|European Championships: Northern Ireland, July 2002|
Holland v Italy: 20 July
THE worse thing to do on Saturday, the revised opening day of the European Championships, was to win the toss. Bad start. All six captains inserted the opposition and all six lost the game but the conclusion to the First Division games at Comber and Larne had to be seen to be believed.
No doubt about the shock of the day - probably the shock of the year - Italy, returning to the scene of their crushing eight wickets defeat by a North Down Select, and beating Holland, the World Cup finalists and tournament favourites, by one run.
It seemed plain sailing for the Dutch, chasing 144, when they were 128 for five but then the wheels came off. First Feiko Kloppenburg was bowled by opening bowler Andrea Corbellari and the same bowler then had Dutch captain Roland Lefebvre caught at the wicket for just four - 134 for seven and suddenly, Holland were not only running out of wickets but also overs. Benito Giordano, who had been hit all round the ground on Tuesday, bowled a very good penultimate over, conceding just two and the Dutch started the 50th over still requiring six to win - five would have been enough because Italy were all out.
With Corbellari bowled out, having taken four wickets, the last six balls were entrusted to off spinner Samantha Ketipe. First ball he had Nick Statham caught behind for 50, Edgar Schiferli swung the next ball straight to long on and now it was five off four. Jacob-Jan Esmijer took a single but last man Reinout Scholte had to hit the last ball for at least three to win the match. He scored only two and the Dutch ended one run short of Italy's total.
Earlier, the Italians had committed hari-kari themselves when they lost their last four wickets for three runs, and failed to use up four overs as Lefebvre and Schiferli hit the stumps three times between them. The World Cup finalists probably thought they had done the hard work at that stage but it didn't get any better at the start of their innings when they slumped to five for three and 16 for four, the aggregate runs from their top four batsmen, including former captain Tim de Leede, was three. Luuk van Troost, however, put them back on course with a speedy 41 but the big story of the day had not even begun.