The year was 1964 and Australia had just won the Ashes 1-0, the sole victory coming in the third Test at Headingley – the game in which Peter Burge famously scored 160 to help Australia win by seven wickets. Towards the end of the tour, the Australians hopped over to the Netherlands to play a one-off ‘one-day single-innings match’.
In other words, it was almost an exhibition match which took place on the 29th of August, the venue being De Diepput in the Hague. But for the Dutch, it was anything but an exhibition match, for it was very rare that the Australians played them. Indeed, they had faced the Australians only once before – in 1953 – when they were beaten by 157 runs in a single-innings match at the same venue.
Moreover, there were more than 15,000 spectators in attendance for the 1964 game whereas the visitors would have almost certainly expected a quiet setting with a handful of people watching. The Australians took the match lightly, and ended up paying the price.
Batting first, the Australians lost openers Bill Lawry and Wally Grout early, both out to H.Ben Trijzelaar (3/41) to be 36/2. Norman O’Neill, batting at number three, looked in fine fettle at the other end. He shared in a third-wicket stand of 55 runs with Burge, and was threatening to take the game away from the Dutch.
Wandert Pierhagen then removed Burge to make the score 91/3, and from then on the tables seemed to be turning. E.W.C Vriens dismissed Brian Booth, who was leading the side, while Jack Potter retired hurt. Bob Cowper was Ben Trijzelaar’s third victim whereas Pierhagen (3/75) took two scalps more, including O’Neill (87), as the Australians subsided for a below-par 197 in 50.1 overs.
The unheralded Dutchmen knew they had a great chance, and their openers grabbed it with both hands. P.A Marseille and Willem van der Vegt shared a 99-run partnership for the first wicket, mopping off exactly half the target themselves before the latter was clean bowled by Graham McKenzie (3/48).
Cowper later dismissed Marseille LBW for a fine 77 and captain Peter van Arkel (45), following which a middle order collapse saw the Dutch suddenly slip from 129/1 to 181/7. They still needed 20 runs off three overs, and hopes of an upset were fast extinguishing.
However, Ruud Onstein, batting at number six, stood up to the challenge. In an audacious display, he smashed Cowper (4/69) for 6,4 and 6 to bring up an astonishing three-wicket win for the underdogs. Onstein hit the winning six off Cowper and hurried back to the pavillion, as a jubliant crowd began to converge onto the field.
The Netherlands reached 201/7 in 57.4 overs, with Onstein becoming the hero at the last moment with his unbeaten 24. One of the Aussies later remarked, ‘I can assure you we tried our hardest to win against a side in which enthusiasm dwarfed technique’.
O’Neill, who was the only one who batted with responsibility said, ‘I remember looking around at the disbelief of my team-mates as Onstein clubbed Bob Cowper right out of the ground’. Indeed, it was a truly unlikely win, as the Ashes winners were brought down to earth by a team so unheard of, that until today the first names of some players are not known, as seen from the scorecard.
The Australians were perhaps complacent after a long tour and underestimated the grit and enthusiasm of the Dutch. Interestingly, the Aussies neither quite had it easy the next time they played the Netherlands on an Ashes tour – they played two 50-over one-day games at the same venue in 1989, winning the first by a relatively narrow 57 runs and the second by virtue of a better run-rate.
However, in the two one-day international matches Australia and Netherlands have contested against each other, Australia have swamped the opposition in both games, by 75 runs and 229 runs in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups respectively.