Battle for the wooden-spoon? Not really as England and the Netherlands chase something big

England’s players at a training session ahead of their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match against the Netherlands at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune in India on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

England’s players at a training session ahead of their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match against the Netherlands at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune in India on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
| Photo Credit: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

The title defence is history while the Champions Trophy is a mystery. In a bid to convert the mystery into reality, Wednesday’s all-European clash between England and the Netherlands becomes a must-win affair for Jos Buttler and Co.

In fact, the Champions Trophy 2025 qualification — wherein the top eight teams from the World Cup league standings will participate in — makes it an intense affair rather than a battle for the wooden spoon.

Also read: England vs New Zealand | Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra’s tons leave England battered

Ever since being annihilated by New Zealand in the tournament-opener, never has England appeared to have a settled combination. From including four all-rounders in the opener to going in without an all-rounder midway through the tournament, England and its tactics have been bemusing, to say the least.

England’s Ben Stokes during a nets session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between England and the Netherlands at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune in India on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

England’s Ben Stokes during a nets session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between England and the Netherlands at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune in India on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

No wonder then that heading into the last week of the tournament, the defending champion is languishing at the bottom of the points tally. Only if it defeats the Netherlands and Pakistan in its last two fixtures will England seal its Champions Trophy berth.

The Champions Trophy qualification will be the biggest motivating factor for a team that’s looked out of sorts in every department of the game.

For the Netherlands as well, making it to the Champions Trophy will be the biggest objective. With the Dutch set to face India in the last league encounter over the weekend, Wednesday offers the Netherlands the best chance to make a strong case not just for itself but for the whole Associate nations ecosystem.

The Netherlands’ Scott Edwards inspects the playing surface at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune, ahead of their ICC Cricket Men’s World Cup match against England on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

The Netherlands’ Scott Edwards inspects the playing surface at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune, ahead of their ICC Cricket Men’s World Cup match against England on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

After all, no Associate nation has featured in a Champions Trophy since 2004 and the Netherlands’ last appearance in the mini-World Cup was in 2002.

Captain Scott Edwards will be hoping for its top-order — which has been the biggest let-down — to come good against a lacklustre bowling unit.

If the Netherlands can get off to a good start, it can hope for an encore of its stunning win against South Africa last month.

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