Strauss wary of double Dutch woe
Andrew Strauss has warned England they must be on top of their game to ensure they suffer no further embarrassment at the hands of the Netherlands.
It is less than two years ago that England lost to tomorrow’s opponents in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 at Lord’s - on the way to a poor home campaign in that tournament.
They have since beaten the world in the shortest format, winning England’s maiden International Cricket Council global trophy under the captaincy of Paul Collingwood in the West Indies last May.
There were no Dutchmen in the Caribbean then. But they are back now, and Strauss is well aware of the threat they pose - despite fielding a team with just a handful of full-time professionals and a majority able to concentrate on cricket only sporadically, at major tournaments and when their careers allow.
“They are going to be a stern test for us,” the England captain predicted. “They have nothing to lose and they will come out and play with a lot of freedom.
“If we are 10% off and they have a good day, we are in trouble - so we need to be right on our game.”
Strauss is adamant, though, that England will not falter for lack of intent or determination - even though the demands of their Ashes winter, and historic Test series success against Australia, might conceivably have compromised their World Cup preparations.
It seemed that way perhaps when they followed Ashes glory in Melbourne and Sydney with a 6-1 defeat against Australia in the subsequent one-day series.
But, asked whether they may be lacking an edge again, Strauss said: “I don’t think so - not for the World Cup. It only happens every four years. If you are lucky, you might play in two or three in your career.
“You don’t want to have any regrets at the end of it, so I don’t think that’s a problem. That was an accusation you could have levied at us in the one-day series against Australia, but not in the World Cup.
“We are up for it. We are excited. There is a good vibe and buzz about everything out here at the moment. It is a massive event out in the sub-continent, and we want to do ourselves proud.”
Strauss would rather concentrate on that first global victory last year than the limited-overs aberration, amid a spate of minor injuries, Down Under.
He will have Collingwood’s help in the ranks too, as England seek to put their planning into perfect practice - as they so often did to win the World Twenty20.
“Paul Collingwood is going to be a good sounding board for me - as he always is,” said Strauss.
“It was a massive hurdle to overcome, winning that Twenty20 World Cup - no doubt about it - and it stands us in good stead for this tournament.
“In the group matches [here], you can afford one slip-up or maybe two slip-ups. But I don’t think any side will be approaching it in that manner. You want to win as many games as possible - and certainly where we have come from in the last month or so, the more wins we have the better.”
England have already sprung a surprise by promoting Kevin Pietersen to open the batting with Strauss, with previous incumbent Matt Prior slipping into the pivotal middle-order role at number six.
The captain believes the new arrangement will suit all parties, including himself, having seen Pietersen and Prior in their new roles in warm-up victories over Canada and then Pakistan last week.
“I am very excited about it. The indications are pretty good at the moment,” he said. “Prior played brilliantly at six against Canada and had a nice little cameo against Pakistan as well.
“Kevin Pietersen, we have always felt, has the game to prosper at the top of the order on the sub-continent on these flat wickets, lower-bouncing wickets - that is perfectly suitable for his game.
“I think he could take a couple of the opposition teams by surprise, put pressure on them - and that is an important thing to do in the World Cup.”
He is hoping too that Pietersen’s range of stroke may prove an ideal complement to his own batting.
“That is definitely the plan... although I didn’t get many in those two warm-up games,” Strauss conceded.
“But we are two very contrasting players, and that might make it hard for bowlers to adjust to us.
“I am very excited about batting alongside him, let’s put it that way - and I think it could flourish into a very good partnership.”
England have the option of picking first-choice spinner Graeme Swann tomorrow. He flew in from England last night, following the birth of his first child Wilfred, and took part in practice this morning.
Jonathan Trott’s badly bruised little finger was the worst of a collection of minor injuries, which have cleared up in time for their first Group B fixture.