Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hats off to Lord’s, thumbs down to England


Hats off to Lord’s, thumbs down to England

The orange Dutch hats were thrown high in the air last night to cap a famous and fully deserved victory for the team from The Netherlands against hosts England in the opening match in this year’s ICC World Twenty20. We were denied the pleasures of hearing and seeing Alesha Dixon perform as the opening ceremony was cancelled for “Health and Safety” reasons (quite what these reasons were we weren’t told). For a moment I did wonder if a hastily arranged song from a new “Three Tenors” group had been substituted, but no - it was only ICC President David Morgan, ECB Supremo Giles Clarke and the Duke of Kent who were on the makeshift días in front of the Pavilion. Morgan and The Duke made speeches of predictable banality (we were spared Clarke) – and then, at last, the stage was set for the real business of the day. That we saw play at all we must thank the MCC who have installed permanent floodlights at the home of cricket that not only look elegant but work superbly -they weren’t supposed to be used yesterday but the skies were leaden and without them I suspect we wouldn’t have had a full match. Similarly the modern Lord’s drainage system is so good that within minutes of the rain ceasing the ground was fit for play – a stark contrast with Headingley a couple of weeks ago.

At the end of the eleventh over England was 100-0 with Bopara and Wright coasting along nicely. A score of approaching 200 seemed in prospect but the Dutch were not wilting and stuck to their task to good effect. The final nine overs delivered only 62 runs with just four boundaries - and there was not one six in the whole innings. Shah, Morgan and Collingwood were out to particularly inept shots and with all due respect to his talents Rob Key was not the figure you might hope to see coming to the wicket when you are 144-4 with 22 balls to go. He duly failed to hit a boundary off any of the eight balls he received. Note for Morgan: if you are going to decide before the ball is bowled that you will play a reverse sweep do check that there isn’t a fielder standing in the way! Surely given the good start a team of (mostly) experienced professional cricketers should have been able to put the game out of reach of a Dutch side many of whom play only for the love of the game. The killer instinct was missing, as was the injured Kevin Pietersen, and England’s total was respectable when it should have been unreachable.

That the Dutch won was mostly, I think, attributable to their greater will-to-win and self belief. The batted with enterprise and skill attacking the bad balls and hitting four towering sixes in their innings (one of which might have woken up a few people in the MCC President’s box). By the time it dawned on England that they really good lose the match it was almost too late – the Dutch paced their chase wonderfully well. In the end there was a nail-biting final over and there could have been any one of three results off the final ball. But the Dutch deserved their win and England added a new item to their list of disappointments in international limited overs cricket by losing to a “minnow” for the first time. The Dutch have an expression “Goed is wel, maar beter wint” which in a sporting context roughly means “It’s alright to play well, but you need to play better than that to win” – a lesson England could certainly learn.

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