Bas de Leede the hero as resilient Netherlands qualify

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE - JULY 06: Bas de Leede and Saqib Zulfiqar of Netherlands celebrates following the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier Zimbabwe 2023 Super 6 match between Scotland and Netherlands at Queen’s Sports Club on July 06, 2023 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Albert Perez-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

There have been some extraordinary performances by Dutch men’s teams over the past fifteen years, but Thursday’s victory over Scotland, which carried Scott Edwards’s side to the World Cup in India later this year, surely ranks among the greatest.

It was, moreover, a personal triumph, almost a coming of age, for 23-year-old allrounder Bas de Leede, who not only claimed his best-ever ODI bowling figures of five for 52 as he hauled the Dutch back into a game which seemed to have run away from them, but then produced a match-winning performance with the bat, posting his maiden international century when Scotland again appeared to have booked their places on the plane to India.

After Scotland had made 277 for nine the Netherlands were required to win inside 44 (or just possibly 45) overs to overhaul their rivals’ net run rate advantage and squeeze past them on the Super Six table, and when Saqib Zulfiqar joined De Leede in the 31st over, following the dismissal of Edwards, 115 were still needed at nearly nine an over for the Dutch to qualify.

With ten overs left the asking rate for qualification had risen beyond ten, and although De Leede had reached a 55-ball half-century the Scots spinners, Michael Leask and Mark Watt, still had things well under control.

And then, with just eight overs remaining to that additional cut-off point, the tempo began to rise as De Leede and Zulfiqar started to find the boundary more consistently as well as increasingly deploying the Dutch trump card of positive, even aggressive running between the wickets.

With four overs left they finally hit the turbocharge button, De Leede hitting Watt first straight and then square for back-to-back sixes, the second taking him to 103 from just 84 deliveries (his second fifty thus coming from 29 balls), and Zulfiqar adding another before the over was finished.

Suddenly the equation was 23 runs from 18 deliveries, and when De Leede pumped Brandon McMullen for two more sixes in the following over only three were required from 12.

De Leede was run out by a side-on direct hit from Safyaan Sharif attempting the single which would have tied the scores, departing for a 92-ball 123 which included seven fours and five sixes, but it took only three more deliveries for the Dutch to complete their four-wicket victory with seven balls to spare.

It was an achievement which had appeared impossible forty minutes earlier, and one could only feel deeply sorry for the Scots, who had been in charge for much of the day and who had come so close to reaching the World Cup for the fourth time; their elimination, indeed, further reinforced the absurdity and injustice of the whole idea of a ten-team World Cup.

That, however, did not detract from the resilience and boldness of the Netherlands, who had come from behind to take part in their fifth such tournament.

They had started the day on a high, Logan van Beek bowling Matthew Cross through the gate with the fourth delivery of the match after Edwards had put Scotland in, but in favourable conditions for bowling the seamers failed to take full advantage, and one couldn’t help feeling that things might have been different had Fred Klaassen and Paul van Meekeren not been otherwise engaged.

Chris McBride made a solid 32, but the kernel of the Scottish innings was a fourth-wicket partnership of 137 between Brandon McMullen and skipper Richie Berrington, made at a run a ball, which laid the foundations for a total of 300 or more.

McMullen’s chanceless 106 was his second century of the tournament, made from 110 deliveries with 11 fours and three sixes, but once Ryan Klein had returned to remove him and the menacing Leask in successive overs, De Leede took over.

He bowled Berrington for 64, and then added the scalps of Chris Greaves and Watt, the latter bizarrely caught and bowled as he waited an eternity for a slow bouncer and then could only bunt it back to the bowler, and although Tomas Mackintosh contributed an invaluable, unbeaten, 28-ball 38, only 44 runs came from the final six overs.

So the Dutch knew that they had 44 overs to make 278, and Vikram Singh and Max O’Dowd gave them another great start, 57 coming from the initial powerplay.

The introduction of off-spinner Leask, however, changed the game’s aspect, as first O’Dowd and then Singh was trapped in front, and the scoring rate slowed .

McMullen and Greaves struck vital blows, removing Wesley Barresi and Teja Nidamanuru relatively cheaply, and at 108 for four the Dutch were well behind the required rate for victory, let alone qualification.

The arrival of Edwards brought a quickening of the tempo but then Edwards, whose 25 had come from just 23 deliveries, was LBW to Watt, and the game swung back in Scotland’s direction.

From there, though, De Leede, well supported by Zulfiqar, steadily brought the pendulum back the Netherlands’ way, and their partnership of 113, made from 69 deliveries, proved decisive.

The fact that one of these fine Associates sides has pushed through the narrow door to India is a huge triumph for the Associate game.

And the fact that only one of them will be there is a screaming rebuke to the money-men who run world cricket.

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