Alec Stewart’s memories of England’s tour of the Netherlands in the summer of 1989 are a little hazy. He was only 26, full of anticipation for his cricket career ahead and yet to make his full England debut.
“It definitely didn’t feel like playing for England, it didn’t even have the feel of playing for a Lions or an A team,” he says. “We were only there for a few days and played on matting wickets and I’d never played a game on matting in my life. We were captained by Peter Roebuck, and I have to say he didn’t leave a mark on me. I remember him saying “it doesn’t matter” after we lost a game and I found that very strange – it always matters whether you win or lose.”
It definitely mattered to the newspapers back home. England’s defeat in that first game did not go down well in a summer when the Test team were losing the Ashes 4-0 in chaotic style, plucking 29 players out of a constantly whirling cement mixer as Australia doggedly stuck to 12 men. “And so yesterday it finally happened: the worst really did come to the worst,” thundered Matthew Engel in the Guardian. “The England cricket team lost by three runs to Holland. I repeat, Holland.”
“These were the golden boys. This team … comprised precisely those youngsters whom everyone is imploring Ted Dexter to pick in place of the whipped and sour cream of English cricket.”
Rebooted Team England™ won’t make that mistake again, in a trip delayed from 2021 because of Covid. Although shorn of its multi-format players, currently making whoopee in the Test series against New Zealand, this is a strong white-ball squad who will play three ODIs, hoping to collect crucial ICC Super League points needed for 2023 World Cup qualification. It is also the first full England men’s senior side to ever tour the Netherlands.
The 14-man squad is packed full of Eoin Morgan’s favourite cocktail tipple – left-arm seamers. There are five in all, including the uncapped David Payne from Gloucestershire and Lancashire’s magnificently moustached Luke Wood – who is called up for England duties for the first time – alongside Reece Topley, David Willey and Sam Curran.
The last of these returns to the international circuit after spending the early season with Surrey recovering from a stress fracture of the lower back, while Dawid Malan pulls on the England shirt for the first time since being dropped from the Test team after the Ashes debacle of the winter.
The tour also marks a debut for Matthew Mott, England’s new white-ball coach. Mott helped build the most successful team in women’s cricket history with Australia – a bright yellow canary that pecked relentlessly at England in the recent World Cup final in Christchurch and intimidates even as it goes through pre-match stretches. Australia were 10 leagues better than any other side on show in New Zealand – in athleticism, in dynamism and gung-ho attitude.
Mott and the Australia captain, Meg Lanning, worked well together, both similarly non-demonstrative personalities, and the England and Wales Cricket Board hierarchy hope Mott and Morgan, and white-ball heir Jos Buttler – fresh from his exploits as the highest run scorer in the IPL – will rub along in a similarly easy manner.
Mott is joined by Mark Alleyne (recently announced as the assistant coach of the Hundred side Welsh Fire) as batting coach and the Durham bowling coach Neil Killeen, alongside Richard Dawson and Carl Hopkinson.
The 2022 Netherlands team are no walkover, and as capable of pulling a rabbit out of a hat as they ever were (see the 2009 and 2014 World Cups). They put in a creditable performance with a young side in the recent 3-0 defeat by West Indies and during the spring tour of New Zealand.
Although missing Colin Ackermann, Roelof van der Merwe and Timm van der Gugten, remaining with their English counties, the squad includes Fred Klassen, who has made a name for himself in white-ball cricket with Kent, Essex’s Shane Snater, and Tim Pringle, the 19-year-old left-arm spinning son of the former New Zealand seamer Chris – who also played for the Netherlands.
But even as England supporters cross the channel for a rare chance to watch cricket in mainland Europe, and as the heatwave settles just in time for the first game on Friday, for once, England’s white-ball team will struggle to compete with the exploits of the Test team and the out-of-this-world Jonny Bairstow.
England squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Brydon Carse, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, David Payne, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, David Willey, Luke Wood
Netherlands squad: Pieter Seelaar (captain), Scott Edwards (wicketkeeper), Musa Ahmad, Shariz Ahmad, Logan van Beek, Philippe Boissevain, Tom Cooper, Aryan Dutt, Clayton Floyd, Vivian Kingma, Fred Klaassen, Ryan Klein, Bas de Leede, Teja Nidamanuru, Max O’Dowd, Tim Pringle, Vikramjit Singh, Shane Snater