Bowlers in charge in Dallas, but O’Dowd sees Dutch home

Logan Van Beek closes the door on Nepal with consecutive wickets.

It was the bowlers who were the star attraction at the ambitiously-named Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium in Dallas on Wednesday as the Netherlands, having dismissed Nepal for a mere 106, were made to work hard all the way to a six-wicket victory.

After more rain overnight the ground staff proved a fine support act, ensuring that the start was delayed by only half an hour, and it was the overhead conditions and their own skill which gave the Dutch attack a crucial edge after Scott Edwards won the toss and put Nepal in.

Viv Kingma produced prodigious, at times almost excessive swing, but his colleagues in the Netherlands’ pace quartet, Logan van Beek, Paul van Meekeren and Bas de Leede, were equally effective, while Tim Pringle’s four overs of left-arm spin earned him the Player of the Match award.

Kingma, in fact, was the only one who was not rewarded with a wicket despite his repeatedly beating the bat, and if there might have been a question mark against the decision to bowl him out rather than keeping an over in reserve for the death, it turned out not to matter, as by the time that point was reached all Nepal’s power hitters were back in the dugout.

Edwards was again a commanding figure in the field, managing his bowlers with aplomb and setting fields to such effect that the ball seldom found its way into a gap.

Pringle’s initial wicket was a case in point: when Aasif Sheikh tried swung across the line, the top edge flew straight to Kingma at a shortish third man, and he literally did not have to move from a position which seemed to have been invented for the purpose.

Thereafter, almost every bowling change seemed to produce a wicket, only Nepalese captain Rohit Paudel mastering the conditions sufficiently to mount an effective resistance.

His 37-ball knock of 35, during which he saw four partners removed at the other end, was almost solely responsible for his side reaching triple figures, although Gulshan Jha, who struck Nepal’s first six in the 16th over, and Karan KC, whose cameo of 17 from 12 deliveries was book-ended with sixes off Van Beek and De Leede, chipped in towards the end.

Pringle finished with three for 20 and Van Beek three for 18, while Van Meekeren’s two for 19 and De Leede’s two for 22 illustrated just how much of a team performance this was.

A target of 107 gave the Nepalese attack almost nothing to work with, but Karan KC and Sompal Kami, spurred on by an enthusiastic and overwhelmingly Nepalese crowd, created immediate pressure, and Kami was rewarded when the first aggressive stroke of the reply saw Michael Levitt’s shot fly straight to Dipendra Singh Airee at cover.

Then, for a few overs, it looked as if the Dutch batters might be getting on top, as Vikram Singh unleashed a succession of boundaries, one square drive as splendid a shot as we had seen all day, and Max O’Dowd also began to play with greater freedom as the pair put on 40 for the second wicket.

But then, soon after being dropped off the bowling of Abinash Bohara, Singh tried to sweep Airee and was trapped in front, departing for 22.

O’Dowd and Sybrand Engelbrecht now added 28 precious runs, although Nepal’s six bowlers succeeded in almost eliminating the boundaries and confining the scoring to singles and the occasional two.

But with the required rate barely rising above six an over it was wickets Nepal desperately needed, and the breakthrough came in the most fortuitous of ways: O’Dowd drove Kami back hard and straight, the bowler got a fingertip to the ball, deflecting it into the stumps, and Engelbrecht had no time to dive back into his crease.

By this time O’Dowd had reached 32, and although Edwards did not stay long, bowled as he made room to cut Bohara, De Leede and O’Dowd continued to pick off the singles, leaving the Dutch needing 19 off the last three three overs.

O’Dowd had a moment of good fortune when, at last attempting a big shot, he was dropped by Paudel at long off, a lapse which almost certainly did not change the outcome but which would have brought another new batter to the crease, and as Bohara began the penultimate over the Dutch opener decided to finish it quickly, pulling him for four and then for the six which took him to his thirteenth T20I half-century.

A single brought De Leede on strike, and he drove Bohara through the covers for four to complete with win with eight balls to spare.

The Nepalese bowlers had fought hard all the way, succeeded in limiting the net run rate damage, but O’Dowd’s unbeaten 54, from 48 deliveries, made the difference in the end.

Both sides now face Bangladesh, South Africa and Sri Lanka in what is a very tough group indeed, with the Dutch moving to New York to take on South Africa on Saturday and Nepal waiting until next Wednesday, when they meet Sri Lanka in Lauderhill.


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