It was typical of the English summer that, the week before the ICC World Twenty20 began, the country was bathed in glorious sunshine.
But by the time we were ready to go at Lord’s the predictable rain clouds had arrived and this summer spectacular had a rather soggy start.
But that was nothing compared to the fireworks that would follow the rather subdued opening ceremony. England, who made a decent start thanks to Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright, seemed to fall into a collective slumber, and without big hitters Flintoff and Pietersen fell well short of what they should have achieved with their 20 overs.
The complacent malaise spread to England’s bowlers, who seemed content to float through their overs, assuming that the Dutch batsmen would get themselves out sooner or later. But as the game progressed and England’s small total appeared in sight, the full horror of what was occurring in the English gloom began to hit the players, but by then it was too late.
The Dutch deserved their win for their sheer will and desire alone. For England an all too familiar early exit from a major tournament was on the cards. A defeat to Pakistan would finish the job off, to go out of their own tournament after just three days is impressive even by English standards.
But it was a completely different side that took to the field at the Oval on Sunday. They were much more clinical with the bat, aided by the return of the half-fit Kevin Pietersen and a swashbuckling 34 of 16 balls from Luke Wright.
With the ball the returning Graeme Swann worked in tandem with young Adil Rashid, slowing the Pakistani run-rate in the crucial middle stage of the innings. Stuart Broad showed tremendous character to bounce back after his Dutch nightmare to bowl with aggression and accuracy and help England to a very comfortable 48 run victory.
No we shouldn’t get carried away, this was a Pakistan side who lacked purpose and whose captain, Younis Khan, described this tournament as ‘fun’. But England’s progress and improvement is something to celebrate, for the competition if nothing else, the hosts bowing out early is disastrous for any tournament.
Trickier challenges undoubtedly lie ahead, but after their Lord’s nightmare they should be grateful just to be involved.
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