for 65).

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

Getty Images