50 years ago…
Bertus de Jong
Fifty years ago today Bob Simpson's victorious Australians, fresh from a successful Ashes tour in England, made a brief stopover at the Hague for a one-off match against the Dutch at de Diepput - a foretaste of what the Wisden's Norman Preston described as "a fortnight's holiday on the continent". They were in for a surprise.
The hastily assembled Dutch XI had practised together only once before the match, but their opponents may have been somewhat "fatigued" following an arduous touring schedule in England and the subsequent victory celebrations. Nonetheless it was a near full-strength Australian side that took the field, missing only Neil Hawke, who was rested, and skipper Bob Simpson, who was out with a broken thumb.
And if the tourists might have been forgiven for regarding the game as a footnote to a successful Summer, for the hosts the stakes were much higher. It was only the third time since the Second World War that a representative side of a full member of the then Imperial Cricket Conference had visited the Netherlands, the most recent being Lindsay Hassett's 1953 Australian side - who had administered a 157 run drubbing at the same venue a decade earlier.
Of the Dutch line-up Ernst Vriens, Wally van Weelde and Pieter van Arkel will have remembered that game, but for the young Australian team the Netherlands was entirely unfamiliar territory. Equally unfamiliar was the matting pitch at de Diepput, quick and bouncing savagely (the Australians were to break four bats during their innings, one of the touring party later recalled), and in deference to the surface the visitors were required to trade in their spikes for borrowed plimsolls.
Stand-in Australian captain Brian Booth - in his first game in charge - had won the toss and elected to bat, and his opposite number van Arkel duly led his men out onto the ground followed by Australian openers Bill Lawry and Wally Grout, spurred on by several thousand spectators. The more astute observer might have discerned a sign of things to come when the famously obdurate Lawry was undone by the bounce and pace of Ben Trijzelaar with just 5 runs to his name, and when Trijzelaar followed up by upending Grout's stumps to make it 36-2 it was clear the Dutch planned on making a game of it.
Norman O'Niell and Peter Burge (who's magnificent 160 at Headingley had proved the decisive innings of the Ashes series) steadied the innings, adding 55 for the third wicket. But Burge could manage only a rather belaboured 22 before falling to Wander Pierhage, and Booth's bright start, hitting a six and a four in his first over, was brought to an abrupt end by Vriens. From then on the momentum was with the Dutch, and they pressed their advantage.
Trijzelaar quickly claimed his third and most unfortunate victim in the shape of Jack Potter, albeit in a manner he will not have hoped for. The Victoria stalwart and perennial 12th man on the tour had not expected to play, and admitted to feeling somewhat "muzzy-headed" as he faced Trijzelaar. Looking to force the pace he went for the hook, missed, and found himself retired hurt with a fractured skull, likely costing him an imminent test cap.
Pierhage returned to the attack and captured the crucial wicket of O'Niell - stumped by Rene Schoonheim for 87 - and a looping return catch saw Trijzelaar account for Bob Cowper just two runs later. A 24 run stand between Tom Vievers and Johnny Martin got the Australians as far as 186, but Pierhagen and Vriens eventually saw their guests off 3 runs shy of 200 having slumped from 160-4 to 197 all out.
A target of 198 at de Diepput then, as now, will have looked eminently chaseable, and the Dutch openers Pieter Marseille and Pim van der Vegt saw them half-way there before the first wicket fell. Marseille dominated the scoring in the 99 run partnership, and by the time van der Vegt lost his off stump to paceman Garth McKenzie the Netherlands were well on top. Marseille pressed on, abetted by skipper van Arkel, but both eventually fell to Cowper's offspin for 77 and a quickfire 45 respectively, the latter falling victim to an excellent low catch from Cowper off his own bowling.
The double breakthrough marked the start of a fightback by the Australians, who seemed to have finally woken up to the danger of their situation. Cowper and Mckenzie first reined in the scoring and then began to find wickets as the Dutch subsided from 129-1 to 181-7 and the shadows lengthened. With just 15 minutes remaining, the Dutch needed 24 runs off the last three overs.
A few scrambled twos and a maximum from the 25 year-old Ruud Onstein kept hope alive, but the chance of a win seemed to be slipping away from them as Onstein faced Cowper for the last over with nine needed. Two singles followed and then, as O'Neill later recalled, "‘I remember looking around at the disbelief of my team-mates as Onstein clubbed Bob Cowper right out of the ground". With the scores level and three balls remaining, Onstein finished the game off in style, whipping the next delivery away behind square for four runs, a three wicket win, and the Netherlands' first triumph over a full member.
Pim van der Vegt, Pieter Marseille, Peter van Arkel (c), Wally van Weelde, Paul Bouwman, Ruud Onstein, Pieter Ernst Vriens, Ben Trijzelaar, Henny Wijkhuizen, Rene Schoonheim (w), Wander Pierhage
Bill Lawry, Wally Grout (w), Norman O'Niell, Peter Burge, Brian Booth(c), Jack Potter, Bob Cowper, Tom Veivers, John Martin, Graham McKenzie, Allan Connolly
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