THE opening ceremony was cancelled, Kevin Pietersen pulled out with an injury and England managed to lose to the Netherlands. Apart from that, the ECB will be thrilled with the first day of the World Twenty20.
Few people expected England to be serious contenders to win the tournament, largely thanks to a nightmare draw that could require them to see off India, Australia and South Africa just to reach the semi-finals. But most of us did expect them to reach the Super Eights stage. And now? Well, the host nation could be out of the tournament by Sunday.
Pietersen’s absence with an Achilles injury wasn’t the issue. Even without him, England piled on enough runs to have won the match, with Luke Wright smashing 71 and Ravi Bopara 48. Sure, England could have done with some back up after that, which Pietersen would surely have provided. But the real problem was England’s fielding. Rarely in a 20 overs a side game can one team have missed so many run-out opportunities.
Three times in the final over alone, Stuart Broad fluffed chances to take a wicket when a run-out might have just about seen England squeeze past an incredibly gutsy Dutch side. The first one, he missed the stumps from four yards. The second one, he flew at the stumps just ahead of Edgar Schiferli, only to hit them with his hand rather than the ball. And the third one…
Oh my goodness, Broad will have nightmares about the third one. The final ball of the match. The Netherlands needed two to win. Schiferli hit his shot straight to Broad, but still managed to run one to tie. Broad aimed at the stumps and missed. No one was backing up on the wicket. It was an overthrow. Schiferli ran a second. The men in orange, astonishingly, won by four wickets.
It was no more than the Netherlands deserved. There are hardened cricket watchers who, even now, probably don’t know an awful lot about Tom de Grooth. But his wonderful batting display earned him a score of 49 and the man of the match award.
Peter Borren deserves a special mention too for a terrific shot over midwicket from a Paul Collingwood delivery. It typified the Dutch batting performance. They went all out for victory – as you have to in Twenty20 cricket – and got their reward.
This was a strange old day at Lord’s, what with the opening ceremony cancelled due to the weather. Alesha Dixon didn’t look too devastated at missing out on the chance to get drenched while singing some uptempo number to a disinterested gathering. Perhaps someone had told her what happened to Girls Aloud at the 2005 Twenty20 Cup finals day at Edgbaston.
(They found themselves singing a song about a ‘Long Hot Summer’ through a downpour, and got booed by the crowd. Alesha, you’ve had a lucky escape.)
But if the start was a bit of a washout, the finish was a thriller – even if it did take place in the sort of weather that would have had everyone running for cover at a Test match. It was a horrible night for the hosts, but if the World Twenty20 is going to continue to produce this kind of drama, the competition could yet turn out to be a winner after all.
Having said that, quite how a team which loses to Holland at any form of cricket hopes to regain the Ashes is beyond me.