Feature image: Sander Tholen
A much more focused Pakistani side asserted their superiority over their hosts at the Hazelaarweg in Rotterdam on Thursday, dismissing the Netherlands for 186 and cruising to a seven-wicket victory with more than 16 overs to spare.
Coaches like to talk about ‘finding the positives’ and to be sure, there were passages of play in which the Dutch competed effectively, notably a fine fourth-wicket partnership of 109 between Bas de Leede and Tom Cooper which raised the prospect of the side setting a competitive total, and the first four overs of the Pakistan reply, when Viv Kingma, backed up by the accuracy of Aryan Dutt, removed both openers in the space of five deliveries.
But in all honesty, that was as good as it got for the few Dutch supporters in a disappointingly small Thursday crowd.
There were moments when it threatened to be worse, particularly when Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah, after Scott Edwards had won the toss and elected to bat, reduced the home side to 8 for three within the first 20 deliveries of the match: Vikram Singh caught behind by Mohammad Rizwan off Naseem, Max O’Dowd pushing a dolly to Babar Azam at mid-off off Rauf, and then Wesley Barresi having his off stump sent cartwheeling by Naseem.
Total disaster loomed, and had a De Leede snick off the second ball he received been held at second slip it would have been 8 for four.
From the moment Cooper flicked Naseem for six over fine leg, however, Dutch spirits began to rise, although there was a nasty moment four balls later, when Naseem accepted a return catch from Cooper, only to find that he had been called for overstepping.
All in all, it had been a dramatic first half-hour, but gradually Cooper, who reached his second successive half-century in the 17th over, this time at a run a ball, and a much more cautious De Leede, gained a measure of control, and it was the 26th over before Cooper, on 66 – one more than he had made on Tuesday – miscued a shot off Mohammad Nawaz and was caught and bowled.
From there on it was mostly downhill, with De Leede watching partners come and go: Edwards was unable to repeat his heroics from Tuesday, caught behind off Nawaz; Teja Nidamanuru lasted just two deliveries before edging Rauf to Rizwan; Logan van Beek put up greater resistance but eventually fell to Shadab Khan; Tim Pringle was trapped in front by a Mohammad Wasim yorker; and Dutt bowled by Nawaz.
The Dutch had gone from 117 for three to 166 for nine, and it was left to last man Viv Kingma to hold up an end as De Leede, now on 69, tried to push the total as high as possible.
He did so to some effect, hitting Wasim for six over long on and then belting Nawaz into the water beyond deep midwicket, and one began to wonder whether he might not contrive to post the Netherlands’ first ODI century since Barresi’s 137 not out against Kenya in 2014.
Wasim had been producing prodigious reverse swing, but when he was replaced by Rauf De Leede immediately tried to loft him over long off and holed out to Fakhar Zaman; the young Dutchman had made 89 from 120 deliveries, hitting two fours and three sixes.
That gave Rauf figures of three for 16, Naseem taking two for 27 and Wasim one for 42, while Nawaz took three for 42.
Kingma then pulled off his double coup, running the length of the pitch to accept a return catch from Zaman and then seeing Imam drive him hard and square to Van Beek at point, but Babar arrived in imperious form, defying an outfield slowed down by overnight rain to race to 34, posting six boundaries in the first half-dozen overs he received.
He was well supported by Rizwan, although the Pakistani keeper had a stroke of good fortune when Edwards missed a stumping chance off the admirable Dutt when he was on 18.
Four overs later Babar fell to a splendid catch at deep midwicket by De Leede as Dutt dropped short for once and Babar mistimed his pull shot; the Pakistan captain had made a 65-ball 57.
88 runs were still needed as Agha Salman joined Rizwan, who had a second escape soon afterwards, given not out to a Pringle arm ball which ball-tracking adjudged was clipping leg stump.
Salman now took over the more aggressive role, while Rizwan moved steadily on to his sixth ODI half-century (his eighth if you include the two occasions he has gone on to a hundred), reaching that milestone from 72 deliveries.
He relaxed somewhat after that, but it was Salman who finished things off when Kingma made a long-delayed return to the attack, hammering two boundaries before lifting him over the midwicket rope to pass Pakistan’s target and post a maiden ODI fifty, made from just 35 deliveries with five fours and two sixes; Rizwan remained not out on 69.
Dutt and De Leede were again the pick of the Dutch bowlers, Kingma’s initial spell apart, both going at below five an over, but Pakistan’s batters were largely untroubled as they chased down a modest target, and it will take a massive effort from Scott Edwards’s team if they are to run their opponents close in the final match on Sunday.
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