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June 5, 2009
Cricket's rich history of thrilling upsets was given another chapter as Netherlands sensationally beat England by four wickets in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 at Lord's. Needing seven off the last over Ryan ten Doeschate and Edgar Schiferli ran for their lives and with two needed off the last delivery Stuart Broad missed a run-out from his follow through and the resulting overthrow set off wild scenes of celebration.
Tom de Grooth played the innings of his life to hit 49 off 30 balls and Netherlands paced their pursuit of 163 so expertly that they were always ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis when steady rain began to fall to add to the drama. But the game deserved to be played to a finish and crucially Netherlands had the experience of ten Doeschate, who plays professionally for Essex, up their sleeve as he didn't come in until No. 6.
Each time England nipped out a wicket the next Netherlands batsman held their nerve until the final-over equation with seven needed. England missed three chances off the first three balls as the fielding crumbled under pressure in the closing stages, with two run out opportunities and a dropped catch as ten Doeschate cracked a chance back to Broad.
When Schiferli, who had injured his shoulder diving to make his ground earlier in the over, clubbed the ball to the on side Broad collected in his follow-through. A direct hit would have given England the win, but even allowing the single would have sent the game to a Super Over - however Broad went for the win and he missed. Almost before the second run was complete the Dutch were sprinting from the dug-out.
Once again, Twenty20 had shown its capacity to produce the most incredible upsets. But this wasn't about the gap being narrowed, this victory was all about the superior skill level of Netherlands on the night. The intent with which they went about the chase was thrilling in its freedom and confidence.
Darron Reekers set the tone with thumping sixes over midwicket off Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson a stark comparison to England who didn't manage a single six throughout their innings. Netherlands were nervous for the first 10 overs and didn't appear to have a pray as Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright opened with a stand of 102, yet England managed just 73 in the second half of the innings.
The confidence Netherlands gained from their strong finish in the field - where, notably, they held their chances - showed in the batting performance. When Alexei Kervezee pulled to mid-on and Reekers' brief dash was ended by Broad it appeared England would have too much fire power. However de Grooth took 16 off the sixth over, including a straight six, and England knew they were in a battle.
Adil Rashid, on his international debut, produced a neat legspinner to have Bas Zuiderent stumped, only for Peter Borren to open his account with a thumping pull over midwicket. de Grooth continued to play one of those innings that amateur cricketers dream of and each boundary gave him another story to regale with in the years to come.
Paul Collingwood opted for his medium-pacers rather than returning to the strike bowlers as the runs were whittled down. de Grooth launched the England captain over midwicket for a flat six, but two balls later got a leading edge against a slower ball that looped to extra cover. The celebrations, though, were muted; this wasn't what the hosts had expected.
Borren top-edged to short fine-leg and Daan van Bunge picked out Wright on the cover boundary with a powerful drive that lodged in the fielders' elbow, but ten Doeschate found a crucial four in the 19th over with a sliced drive that was parried over the rope by an airborne Eoin Morgan. This was going to be Netherlands' moment.
It was the type of start the event desperately needed on a cold, grey, damp day which forced the opening ceremony to be cancelled amid memories of the inglorious beginning to the 1999 World Cup. It didn't seem the most astute scheduling to open with a game involving a minnow, but now the tournament is alive.
England will want to forget the evening. It started badly when Kevin Pietersen was ruled out with a recurrence of his Achilles problem and Rob Key was drafted in having not played during the warm-ups, and finished batting down at No. 6 where he never plays in county cricket.
That was partly down to an excellent opening stand between Bopara and Wright, a continuation of their effort against West Indies, which made it appear that England would have a routine few hours of cricket. Their partnership of 102 equalled England's best in Twenty20 internationals, but the middle order couldn't build on the foundation and showed a worrying lack of striking power. Huge credit must go to the Netherlands attack who got their game together after a slow start.
Still, at the half-way stage, most pundits and a large proportion of the crowd will have thought England had enough. No one told the men wearing orange - a motley crew from a country where football is king and cricket barely rates a mention - who less than two hours later and put some of the highest paid players in the world firmly in their place. Say what you like about Twenty20, this was a sporting drama at its very best.
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