England overcame a shoddy performance in the field and a wonderful hundred from Holland’s Ryan ten Doeschate to avoid a shock defeat at the start of their World Cup campaign.
Andrew Strauss (88) and Jonathan Trott (62) did most to help their team home by six wickets with eight balls to spare – statistics which flattered England after some late hitting from Ravi Bopara, in pursuit of 292.
Ten Doeschate’s career-best 119 raised the prospect of a second successive defeat against unheralded Holland in major tournaments, and kept the outcome in doubt almost throughout.
The Essex all-rounder hit three sixes and nine fours in an outstanding 110-ball innings to ensure Holland set a tough target, and posted by far their highest score against a Test-playing nation.
But it was not quite enough this time for the Dutch, who memorably beat England at their most recent attempt – in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 at Lord’s in 2009.
Strauss and Kevin Pietersen got a taxing chase off to an excellent start, racing to 105 without loss in under 18 overs.
But Pietersen then revisited his unenviable knack of getting out to left-arm spinners when he hit Pieter Seelaar straight to short extra-cover for 39.
It was clearly Strauss’ intention to complete the job, having charged to his 50 in only 34 balls. But he could not find the boundary again after doing so nine times in his half-century – and his consolidation ended when, at the start of Mudassar Bukhari’s second spell, he pulled to deep square-leg where Tom Cooper took a fine running catch.
Trott had done his reconassaince by then, and appealed as the ideal candidate to manage the remainder of England’s innings on a very good batting surface.
But after a typically hard-working 50, he had not bargained for Wesley Barresi – who pulled off an excellent leg-side stumping as Trott lost his balance to Ten Doeschate’s medium-pace.
After Ian Bell then lost his middle-stump to the last ball of Ten Doeschate’s 10 overs, it was down to new batsmen to scramble the last 52 runs in seven overs.
Happily for England, Paul Collingwood and Bopara, both with 30 not out, were up to the task.
But they ought not have had to dig so deep, having contributed significantly to their own problems in the field. Openers Barresi and Alexei Kervezee wasted no time signalling their intent after Holland won the toss in this day-night match, with a succession of early boundaries.
But Kervezee somehow chipped a short ball from Tim Bresnan over his own head to be caught behind, and Barresi was well-stumped by Matt Prior to give Graeme Swann a wicket in his first over.
That merely brought in Ten Doeschate, and he did not disappoint – in half-century stands with Cooper, Tom de Grooth and finally his captain Peter Borren.
He was fortunate to survive on 47 when England’s worst of several bad moments in the field saw Pietersen and James Anderson – at long-off and long-on – allow a skied straight hit off Swann to drop comically between them.
Cooper batted skilfully until he fell to a tame flick off Collingwood to straight midwicket three runs short of his 50.
Then after Bas Zuiderent failed to find the gap and chipped Swann to midwicket to go for a single, there was more responsibility than ever on Ten Doeschate to see the innings through.
The boundaries unsurprisingly dried up in the middle overs. But after Ten Doeschate and De Grooth saw off Swann, there were more opportunities in powerplay.
De Grooth saw little of them, yorked by Stuart Broad in the first over with the field up. But his contribution was still key, lending support just when Ten Doeschate needed it and producing a series of cunning and deft deflections.
Ten Doeschate was unarguably the main man, though, and it was cruelly appropriate for his opponents when he went to his fourth one-day international hundred thanks to four overthrows from hapless England.
Ten Doeschate was limping worryingly on his left leg by the time he was caught in the deep by his county team-mate Bopara off Broad.
But he had inflicted serious damage, and Borren kept the tempo up to the end as hardly anything went right for England and 104 runs were plundered in the last 10 overs.
England refused to panic with the bat, and got their campaign off to a winning start after all. But on this evidence, it is hard to envisage them following this winter’s Ashes glory with a maiden World Cup title.