Potchefstroom ground staff help Australia to four points
A sterling effort by the groundsmen, administrators and a willing Netherlands team saw Australia run out winners in a rain-affected match at the North West Stadium in Potchefstroom.
Continuous rain in the area and water that had seeped under the covers of the pitch had at one stage thrown any thoughts of play out of the window. Using any means at their disposal the ground staff used sacking under the rollers, power blowers and even the police helicopter to help dry the wet patches on one side of the pitch.
The Netherlands team held meetings and would have been quite happy with the two points for a no-result had it not been for the fact that they had come to the World Cup to play cricket and learn from the opposition. As captain Roland Lefebvre commented: "We cannot learn anything from sitting in the changing rooms."
The match started an hour late, with the Netherlands winning the toss and asking Australia to bat first in a reduced 47-over innings.
Two further breaks, in which three and then eight overs were lost, made it difficult for both the fielding and batting sides, with the ball having to be dried and batsmen having to re-focus.
Some excellent bowling, especially from Lefebvre, 0/19 in eight overs, and Jacob-Jan Esmeijer, 0/16 in five overs, saw the Dutch restrict Australia to 170/2 in the 36 overs.
The four Australian batsmen spent good time in the middle but were never in a position of dominance. Apart from the first over they were pinned back to below five runs per over for the whole innings.
Matthew Hayden played a subdued knock before being caught at deep mid-wicket for 33, after Jimmy Maher was caught behind for 26. Their 50-run partnership had come up in 68 balls.
Hayden was also involved in a 50-run partnership with Damien Martyn, who went on to make an undefeated 67 after giving a caught and bowled chance early in his innings.
"I had a bit of luck out there but in the end it was good to spend some time in the middle after it appeared as if we would not play at all today," Martyn said after receiving the Man-of-the-Match award.
Martyn was involved in the third 50-run partnership, the quickest of the innings (57 balls), with Darren Lehmann who ended not out on 29.
In the final eight overs the Australians seemed to misinterpret the Duckworth-Lewis system by trying not to lose any wickets, not knowing that wickets lost at that stage of the game would not have a major impact on the final target.
The recalculation meant that Netherlands would require 198 to win in the 36-over allocation.
Losing wickets at regular intervals, the Netherlands never made any serious attack on the target, and with the introduction of Andy Bichel and Ian Harvey into the attack, any thoughts of a win were wiped away.
Both mixed up their pace well to be rewarded with three wickets each as they mopped up the tail. Bichel finished with 3/13 and Harvey with 3/25 as the Dutch were bowled out for 122 in 30.2 overs.
Luuk van Troost tried to go after the bowling, scoring 23 before splicing Lehmann to Bichel at deep mid-off, and Tim de Leede scored 24 fluent runs, including the first six of the game off Lehmann.
The total of 122 may have been the lowest at the ground, and it may also have been Netherlands' lowest in their World Cup history, but they were not disgraced by the number one team in the world.
"We played well and it was most enjoyable. We had all looked forward to playing against and learning from the best, and are proud that we managed to restrict Australia to 170," Lefebvre said after the match.
Ricky Ponting was very happy with four points, which he never thought they would take after arriving in the rain.