Peter Borren strode into his post-match conference after his team's 231-run loss to South Africa with his chest puffed out. The defeat was the largest margin of humiliation in this World Cup but his eyes were brighter than they were after they went down to the West Indies, his smile was shyly peeking out and his voice didn't crack and waver as it had then.
"We bowled really well in the first 40 overs," he said proudly. "We just didn't take the wickets we needed to create pressure." The Dutch bowlers had kept South Africa to 43 runs within the first 10 overs, 108 at the halfway stage and 215 in 40 overs.
The problem, as Borren said, was wickets. After 40 overs, South Africa had lost just Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis and had two centurions at the crease. They'd given themselves enough time and enough batsmen to launch from there and launch they did. "Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers are both magnificent players and it was a good experience for us to see how they batted. Even when they weren't hitting boundaries they were taking singles."
It seems as though Borren and his team have got over the ignominy of hefty defeats and are starting to view their World Cup games as learning experiences and time to play against the Full Members that they hardly ever get outside of major tournaments. Borren spoke about the team setting their own targets and playing to try and achieve those, instead of to get results and notch up upsets. Today, he thinks they did that, in part. "In those first 40 overs, we bowled to our own standards," he said.
Borren chose to put South Africa in because he wanted to give his bowlers an opportunity to capitalise on the conditions. With rain around and some juice expected in the pitch, he hoped that they would be able to snag a few big guns and "get their middle-order players in early." They weren't able to do that, but doesn't frustrate him entirely; it's their showing with the bat that does. "We didn't bat to our standards so we let ourselves down again," he said.
With the Netherlands putting on such a commanding performance against England with the bat, it was that aspect of their game that was talked up as their strength and Borren was disappointed with how they fared in their last two outings. "I think the pressure of chasing big scores got to us." When asked if he wasn't inspired by Ireland's supreme effort in chasing 329 against England, he grinned. Perhaps they weren't inspired, they were awed.
"Full credit to Ireland for the way they played in the second half of their innings. Kevin O'Brien's century was incredible," Borren said. "I think if you tried to emulate that, you wouldn't be able to for 1000 years."
His answer almost reflected what everyone has been saying: that the gulf between the Associates and the Full Members is too great and that the smaller teams don't have any reason to believe they'll be able to close it. Borren didn't even feel his team could match the performance of another Associate.
In some ways, that carefree attitude should stand them in good stead for their remaining matches, because it will take away the burdens they've had to prove themselves up to now. The Netherlands next outing is against India and instead of wanting to cause an upset, Borren said they are just looking forward to the spectacle. "India are a magnificent cricket team. Hopefully we will do a bit better than we did today but to play them at home is going to be a great occasion."