Netherlands vs England- One Day International

Sunday 19th June 2022 – World Series League – VRA Ground, Amsterdam

The World Series League? Have we warped into a parallel universe where cricket has morphed into baseball? To 99% of those heading to Amsterdam to watch the three game series against Netherlands, they would have had no idea that the the games actually counted for something.

Such is the nature of sport these days that the authorities/sponsors will always find an angle to make a simple game “mean something”. In the international footballing calendar we now have the Nations League, the most complicated, yet ultimately meaningless tournament, in rugby the Autumn internationals have now become some kind of mini “world league” whilst in cricket we’ve had the introduction of The Hundred which brings a whole different level of head-scratching.

So the three game series in Amsterdam against the Netherlands may have at first seemed like a perfect excuse to a) warm up for the limited over games coming against India and South Africa, b) gave the non-test playing squad a chance to play overseas and c) give the fans the opportunity to watch England in a new, but perfectly accessible venue.

But the ICC, in their infinite wisdom, decided to make the series part of the complex qualification for the 2023 50 over World Cup, hosted by India. Why they simply can’t include all 13 of the sides who play International 50 over games, and even add a 14th wild card (Scotland or even the co-hosts of the 2024 T20 World Cup, USA) and not have a long drawn out qualifying competition?

Thirteen countries make up the “Super League”, with Bangladesh and Afghanistan at the top. Yep, that’s right. That’s how complex the “rules” are that two teams who in any other merit or ranking competition would surely be below England, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka. In fact, based on the table prior to the series, New Zealand sat 10th, South Africa 11th.

In total, 32 countries are taking part in the qualification process, from which 10 will qualify for the World Cup. The 32 teams are divided into the Super League (13 teams), League 2 (7 teams including Scotland, Nepal, UAE and USA) and the Challenge League (12 teams including Denmark, Vanuatu, Singapore and Jersey).

Based on the results of the leagues, teams either directly qualify for the World Cup, are eliminated from World Cup qualification, or advance to other supplementary qualifying tournaments through which they can qualify for the World Cup.

Each side has to play a three game series against eight of the other sides in the Super League. India, and the top seven sides thereafter, will qualify automatically. The remaining five teams will play in a qualifying event, along with five Associate sides from League 2 and the Challenge League, from which two sides will go through to the World Cup.

Simple, right? As it stood before this series, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and South Africa would miss out on automatic qualification whilst Ireland, Afghanistan and Bangladesh would be on the plane to India.

Bearing that in mind, you can see the logic of England, travelling to 13th places Netherlands with the hope of climbing to the top of the table.

In the first game, England posted a world-record 498-4 with centuries for Phil Salt, Dawid Malan and Joss Buttler which included 14 sixes as they won by 232 runs. I’m sure I am not the only one with huge amounts of jealously those who got to see the game, although with temperatures hitting the mid-thirties and no cover from the scorching sunshine, it wasn’t just orange that was the most popular shade in the open seating areas.

A 4am start on Sunday morning was necessary for making it in time for the start of the second game in the series. Bad news, airport chaos at both Gatwick and Schiphol meant a 90 minute delay. Good news, hotel overlooking the Olympic Stadium (yep, the stadium used for the 1928 Summer Olympics) allowed us to check in early. Even better news, overnight rain had seeped under the covers and the start was delayed until 1pm which meant a 41 over a side game.

In terms of picturesque grounds, the VRA is certainly up there. It was hard to imagine you were anywhere else that an idyllic ground in England….apart from the planes on their final approach to Schiphol every 90 seconds. First job on entry, exchange your cash for Munts, the plastic tabs that are universal currency used in Dutch sporting stadiums. Pint of Heineken – 2 munts. Slice of pizza – 2 munts. Chips with mayo – 2 munts. You get the picture.

The DJ kept the tunes turned to volume 11 and the sight of the umpires carrying out another inspection was met with universal boos. Yes, the crowd was enjoying the atmosphere, the beer and the make-shift mini games of cricket taking place under the stands but we had paid good money (€60) to watch some cricket.

Finally, at 1:20pm we were ready to start. The Dutch had won the toss and decided to bat first. Whilst this England team was built for batting, they can also bowl economically and after 10 overs the hosts had reached just 39-3. As you would expect there’s some very un-Dutch names in the Netherlands team these days. Vikram Singh, Max O’Dowd, Tom Cooper, Tim Pringle, Shane Snater. Tongan Scott Edwards took the attack to the England bowlers, scoring 78 off 73 balls, including three huge sixes before he was run out, ably supported by de Leede, Nidamanuru and van Beek who took the run rate up to nearly six an over.

Jason Roy had received his 100th cap before the game. He would have looked on with envy from the pavilion on Friday after he was dismissed cheaply, by his cousin no less, whilst the rest of the top order, bar skipper Eoin Morgan, plundered on their way to a record-breaking total. This time around Roy and Phil Salt showed that their 2021 white ball form wasn’t a fluke, putting on 139 for the first wicket in 17 overs before he was dismissed.

There was never in doubt England would win, the question was just how quick. Salt departed for 77 and then Morgan, having failed to score on Friday, repeated the trick here, departing after seven balls. Surprisingly, big hitting Liam Livingstone only scored 4, leaving England fifty nine to win off 16 overs.

Malan and Moen Ali steered the boat home with five overs to spare but by then some of the crowd had lost interested in the cricket. A pitch invader eluded the stewards and in his haste to avoid capture, jumped in the canal behind the stands, only to be apprehended by the security team, very wet and very bedraggled. If that wasn’t a deterrent, another England fan decided to do the same and was roundly booed by the crowd, then cheered when the stewards rugby tackled him and restrained him. I have no idea what motivates people to run onto the pitch but it isn’t big or clever.

Cricket done, and another win that took England to the top of the ICC World Series league. To celebrate we headed to the underrated and tourist-free areas around the Olympic Stadium where there’s craft breweries galore and ample supplies of Bitterballen, Kroket and Poffertjes. Happy days.

Ask any England fan who was at any of the three games and they would want this series as a permanent fixture on the calendar. Superbly organised, great location and excellent cricket. More of the same please.

Postscript: A walk out by the security staff at Schiphol Airport led to delays of over 4 hours getting through security and meant many fans missed their flight homes. Fortunately, we booked a second flight when we saw the issues on Saturday and thankfully made it home without any issues.

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