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Game Dutchmen ready for Pak storm
February 23, 2003 13:57 IST
Pakistan have absolutely nothing to fear when they play the Netherlands in the World Cup in Paarl on Tuesday, not even flooding and tempests.
The Dutch players, rapidly emerging as the tournament's best sports, would probably agree to wear goggles, water-wings and flippers if it meant the game going ahead.
Roland Lefebvre's team almost went that far against Australia in their Group A match in Potchefstroom, when blundering groundstaff spilled a vat-ful of water off the covers and straight on to the pitch.
While a helicopter whirred overhead, desperately trying to blow-dry away some of the damage, 15 orange-suited men got in a huddle in the middle of the pitch and took a vote on whether to play the world champions on the damaged track or instead sue for a share of the points.
"Those for playing?" said the coach and 15 hands out of 15 went up.
"Of course, we'd do the same again against Pakistan," said Lefebvre, speaking to Reuters by phone. "As long as the umpires don't intervene, we'll play. Playing Pakistan is so exciting.
"The ball moved all over the place against Australia but it wasn't dangerous.
"For most of our players, these types of games will be the highlights of their careers. And you don't improve by sitting in the pavilion."
The Dutch have put on a decent show at the World Cup, over and above that act of sportsmanship. Tim de Leede took four for 35 with his medium pacers against India to win the man-of-the-match award and scored an unbeaten half-century against England.
Lefebvre, once of Somerset and Glamorgan and due to retire after the World Cup -- "I'm 40 now and my body's knackered" -- has conceded under three runs an over, despite struggling to take wickets with his medium pacers.
That's a better economy rate than Muttiah Muralitharan and Glenn McGrath, and twice as good as Shoaib Akhtar.
Lefebvre will do well to retain those neat figures against a wounded Pakistan, and Shahid Afridi in particular.
When the sides last met, in September in the Champions Trophy, the Netherlands batted through their 50 overs -- something they have struggled to do at the World Cup, according to Lefebvre, having been exposed by "the shorter, faster ball" -- for 136 before they walked straight into a storm.
Afridi, who had taken three for 18 with the ball, threshing-machined 55 off 18 balls, missing the world record for the fastest fifty by a single delivery.
Adeel Raja, Lahore-born and Dutch-bred, still bears the scars. Afridi faced seven balls from the off spinner at the Sinhalese Sports Club and deposited five of them into the stands, including the last ball of the game.
Bas Zuiderent, the only current professional cricketer in the Netherlands team, also has ingrained memories of that match, courtesy of express bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
"He bowled me a slowish delivery, around 135kmh (83.89mph). It was overpitched and I drove it for four to long on. I knew what was coming next ball.
"His run-up was huge. I saw the ball hit the wicket, I half-ducked and it brushed past the hair at the top of my neck and it was in the wicketkeeper's hands.
"He's in a different league. You are aware you could get hurt badly. You just back yourself."
With Pakistan now fighting for survival in Group A after their shock defeat against England in Cape Town, Zuiderent and Raja can expect more of the same.
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