The Englishmen finally step out

James Anderson appeals for a leg before decision against Tim de Leede. Though this appeal was negatived, Anderson went on to bag four wicketss. De Leede remained unbeaten with 58 runs.-— Pic. AFP

Hussain's men had spent an agonising and frustrating time in South Africa, and hence when they took the field at East London against the Netherlands, it was a kind of relief for them that they were finally seeing some action.

FINALLY, after days of suspense and drama, England got a game. Given the political debate and the moral issues involved about playing in Zimbabwe, England was never likely to land in that strife-torn country.

England finally refused to proceed to Harare, saw the International Cricket Council (ICC) awarding four points to Zimbabwe, and there surely was a sense of anger in the English camp, reflected in skipper Nasser Hussain's outburst against the ICC. Hussain's men had spent an agonising and frustrating time in South Africa, and hence when they took the field at East London against the Netherlands, it was a kind of relief for them that they were finally seeing some action.

Holland had managed to stretch the Indians, bowling out its fancied rival for just over 200, inside 50 overs, and the mood in the camp was definitely upbeat before the game. "The Dutch are no mugs. They're ready to compete in the World Cup,'' said Nick Knight, the experienced England southpaw, on the eve of this `Group `B' contest.

Dutch captain Roland Lefebvre, who has turned out for Somerset and Glamorg in English country cricket and for Canterbury in New Zealand as a paceman, sounded confident, although he was aware that England would present a formidable hurdle. "We will try hard,'' he said.

The Buffalo Park pitch had been known to assist the seamers in the past and the English pacemen must have anticipated a happy hunting time. In the event, they did call the shots with James Anderson's four for 25, chiefly instrumental in Netherlands finishing at a meagre 142 for nine in 50 overs, runs that Hussain's men surpassed in the 24th over, opener Knight and No. 3 Michael Vaughan notching up half-centuries.

Despite the loss of four wickets, Hussain looked at the positives from the opener. "Any one-day game that you win in only 23 overs is a comprehensive victory against anyone. I don't think there have been (in this tournament) too many margins like that. I am very pleased.''

He did have reasons to be happy with his side's display, especially the manner in which the pacemen went about their job. Anderson made the most of the opportunity, striking hard at the beginning of the Dutch innings, that saw the team being reduced to 31 for five.

Anderson picked up four of those wickets, and his really is an interesting story. He flew in to Australia this season on an SOS call from a beleaguered England side that was savaged by injuries to its pace bowlers, and slipped into the role of a mainline bowler quite adequately in the VB triangular one-day competition.

He is not express, but does bowl well within his limitations, moving the ball away from an off-stump line. On February 16, he proved a handful to the Netherlands batsmen, getting the ball to nip back into them as well.

Netherlands is a largely amateur side and the lack of technique of its batsman to cope with the moving ball given their lack of footwork, was all too obvious. Survival, rather than scoring runs, was the idea; understandable considering the lack of exposure to its players.

Tim de Leede, the most experienced cricketer in the Dutch outfit, alone put up some resistance and it was his unbeaten 30-run partnership for the last wicket with Jeroen Smits, that enabled Netherlands last 50 overs. The 35-year old Leede, batting at No. 6, walked back 58 not out (96b, 6x4), and it was an effort that included some telling strokes like a square-cut and an off-drive off Anderson.

Experienced paceman Andrew Caddick, conceded just 19 from his 10 overs. That was only to be expected from such a senior campaigner against a lowly opposition, but what must have been heartening from England's point of view was that all-rounder Craig White, recovering from a side strain, sent down his full quota without any discomfort, picking up two wickets in the process. Another all-rounder, key-man Andrew Flintoff, on a comeback trail following fitness problems, also finished his 10 overs, something that must have pleased the team-management.

When England chased, opener Marcus Trescothick fell for just 12, driving over an Edgar Schiferli delivery to be bowled. However, Knight (51, 58b, 8x4) and Vaughan (51, 47b, 8x4) produced scintillating strokes before both perished to the part-time leg-spin of Daan van Bunge. The big-hitting Flintoff fell to Van Bunge without opening his account and this meant Ian Blackwell, who went through a horror run with the bat in Australia, received a chance to knock up an 11-ball 22. It would have done the left-hander's confidence some good.

The lightweight game in this coastal town went along expected lines. England finally was on board World Cup 2003.

The scores:

The Netherlands: L. Van Troost lbw b Anderson 8; D. Van Bunge c White b Anderson 4; N. Statham lbw b Flintoff 7; B. Zuiderent c Hussain b Anderson 2; K. Van Noortwijk c Stewart b Anderson 0; T. De Leede (not out) 58; J. Kloppenburg c Knight b Blackwell 10; E. Schiferli st. Stewart b Blackwell 12; R. Lefebvre b White 6; A. Raja lbw b White 2; J. Smits (not out) 17; Extras: (lb-10, w-4, nb-2) 16; Total: (for nine wickets in 50 overs) 142.

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-22, 3-31, 4-31, 5-31, 6-67, 7-90, 8-108, 9-112.

England bowling: Caddick 10-4-19-0, Anderson 10-1-25-4, Flintoff 10-2-29-1, White 10-3-22-2, Blackwell 10-0-37-2.

England: M. Trescothick b Schiferli 12; N. Knight c Zuiderent b Van Bunge 51; M. Vaughan c De Leede b Van Bunge 51; A. Flintoff c Lefebvre b Van Bunge 0; I. Blackwell (not out) 22; P. Collingwood (not out) 5; Extras (w-3) 3; Total: (for four wickets in 23.2 overs) 144.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-107, 3-107, 4-126.

The Netherlands bowling: Schiferli 5-0-33-1, Lefebvre 5-0-18-0, De Leede 4-0-29-0, Raja 5-0-34-0, Van Bunge 3-0-16-3, Kloppenburg 1.2-0-14-0.