Eng ready to start with a bang against Netherlands
Nagpur: Set to experiment with Kevin Pietersen as an opener, England take on the Netherlands in their World Cup Group B match aiming for the flying start that would set them up for the bigger battles that lie ahead in the mega event.
Drubbed 1-6 by Australia in the ODI series just before the World Cup, Andrew Strauss and his boys would be desperate to put aside the disappointment when they face off against the Dutch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha.
When Steven Gerrards and John Terrys are pitted against the likes Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, there isn`t much to choose between the two teams but when the English cricket team takes on its `Oranje` counterpart, it becomes a mismatched battle.
But as England wicketkeeper Matt Prior yesterday pointed out, it would be important to have a good start and taking the Netherlands lightly could end up giving the English a rude shock because World Cups have had a history of having at least one match in which the David manages to down the Goliath.
The English, in fact, don`t have to look too far behind for an example. Two years ago in their opening encounter of the World Twenty20 at the Lord`s, the Dutchmen stunned the hosts by four wickets which is till date the most memorable achievement by the Oranje brigade.
Six players who played that day -- Bas Zuiderent, Peter Borren, Pietar Seelaar, Tom de Grooth, Alex Kerevezee, Ryan ten Doeschate -- are in the current squad and would be looking to do an encore here.
However, Dutch coach Peter Drinnen is all cautious when reminded of that achievement.
"We don`t want to get ahead of ourselves as we want to perform to the best of our abilities," Drinnen said.
The focus of the England team will be obviously on their star batsman Kevin Pietersen who will be seen in a new avatar as an opener.
The destruction that KP can cause during fielding restrictions can be a bowler`s worst nightmare coming true in broad daylight. And the Englishmen will be obviously hoping to make full use of Powerplays with him around.
Pietersen was impressive in his new role when he emerged the top-scorer for his team with a useful 66 during their 67 run win over Pakistan in a warm-up game at Fatullah.
While England will be missing Eoin Morgan in the middle-order, a lot will depend on how Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood perform during the middle overs when the proceedings will slow down a bit. The Jamtha strip appears to be full of runs. The warm-up game between New Zealand and Ireland saw nearly 600 runs being scored.
Therefore it`s obviously going to be a `win the toss and bat first track` where England would like to pile on a huge score and then get the opposition out cheaply.
England looked out of sync against Canada in their first warm-up game but were in their element against Pakistan.
Jonathan Trott`s finger injury is also a concern for the team. Although it has been learnt that it`s not a case of fracture but the batsman has had a bad bruise and might have to play through pain.
In case Trott doesn`t make it, it will be young Luke Wright who might just get a look-in. His ability to bowl seamers along with his big-hitting prowess may make him a useful replacement candidate.
The England team may not see too many changes in their playing XI save for off-spinner Graeme Swann likely to come in place of Michael Yardy. The three pacers will be Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan.
Broad has been in superb form during the practice matches as he blew away the Pakistan top-order during his five-wicket spell. Broad`s performance with the new ball will be an important factor if England intends to go the distance in the tournament.
For Netherlands though, it will be a test of character where they would need to show the world that they are good enough to at least compete with the top teams after having qualified for the World Cup for the fourth time.
Beating a Test nation would be a great boost for cricket in the country and also an opportunity to prove to the ICC that its decision to curtail the number of teams for the next World Cup isn`t correct.
The only injury concern is regular captain Peter Borren who was suffering from side strain but is trying hard to make it in time.
In case Borren is ruled out then it will be Bas Zuiderent who will lead the side. Much will depend on Ryan ten Doeschate`s all-round abilities.
Also, Tom de Grooth who scored a defining 49 when the Dutch beat England in the Twenty20 match will be a vital cog.