Dutch Dazzle brings World Cup to life

Written by  //  February 23, 2011  //  Sport  //  1 Comment

Set in the backdrop of the I.C.C.’s decision to reduce the World Cup in 2015 to ten nations, the Netherlands’ showing against England at Nagpur yesterday glimmered brighter than their jerseys. Hopelessly poor defeats suffered by Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe may have provided an element of justification to the decision to exclude the Associate teams – or the ‘minnows’ as they have come to be known – from the next World Cup. But the pitfalls of the ongoing tournament are not a product of the inclusion of these teams, but its format – the tedious two grouped layout – which has been designed solely to ensure that the big teams make it through to the latter rounds. India and Pakistan were both famously knocked out by lesser sides in the Group Stage in West Indies in 2007 and the I.C.C. clearly did not want a repeat of such a commercial catastrophe – the result, a format that denies the viewers of a consistently riveting tournament. But I’d rather see the present format retained than the incorporation of a system that excludes the Associate Nations. Removing the Kenya’s and the Netherlands’ from future World Cups would undeniably strip the event of some of its greatest mirth – of what joy would a World Cup be without the prospect of a mighty upset?

And the prospect of a mighty upset, yesterday, was what provided the ongoing World Cup with its first dash of allure. No doubt the track at Nagpur was placid, the English bowling hapless and their fielding disgraceful, but a sparkling batting performance by the Dutch unquestionably provided the delight and the merry that the ongoing tournament has thus far lacked. And by making the chase difficult for England, the Dutch ensured that the game remained tantalisingly poised for much of its duration.

At the core of the Netherlands’ excellence was a marvellous all-round showing by Ryan ten Doeschate, who scored 119 off 100 balls with the bat and just as importantly bowled with purpose and economy, finishing with figures of 2 for 47 from his ten overs. As all-round performances in World Cup games go, this is up there with the very best – the Imran Khans and the Kapil Devs would have been proud of a display of this ilk.

Coming into bat at 58-2, ten Doeschate took eleven balls to get off the mark, but not once during the period did he look ruffled, giving the impression of a man utterly confident of his talents. Once he got rolling, he set about his task with breezy ebullience, displaying a particular proclivity for the cow-corner, repeatedly finding either the gap between wide long-on and deep midwicket or the stands behind the fencing. The innings was by no means chanceless – James Anderson at long-on and Kevin Pietersen at long-off allowed a skier when, ten Doeschate was on 47, to fall smack between them – but it was paced to perfection. There was a time when Graeme Swann and Paul Collingwood operating in tandem allowed the batsmen little leeway to play a forceful shot, but ten Doeschate remained serenely disposed, knowing that his time will come. And when Andrew Strauss brought on Pietersen, in collaboration with his batting partner at the time, Tom Cooper, the off-spinner was ripped apart, taken for nineteen runs off his two overs.

After the loss of Cooper and Bas Zuiderant – one of the survivors from the 1996 World Cup – ten Doeschate began to up the run-rate, striking boundaries as and when he pleased. A flick off Graeme Swann for six over midwicket – easily England’s best bowler of the game – showcased the excellence of his timing and the suppleness of his wrists.

The very best batsmen often appear to possess a lot of time to play their strokes – ten Doeschate is no different, possessing an ability to alter his shots at the final moment. After his partnership of 64 runs with Tom de Grooth came to an end in the first over of the batting power-play, he ensured that the field restrictions did not go unutilised, plundering the English attack with disdainful alacrity. His century came courtesy an overthrow from Jonathan Trott that ricocheted off the stumps onto the boundary – an anticlimactic completion of a glorious landmark. After ten Doeschate fell to Stuart Broad for 119, the Dutch aided by some clever batting from their captain Peter Borren and some inept fielding from the English ended their innings on 292. Borren bowled by Stuart Broad in the 49th over was allowed to stay on the field as England had only three fielders inside the 30 yard circle, an incident that epitomised their dreadful day in the field.

Nevertheless, chasing 293 on a flat deck against a rather feeble bowling attack should have been a simple enough task. But England being England made heavy weather of it, needing fine hands from Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara to settle the tie in the penultimate over. The Dutch, for the most part, bowled sensibly, with ten Doeschate again proving the star act. It was his dismissal of Ian Bell in the final ball of his spell that made the prospect of a Dutch victory even more tenable. No doubt England ultimately averted defeat and retained an element of honour, but the prospect at the change of innings in particular – and at various junctures during England’s chase – of an upset, provided the World Cup with a sprinkling of allure that it has desperately required. Sadly, there will be no such charm to look forward to in 2015.

One Comment on "Dutch Dazzle brings World Cup to life"

  1. Arghya February 23, 2011 at 8:36 am ·

    Lovely article Suhrith. I agree completely- the unwieldy nature of this tournament is not due to the number of teams but due to the format. The Football World Cup has 32 teams and except for perhaps one group game in each group which would be like a Paraguay v NZ, most matches are riveting contests. And these may be great too.

    It’s a great shame that these teams will be missing from the next edition. Nothing like supporting an underdog which actually ends up winning. And nothing better than England being the team beaten! Of course presuming we have another World Cup in four years time..

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