"In matters of commerce the fault of the Dutch", wrote Britain's early 19th century Prime Minister, George Canning, "is offering too little and asking too much." This jingle, which suggested that Canning, though he had poetical ambitions was wise to stick to the day job, ran in my head as I walked into the New Ground for the Yorkshire Bank 40 over match between Worcestershire and the Netherlands last Sunday 16 June. The county had won in the Netherlands earlier in the season and as their visitors were without a win all season there seemed no reason why, though weakened by the absence of all rounder Gareth Andrew and some seemingly strange selections, they should not do so again, They had confidently asserted in the local free press that while the Dutch side was strong in batting, it was weak in bowling.
With rain, only forecast at the last minute, now a real threat, and the visitors on winning the toss inserted their hosts, but a drizzle began before the first ball could be bowled.
Now came a long, and to spectators, including your correspondent, incomprehensible, delay. The rain was such that had the match started even Dickie Bird would have been unlikely to take the players off, apart - perhaps - for one brief period - yet the groundstaff, eminently under instruction from the umpires, battened down the hatches as though expecting Armageddon. It now transpires that the radar suggested a strong possibility of something unpleasant heading the way of New Road but no attempt was made to tell the paying public, who might then have been understanding rather than simply uninformed and annoyed.
When the rain finally eased it seemed to those of us not privy to the minds of the officials that far too much time was taken by umpires, groundstaff and others standing around evidently in deep conversation, before mopping up operations began, and that play could certainly have begun somewhat earlier. When it did begin, an 18 overs match at 5pm, we, the spectators, were not informed of the number of overs each bowler was allowed - though we worked it out - or about power plays. All told, therefore, officialdom seemed to forget that they were staging what was a public entertainment. A number of people, including some long term and hardened Worcestershire watchers, had left the ground declaring themselves "fed up."
When play began - in conditions which, apart from the absence of the few spots of rain were almost identical to those pertaining for the previous three hours, the county opened with classic left hander Moeen Ali, cousin of former England seamer Kabir, and Thuilan Samaraweera, the veteran Sri Lankan batsman, the pronunciation of whose name by the PA announcer sent some spectators into paroxysms of mirth. They, of course could take the easy way out by calling him Sammy.
The second ball from Kinga, a good fast medium exponent - certainly not part of a weak attack - saw Moeen, who can take the game away from the opposition in a few overs, caught down the leg side, and when Alexi Kervezee, who had recently declared himself unavailable for the Netherlands in future, followed caught behind for 6, Worcestershire, were 9/2. Worse was to follow. The visitors now used their spinners, again one wondered where the weak attack had gone, as both the slow left-armer Seelar and the off spinner and captain Borren, were accurate and commanded respect.
Daryl Mitchell Worcestershire's captain, the go to man for performing rescue acts, was bowled by Seelar and then young Tom Fell, a leading batsman for Oxford in the Universities Championships, in his first match of any description for the County 1st Xi - though he has played for the 2nd XI with some success - was run out for 2, through no fault of his 28/4. Some around me in the dwindling "crowd" thought seeing "Sammy" batting with "Sir Geoffrey" or Denis Compton would be an entertainment.
Immediately Nish Kapil, an all rounder of whom Worcestershire, rightly, have high hopes, was bowled by Seelar 28/5 and wicket keeper Ben Cox at the wicket. Earlier in the week he had helped batsman Neil Pinner, omitted from this match, rescue the county from a not dissimilar situation in a T20 friendly against minor county Shropshire. He started confidently but then became another non fault run out victim due to some smart fielding from Szwarczynski, whose name gave the PA no trouble whatsoever! At 35/6, though Samaraweera was batting unhurriedly and in full command, Worcestershire seemed in considerable danger of failing to pass both their worst ever List A score 58 against Ireland 0-or rather Peter Connell - in 2009 and their lowest 40 over score 86 against Yorkshire thirty years earlier.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man Brett D'Oliveira, worthy bearer of his grandfather's name, now joined "Sammy" in an unbroken partnership of 55 which restored some respectability to the scoreboard and would have been considerably more had the Dutch fielding, one of the features of the match, not remained tigerish and near perfect. Brett scampered from wicket to wicket while the Sri Lankan remained sublime in his stroke play and control. Worcestershire finished on 90/6 with "Sammy" having hit 4 fours in his 47 made from 49 balls. In the ever increasing gloom - the weather not he Worcestershire cricket - some began to wonder, if the county might not have made just enough.
The answer was to be a most definite "No", though the visitors innings was not without its tension and excitement. With the light now far worse than it had been during the long delay, when the sun had made frequent appearances to mock the inactivity, Myburgh, a tall and solid left hander, and wicket keeper Baressi began against left-armer Jack Shantry, though by some to be the best T20 bowler in the country and the ageless and tireless placeman, "Big Al", Alan Richardson, surely the best bowler in Division 2 of the Championship.
Bowling from the New Road end, Richardson in his second over, beat Baressi five times outside the off stump, one wondered if the opener picked up the ball at all. In Richardson's next over he was caught behind 21/1. With the score unaltered Myburgh fell lbw to the gentle off spin of Moeen Ali, though he did not appear overjoyed by the decision. Then, however, the tall right hander Tom Cooper, whose name inspired some of the crowd to call out the catch phrases of a one time TV comedian/magician, came together with Van Bunge to add 31 while Richardson languished at long leg and long on. Mitchell eventually turned to the spin of D'Oliveira who promptly took 2 wickets, courtesy of two fine catches, to have the visitors 60/4.
One wondered whether the recall of Richardson, for his last over, might have been good tactics, though, as it was now difficult to see the wickets at the far end of the ground, let alone pick up the flight of the ball, "Big Al's recall might have brought the game to a premature conclusion. As it was Cooper was joined by the powerful left hander Michael, neither, as far as it was possible to see from the ringside, looked in much trouble. The recall of Shantry prompted Cooper into a glorious off drive which brought the Dutch a well deserved win and lifted them off the bottom of the table.
What, I wondered would Canning, who would surely have been a Worcestershire supporter, have made of it all. Probably something like this
"In matters of Cricket the fault of the Dutch
Is bowling too well and scoring too much."