Shock start!

The debacle against Holland was another example of how, having invented the format, England are falling behind. By David Hopps.

Two years ago in Durban, I watched Stuart Broad suffer the greatest ignominy a bowler can feel: six sixes off an over, all struck by Yuvraj Singh, the darling of the Indian nation. India went on to win the inaugural World Twenty20 and Broad was left, chastened, to vow that he would become a better player.

At Lord's on June 5, Broad was that better player, bowling an excellent final over that deserved to spare England from a humiliating defeat against Holland in their opening World Twenty20 tie. That it did not was no fault of his own.

This tournament has yet to catch the attention of the nation. In Broad's home town of Nottingham, in the Walkabout bar, only a minority were transfixed to the big screen as he began the last over with seven runs needed. But what they saw was a fast bowler who is fast reaching maturity, a wholly different quantity from the gauche figure of two years ago. The only problem was that England still lost.

Broad will wonder how victory eluded England. He should tell himself that in the final moments of their humiliation, he did nothing wrong. His reliance on a round-the-wicket approach to the right-hander, slanting the ball across, worked like a dream. All that happened was that he did not get the breaks.

He should have had a run-out, but the ball fell from his hands a split second before he broke the wicket. Then with an excellent delivery he forced a return catch, but just failed to cling on to a difficult chance. Finally with Holland needing one run to tie from the final ball, the ball was again truck back to him. He opted for the run-out and instead threw England to defeat as no backing-up fielder appeared in view. Three times in an excellent final over Broad made the correct decision, but three times he did not get the luck he deserved.

On Maid Marian Way, a disillusioned cricket supporter rang home to announce: "I can't believe it, they've just lost to Holland." But if England want explanations, they should not start with Broad, nor with Jimmy Anderson whose penultimate over also kept England in with a chance of victory in a match that they did not deserve to win.

Instead, questions must be asked about England's lack of power hitters after the injury absence of Kevin Pietersen. Where was, for instance, Dimitri Mascerenhas, one of the few England batsmen capable of launching it big? Why was England's middle order replete with players possessing no power of stroke? How attuned are the county coaches throughout the land to identifying such talent?

Cruellest of all was the night endured by Yorkshire's leg-spinner Adil Rashid. Rashid's career has been a triumph - the first Yorkshire- born Asian to represent his county, an England leg-spinner in the making. But he was a faulty selection.

For years, Yorkshire have protected Rashid from Twenty20 rather than teach him the survival methods necessary to approach it with success. When Andrew Flintoff pulled out of the squad because of his damaged knee, England turned to Rashid supposedly as an imaginative wild card.

It was nothing of the sort. It was an example of years of disconnected planning between a county and the England international side. It was another example of how England, having invented the format, are falling behind.

Broad, the man charged with bowling those desperate final deliveries, was one of the few men who could not be accused of failing to embrace Twenty20 for all he was worth. He deserved much better than this and is young enough to fight another day.


England 162 for five in 20 overs (R. Bopara 46, L. Wright 71, R. ten Doeschate two for 35) lost to Holland 163 for six in 20 overs (T. de Grooth 49, P. Borren 30, J. Anderson three for 23).

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009