Thrills and spills
Posted in ICC World Twenty20
What do you get if you cross a penguin, WWF and two weeks in Leicester? Yep, the World Twenty20.
It has been a remarkable five days since the opening game at Lord's, a match which typified this year's tournament: bright kits, boisterous crowds, exciting cricket and the rise of the underdog.
So to summarise - Holland beat England, Australia were knocked out in the group stage and Ireland reached the Super Eights. A new world order? Perhaps not, but few would have expected Ricky Ponting and co to be spending a fortnight in the East Midlands.
Few people would begrudge the Dutch their moment in the NW8 gloom, Edgar Schiferli's scrambled two sparking joyous scenes on the field mirrored by hundreds of bewildered Holland fans camped in the Mound Stand.
Paul Collingwood graciously conceded the better side won during his post-match press conference.
It meant England had it all to do against Pakistan on Sunday - a game where only a win would have been enough. With thousands of Pakistan fans creating a cacophony of noise, England found their 'A game' to book a place in the Super Eights. Phew.
Pakistan, typically hit and miss, then pulverised Holland to send them on their short flight home.
Spending some time with the Dutch team prior to the Pakistan game, you got the impression they were just glad to be there. Beating England at Lord’s was beyond their wildest dreams but, having done so, they developed grander ideas and were confident of causing another shock.
Pieter Seelaar, their slow left-arm spinner who greets every wicket he takes with a bizarre penguin impression, said his mobile had rung off the hook since dismissing Collingwood and catching Ravi Bopara.
Hopefully there were a few more congratulatory texts despite their loss to Pakistan.
A highlight of the tournament so far has been Younus Khan’s press conferences and the expressive skipper delivered once more.
After brushing off Twenty20 cricket as merely ‘fun’ on Sunday, Khan compared the newest form of the game to WWF - wrestling, not the World Wildlife Fund.
A few hours later, getting into the lift on the way down from the media centre after the New Zealand v South Africa game, I found myself squeezed in alongside Jeroen Smits, the Dutch captain.
Resplendent in his team suit, orange Dutch cricket emblem gleaming from his jacket, Smits cut rather a downcast figure as he walked clockwise around the famous ground.
"Well done this week," I offered.
"Thank you," he replied, smiling and accepting my handshake. "It was just a shame we couldn't do more today. Pakistan played really well, better than they did on Sunday against England. I hope to see you at the next Twenty20 World Cup."
With their brave approach batting, bright orange kit and generally enthusiastic demeanour, the Dutch would be welcomed back with open arms.
About 12 hours later it was back up to Loughborough to watch England train ahead of their clash with South Africa.
After helping his side win the morning’s football, Graeme Swann burst into the National Cricket Performance Centre office, sweat pouring off him.
"Who wants to do Swanny a favour?" he asked with a cheeky grin.
Jo Pearson, the centre's amiable Assistant Operations Manager, agreed to help out.
"I need the words to the National Anthem printed off, preferably in big writing," added the off-spinner. "Ravi and Dilly [Adil Rashid] don't know the words and it's my job to teach them."
England will be hoping they do not fluff their lines against South Africa.