ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
England v Netherlands, Group B, World Cup 2011, Nagpur
England save themselves Oranje faces
February 22, 2011
On the eve of this match, Andrew Strauss said: "How we win isn't as important as just winning." It will give him little satisfaction that his team took that literally, producing an unbelievably slipshod display in the field before Strauss and the rest of the batsman save themselves Oranje faces with a competent performance.
With four overs to go, England needed 33. They had six wickets in hand, so it wasn't quite squeaky-bum time, but it was close. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, they didn't have a Dirk Nannes or anyone of similar quality to put the foot on the throat. Ryan ten Doeschate, the star of the show, had bowled out, and Pieter Seelaar and Bernard Loots couldn't cope with the experience of Paul Collingwood and the free-stroking instinct of Ravi Bopara.
Four years ago, one of the Associate nations, Ireland, upset Pakistan at Sabina Park after a superb bowling display. The Netherlands failed to follow suit because they lacked that bit of quality with ball in hand. With Strauss and Kevin Pietersen starting so well, those that followed never had to take undue risks to chase down the runs.
Strauss spoke afterwards of how the team had come to Nagpur, "feeling comfortable and determined to start well", after an emphatic warm-up victory against Pakistan in Fatullah. But on a benign pitch where teams had crossed 300 thrice in four previous innings, the bowling plans were exposed.
Asked afterwards if the performance had been acceptable, Strauss said: "Certainly not with the ball and in the field. The last 10 overs were especially poor. We can't afford to drop that many chances. I thought 290 was far too many."
The quick bowlers had some success with the short ball early on, but were guilty of overusing it later in the innings. Once the ball had gone soft, it sat up and begged to be hit. Ten Doeschate and his team-mates duly obliged.
With no swing in the air and no reverse later on, James Anderson struggled right through. The length he bowled late on was perfect for the batsmen to have a swing at and there were too few yorkers, despite Stuart Broad taking two wickets by keeping it full.
"It was one of those pitches where it was hard to wrest momentum and hard to take wickets," said Strauss when asked to explain the pace bowlers' off-colour display. If there was a positive, he said, it was Graeme Swann, who bowled quite beautifully on his return to the side. "He was excellent, economical and threatening as well."
There were no teacups thrown, or TV sets smashed, in the dressing room at the interval, though Strauss did admit: "We were a little bit shell-shocked at what happened in the final 10 overs.
"I told the boys that the score wasn't that much above par. There was no point dwelling too much on what had happened. It was a bit of a shemozzle on the field."
Pietersen was guilty of trying to hit the ball too hard when England came out for the chase, but Strauss paced his 88 perfectly, making the most of far too many deliveries angled at his pads. The flick and glance were routinely used as the Netherlands let themselves down at a time when a wicket or two could have meant intolerable pressure.
As dismayed as he was with the first half of the game, Strauss was generous in his praise for the opposition. "You've got to give a lot of credit to the Netherlands," he said. "Ten Doeschate's done that a lot for Essex, but on the big stage it's a hard thing to do."
India await on Sunday, and as unconvincing as this performance was, both teams will start with two points. "Hopefully, India will take us lightly after this performance," said Strauss in a rare moment of levity. With Virender Sehwag and friends in such thumping form, being the unfancied underdog might just be England's best bet. That, and some extra pace and bounce in the Bangalore pitch.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.