The Netherlands’ weight of experience and reserves of resilience were on full display at the Bulawayo Athletic Ground on Friday as they withstood a spirited challenge from the United States and duly qualified for their fifth T20 World Cup with a seven-wicket victory.
Both innings began with the Americans in charge, but twice the Dutch fought back to show that cohesive teamwork and the individual brilliance of Bas de Leede were too much for opponents who crumbled in the face of the tournament’s flinty sudden-death format.
Qualifying for Australia at the end of the year will give Scott Edwards’s men the chance to redeem themselves after last year’s Debacle in the Desert, and with the KNCB under new management there is every reason to hope that it will be a well-prepared and match-ready Dutch squad which takes the field in either Hobart or Geelong at the end of October.
It was the United States who initially seemed be heading for Australia after Monank Patel won the toss and elected to bat: by contrast with the Dutch bowlers’ outstanding start against Uganda the day before, Steven Taylor set the tone by despatching Fred Klaassen to the boundary three times in the opening over, and by the end of five overs the total had rocketed to 51 without loss.
Paul van Meekeren, returning to the side after being rested on Thursday, removed Taylor with his first delivery, but the powerplay ended with the Americans on 60 for one, and the Dutch needed to draw on all their experience to regain the momentum.
In fact it was the least-experienced member of the side, 19-year-old leg-spinner Shariz Ahmad, who struck the next blow, Monank Patel, on 32, hammering a long hop down the throat of Logan van Beek on the midwicket boundary, and when De Leede took a return catch to remove Gajanand Singh four balls later the pressure started to switch to the US side.
That told when a sharp return from Teja Nidamanuru removed Aaron Jones, the first of no fewer than four run-outs in the innings after a dreadful misunderstanding, and now the Dutch started to exert their discipline: Duvvarapu Siva Kumar was run out in the next over, and then De Leede produced a splendid yorker to dismiss Marty Kane.
61 for one had become 98 for five with six overs left, and although Nisarg Patel mounted a rearguard action with a 23-ball 28, when he became the fourth run-out and Saurabh Netravalkar fell to a brilliant one-handed catch by Klaassen at long on the innings closed on a disappointing 138.
Van Meekeren finished with two for 22 from four overs in his hundredth match in dayglo orange and De Leede two for 23 from three in his fiftieth, but Klaassen, the hero of the Uganda game with five for 19, went wicketless this time.
Defending this low total the Americans needed early wickets, and the estimable Netravalkar duly obliged by removing Steph Myburgh before there was a run on the board.
Then Nisarg Patel accepted a return catch from Max O’Dowd, and when Tom Cooper holed out to Jaskaran Malhotra off Cameron Stevenson the Dutch were on 62 for three after eight overs and again needing to turn the game around.
41 of those runs, though, had come from the bat of De Leede, who had already hit two fours and two sixes and who appeared to be immune to the nerves which everyone else was suffering from in the pressure of the moment.
He was now joined by skipper Scott Edwards, who calmly proceeded to rotate the strike, giving De Leede the scope to take on the increasingly rattled American attack; he reached his fifth international half-century off just 33 deliveries, and although Nisarg Patel contributed a steady spell with one for 25, and Netravalkar and Stevenson also bowled well, the asking rate was now under six an over and the Dutch were cruising.
It was, fittingly, De Leede who hit the winning run with an over to spare; he ended on 91 from 67 balls, with nine fours and three sixes, while Edwards, whose innings was the perfect counterfoil, made 26 from 25 with a single boundary.
The Netherlands’ opponents in Sunday’s final will be hosts Zimbabwe, who had to overcome a strong challenge from Papua New Guinea after posting 199 for five at the Queen’s Sports Club.
Wessley Madhevere top-scored with 42 from 29 deliveries for Zimbabwe, with skipper Craig Ervine making 38, Regis Chakabva 30 and useful contributions from Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams and Milton Shumba reinforcing the power of the home side’s batting line-up.
PNG were soon in trouble at 34 for three, but Tony Ura took the battle to the Zimbabwean attack with a 35-ball 66 which included four fours and five sixes, and with Charles Amini (31) providing excellent support the Barramundis were for a time ahead of the required rate.
Ura’s departure five overs from the end, however, swung the game back Zimbabwe’s way, and a fine spell from Blessing Muzarabani, who took two for 24, ensured that PNG fell short, the innings ending on 172 for eight to give Zimbabwe a 27-run victory.
Ura deservedly had the consolation of the Player of the Match award.
In the matches to settle fifth to eighth places Hong Kong beat Singapore by seven wickets, while in a thrilling climax to the other game Jersey narrowly failed to chase down Uganda’s total of 110 to lose by just 5 runs.
You’re reading Emerging Cricket — brought to you by a passionate group of volunteers with a vision for cricket to be a truly global sport, and a mission to inspire passion to grow the game.
Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, please subscribe for regular updates, and follow EC on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Don’t know where to start? Check out our features list, country profiles, and subscribe to our podcast.
Support us from US$2 a month — and get exclusive benefits, by becoming an EC Patron.