Netherlands captain Jeroen Smits was in no doubt his nation had enjoyed their finest cricket victory ever after a stunning four-wicket win over England in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20.
Set 163 to win, the Dutch got the two they needed off the last ball to spark joyous scenes amongst their players and fans at Lord’s as the hosts suffered a defeat that must rank as one of the most embarrassing in English cricket history.
A side of well-paid full-time professionals were deservedly beaten by a Dutch team where most of the players were losing money as a result of taking part in this competition.
Back in 1989 a Netherlands side beat an England A team featuring the likes of Test players Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart and Derek Pringle while back in 1964 an Australia side including fast bowler Graham McKenzie and off-spinner Tom Veivers also went down to a defeat against the Dutch.
Dutch cricket’s greatest day
But neither of those games, both played in the Netherlands, was a full international and elated wicket-keeper Smits, asked if this was Dutch cricket’s greatest day, told reporters: “Without any doubt.
“We beat England A in 1989 but last year when we played in the Belfast qualification tournament for this event I said to the guys I had a goal to play in the opening match of the World Twenty20 at Lord’s.
“I’m really proud of the boys.
“It’s costing us a lot of money, I’m having to take extra days off work but I really don’t mind at this moment.
“I said to the boys in the dressing room we are going to do it today, play hard, play your shots, we have got nothing to lose.”
He added: “It’s a massive boost for Dutch cricket, we are looking to qualify for the Super Eights.”
England were well-placed at 102 for one thanks to openers Luke Wright (71) and Ravi Bopara (46) before their innings petered away.
But what really did for them was the Dutch batting with the Netherlands scoring four sixes to the home side’s none and running far more aggressively between the wickets.
Man-of-the match Tom de Grooth, who earns his living as a cricket coach, led the way with 49 off 30 balls including a six and six fours.
“This is a dream,” he said. “To be out there today in front of a full house was amazing. I was in the zone. We went out there to play brave cricket and make England sweat a bit.”
England wavered with novice leg-spinner
England had lost star batsman Kevin Pietersen shortly before the start with a recurrence of his Achilles injury.
But that was no excuse for the way in which a succession of batsmen gave their wickets away.
The Dutch were also helped by England’s decision to give novice leg-spinner Adil Rashid, surprisingly chosen ahead of the more experienced off-spinner
Graeme Swann, his full quota of four overs which cost 36 runs.
The wet conditions did him no favours but England captain Paul Collingwood insisted the team on the field should have beaten the Dutch.
“That’s pretty hard to take,” Collingwood said. “The Netherlands thoroughly deserved their victory,
“We thought we had enough runs on the board but they played with freedom and belief and ran better than us”
Missed run-outs and dropped catches cost England dear and Collingwood said:
“We had opportunities to win the game but we didn’t take them.”
Defeat left England needing to beat Pakistan at the Oval on Sunday to get through the second stage Super Eight and Collingwood said: “We’ve got 24 hours to get our heads round it. We are still in the tournament but we’ve got to play a helluva lot better.”