England Vs Netherlands
Starting Time: 2:30 pm IST
The European Superpower and the European Minnows face off in their World Cup contest on Tuesday, Feb 22. It may be a scenario akin to the biblical joust of David and Goliath that is slated to unfold at Nagpur. And if that is the case, then the Netherlands have in their possession the fatal sling-shot that could do the English in.
Granted, England has emerged victorious in their only two previous ODIs against the Dutch and the last occasion these two sides met, the former steamrolled the latter by 6 wickets with nearly 20 overs to spare. But that engagement took place 8 years ago, almost to the day. And a lot has changed since then.
For one, only two players - Bas Zuiderent and Adeel Raja - are still surviving as part of the Dutch team. A surge of young blood and exuberanece has taken over the outfit from the lowlands. Entrants like Ryan Ten Doeschate and Tom de Grooth are world-class going by their current form.
England's own battalion which has seen their share of entries and exits since 2003, is currently grappling with injury and their supply of experienced players has hence, vastly depleted. The latest casualty has been key batsman Jonathan Trott who has landed up with a bruised finger.
Secondly, the Dutch team has achieved the near impossible - beating a Test-playing team. Granted the match they won was in the Twenty20 World Cup, but as coincidence would have it, the highly memorable victory came against England itself. On that occasion, the Dutch chased down the competitive total of 166 in 20 overs. It is the type of shock defeat that will certainly be playing on the minds of the English, who can no longer take their stature in the game for granted.
Then, only last week, the English had a brush with defeat during the World Cup warm-ups by, of teams, Canada! First the Canadians had them in a spot at 86/4, before England recovered to 243 all out in 50 overs, and then Canada pulled off its own revival from being 28/5 to coming within a whisker of the victory target, eventually falling short by a mere 16 runs.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands are coming off a stunning victory against Kenya in the warm-ups, beating them by 2 wickets after middle-order batsman Doeschate made 98 not out off 92 balls. In fact, this player's average in the warm-ups is over 100 while in the Netherlands' earlier match against Sri Lanka, Tom de Grroth top-scored with a tenacious 76 off 96 balls.
England however, also have a lot going for them. Even though one might have expected them to have jaded after the 1-6 drubbing they received in the Jan series Down Under, a number of batsman have stood out in the warm-ups. Wicket-keeper Matt Prior bears an average of 51 in the two matches England played prior to the start of the Cup. Collingwood's average is 65 while Kevin Peitersen's is 45.
Meanwhile, Stuart Broad, who has returned from a stomach strain injury picked up during the Ashes last year, picked up 5 wickets in each of the World Cup warm-ups. So he will certainly be a key man against the Netherlands as well.
It will be interesting to see how the Dutch pace bowlers in Raja and Bukhari will fare against the top-order English batsmen, especially considering that Canada's Khurram Chohan rattled them. One certainly will be relishing the prospect of David overpowering Goliath in this upcoming encounter.