In Test cricket, upsets occur very rarely. A format where teams can bat twice and where play can last up to five days, the better team – taking the pitch and conditions into consideration – is likely to come out on top on nearly every occasion. The 2019 Test between England and Ireland at Lord’s is as good an example as any as to why there are so few upsets in Tests. The hosts were skittled out for just 85 in the first session on day one and conceded a first innings deficit of 122, yet they would win the match by 143 runs.
In One-Day International (ODI) cricket, upsets are more common than in Tests, but it’s not as frequent as in T20 Internationals (T20I). The youngest format of international cricket might still have its critics, but it is where unpredictability is at its peak when it comes to this sport. Such unpredictability often leads to higher levels of excitement and adventure even when a contest on paper might seem like a mismatch.
In the first decade of T20Is, one of the most memorable encounters was when England faced Netherlands during the 2009 World T20. On cricketing heritage, England were strong favourites, but this was T20 cricket where such things count for little when compared to the other formats.
In the inaugural edition of the World T20 which took place in South Africa a couple of years earlier, England had been knocked out at the Super Eight stage. In total, they’d played five matches at the tournament and won only once – against Zimbabwe. On home soil, a much-improved performance was expected in 2009.
On the other hand, this was the first time that Netherlands would be part of international cricket’s premier T20 competition. The Dutch had sealed a place in the tournament after reaching the final in the World T20 Qualifier which was held a year before.
The two teams were placed in Group B along with Pakistan, with the top two from this pool qualifying for the Super Eights.
The World T20 kicked off with England and Netherlands facing each other at Lord’s aka the Home of Cricket. It was a big moment for Dutch cricket, but not many would have foreseen how memorable it would turn out to be when the fixture list was drawn.
After being put into bat, Ravi Bopara got England and himself off the mark with a boundary off the first delivery. The bowler was Dirk Nannes, who had impressed for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL) just a few weeks earlier, but he wasn’t able to get an early breakthrough here.
As many expected, it was all one-way traffic early on with England calling all the shots. The home team’s openers – Bopara and Luke Wright – made merry and put on a 102-run partnership for the first wicket. Ryan ten Doeschate, who would go on to become Netherlands’ greatest and most recognizable cricketer, would finally make inroads with the wicket of Bopara for 46.
In the second half of their innings, England weren’t really able to get a move on. At the end of the 11th over, they were 100/0 – scoring at a run-rate of 9.09. You’d expect a team to build on that and score at an even higher rate in the final overs, but that wasn’t the case here. In their last nine overs, they managed just 62 runs. What was more striking was the fact that England’s innings of 162/5 did not include a single six.
Wright was the most impressive among England’s batsmen, scoring 71 from 49 deliveries.
In reply, Netherlands lost the wickets of Alexei Kervezee and Darron Reekers early – the latter had made a dazzling start to his innings, slamming two sixes but was soon dismissed for 20.
Tom de Grooth then produced a sublime innings which put the Dutch on the front foot. He fell one short of his half-century, but at the time, he had put his team in such a situation that they were favourites to win the game. With six wickets in hand, Netherlands needed 47 runs to claim victory from the final seven overs.
Meanwhile, Peter Borren had also played a very valuable hand and was part of a 50-run partnership with de Grooth which set the platform for the Netherlands. When Borren was dismissed for 30, there were still 30 runs required with ten Doeschate being the key.
Ten Doeschate, who was born in South Africa and had experience of playing in English county cricket, rose to the occasion and delivered an excellent knock under pressure.
Going into the last over, Netherlands need seven runs to win and they were up against Stuart Broad. An over lasts only six deliveries, but so much happened here that it seemed like an eternity.
Broad missed run-out opportunities off the first two deliveries, with each costing a run. Then, the England pacer dropped a catch off the third delivery. Neither of the two teams were able to grab the incentive. Four runs needed off three deliveries – Netherlands, still favourites.
Edgar Schiferli misses, but Ten Doeschate and him sneak in a bye. Three needed off two.
The fifth ball was crucial. With ten Doeschate on strike, Netherlands could win this game here and now. On the other hand, a wicket of the batsman on strike could decisively turn the match in England’s favour. What followed was a single to mid-on. Five deliveries, five singles. Two runs to win off one ball, with Schiferli facing up to Broad.
The Nottingham-born fast bowler did well to stop the ball in his follow-through but would miss the stumps with Schiferli not even in the picture – the third run-out chance missed in the over. There was no one backing up at the non-striker’s end as well which resulted in the batsmen coming back for an easy second run to seal a historic win for Netherlands. The unpredictability of T20 cricket had struck again.
Despite the win, Netherlands were knocked out of the tournament in the group stage due to a lower run-rate than England and Pakistan. England, meanwhile, would once again get eliminated in the Super Eight stage.
In a year’s time, England would turn things around dramatically, winning the World T20 – it was the first time their men’s team had won an ICC tournament. Kevin Pietersen, who missed the match against Netherlands due to injury, was the Player of the Tournament.
Interestingly, Netherlands won again when the two sides faced off during the 2014 World T20. Therefore, in T20I cricket against England, the Dutch can boast of a 100%-win record: Played 2, Won 2!