The global spread of cricket is usually associated with British imperial rule, with the modern game thought to be restricted to the nations of the Commonwealth.
But there are other countries with long cricket histories which do not correspond to this picture. The Netherlands is one of them. Cricket is thought to have been introduced to the country by British soldiers during the Napoleonic wars. A team from Uxbridge toured there in 1881 and two years later a governing body – the KNCB - was formed. The Netherlands became an Associate Member of ICC in 1966 and appeared in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2002-03 and 2006-07, claiming wins over Namibia and Scotland. But when the Dutch team arrived in England for their first ICC World Twenty20 tournament in 2009, their opening clash against England at Lord’s was expected to be a walkover for the hosts. The expectation was built upon a false premise and two precedents suggested the Netherlands were perfectly capable of defeating English opposition.
Two decades earlier, in 1989, towards the end of an English summer in which the national team were decimated by Allan Border’s Australians, a strong English XI set out for the Netherlands under the captaincy of Somerset’s astute skipper Peter Roebuck. The side consisted of experienced Test players like Derek Pringle and David Capel, as well as younger stars Nasser Hussain, Rob Bailey, Alec Stewart and John Stephenson. But in the first of two 50-over contests in Amstelveen, the Dutch pulled off a stunning victory by three runs. England restored some pride by winning the second match, but it wasn’t enough to remove the feeling that, in this most desperate of summers, English cricket had reached a new low. Four years later another England side, led by Mark Benson, suffered a similar fate, sharing a two-match series 1-1.
If the evidence of past history wasn’t enough, the unpredictability of the T20 format should have offered further warning of the unexpected. A few bad overs could be all that was needed to turn a match on its head and confound predictions, and so it would be. England set off like a cannonball, Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara blasting their way to 102 for 0 by the start of the 12th over. But once Bopara fell, England’s momentum fell away. The last 8.4 overs brought only 60 runs, leaving the Netherlands with a chaseable target of 163. They set about it in positive fashion. Opener Darron Reekers hit 20 off 13 balls, Tom de Grooth 49 off 30, Peter Borren 30 off 25 and Essex’s Ryan ten Doeschate 22 off 17. The Lord’s crowd watched in amazement as 12 fours and four sixes flew to the boundary. Six wickets fell along the way but in a tense final over the Dutch held their nerve, hitting the winning runs off the final ball.