Netherlands, led by the sheer brilliance of all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate, gave England a real fright first up in their World Cup campaign on Tuesday. The huge total powered by Doeschate’s delightful century left England waging a grim battle till the final stages before their experience helped them stay cool and took them past the post.
If England came into their tournament opener against Netherlands hoping to intimidate the unfancied team out of the game, then opener Wesley Barresi’s walk down the park to nullify Stuart Broad’s short stuff in the sixth over sent the message loud and clear that the Dutchmen were up for a fight.
The Netherlands approach tore the script that had been followed by the other non-Test playing nations in the initial ties of the tournament. And in Ten Doeschate, the men in orange had a man who almost converted that desire into the result.
Before Tuesday, the highest team score the minnows had managed in the World Cup was 171, by Zimbabwe against Australia on Monday. And given the strength of the English bowling attack, one would have expected a similar show at the Vidarbha Cricket ground.
In the end, England had to somehow produce the third most successful run chase in World Cups to get past the post, although hosts India will be smacking their lips in anticipation when they meet in Bangalore on Sunday.
England eventually escaped thanks to their batsmen, who came to the party after a dismal bowling and fielding display to chase down the 293-run target. That helped them avoid the ignominy of becoming the first full member to be upset in this edition of the tournament.
Captain Andrew Strauss returned to form with a run a ball 88, and though there was a slight wobble at the end, they got home with six wickets in hand.
The victory, however, had looked difficult at the break after the 30-year-old Ten Doeschate dominated the English attack to help his team achieve their best total against a Test playing nation in a World Cup. Incidentally their previous best of 230 for 6 was also against England, in the 1996 World Cup.
Ten Doeschate took 12 balls to score his first run before he began his march with a punch of the back foot off Paul Collingwood. Once he got used to the bowling and conditions he cut loose, hitting three sixes in the mid wicket region, and making the most of the batting powerplay.
His century came in just 98 balls, off an overthrow for four. By the time he was caught in the deep going for broke, he had made 119 runs in just 109 balls.
Around those big hits, he ran hard between the wickets and got fantastic support from his skipper Peter Borren (35 of 24 balls), with whom he added 51 runs in 32 balls for the sixth wicket. The Dutch slumped to the ground at the end, but it was a performance that will be spoken of beyond this World Cup.