The Netherlands have produced some remarkable performances in World T20 Cups, but none had been more significant that Sunday’s 13-run victory over South Africa at the Adelaide Oval.
It was in every possible sense a magnificent team effort, all eleven players – or twelve if one includes the fielding of Shariz Ahmad when he came on as substitute for Fred Klaassen – making outstanding contributions, and it was a victory too for courage and determination as Scott Edwards’s side went toe-to-toe with their more highly favoured opponents from the very first delivery.
Steph Myburgh set the tone, facing a pace attack of which at least two were still in short trousers when he made his first-class debut for Northerns in January 2006 and unleashing a series of boundaries which saw the Dutch race to 48 without loss by the end of the initial powerplay.
He made a 30-ball 37, including seven fours, before holing out to Rilee Rossouw off Aiden Markram’s bowling, but Tom Cooper picked up where he had left off, lofting Markram over midwicket for six and then reverse-sweeping Keshav Maharaj over point for another.
O’Dowd had survived two reviews for leg-before when reversing against Markram, but he too played his part, hitting a six off Maharaj and making a 31-ball 29 before the left-armer had his revenge, a straight blow only going as far as Kagiso Rabada at long off.
Cooper followed in Maharaj’s next over, top-edging a pull and keeper Quinton de Kock safely under it when it came down; his 35 from 19 deliveries, though, had kept the scoreboard moving and created the platform for a demanding total.
Bas de Leede came in at five, and was thoroughly worked over by the outstanding Anrich Nortje, whose first two overs had yielded only five and who now took full advantage of any residual effects of the blow the Dutch all-rounder had received from Haris Rauf a week ago.
De Leede managed just a single before Nortje bowled him, and at 123 for four with only 17 balls left it seemed that the momentum issues which have afflicted the Dutch middle order in recent months might be about to return with a vengeance.
Colin Ackermann, however, had got a start, and together with Edwards added 31 crucial runs from the final three overs, hitting Parnell for two sixes in the last four deliveries of the innings, finishing with 41 not out from 26 balls; it was Edwards, though, who produced the most sensational shot of all, reverse scooping Rabada to the third man boundary.
Despite Nortje’s one for 10 from four overs, the most economical spell of the entire tournament, the momentum was with the Netherlands, and when Klaassen, after a slightly edgy start, had De Kock caught behind in the third over of the South African reply, it was evident that the chase would not be straightforward.
Then Paul van Meekeren, not for the first time, claimed a wicket with the final ball of the powerplay, bowling Temba Bavuma as he walked across his stumps trying to work a full delivery to leg, and South Africa were on 39 for two.
Edwards was shuffling his bowlers cleverly, Ackermann bowling the fourth and eighth overs and conceding just nine from them and Roelof van der Merwe going for five from the seventh, and although the dangerous Rossouw took 13 off Van der Merwe’s next his knock came to an end soon afterwards, Brandon Glover getting some extra bounce and Rossouw holing out to O’Dowd at deep square leg.
South Africa was not short of powerful batting, but two superb catches turned the game the Netherlands’ way: first Myburgh dived to his left at short cover to remove Markram off Klaassen, and then Van der Merwe, running away from the wicket at point and falling to his left, took what might well have been the catch of the tournament as David Miller top-edged Glover and departed for a run-a-ball 17.
Two balls and a wide later, Wayne Parnell was caught behind, and Glover had three for 9 from two overs as South Africa slumped to 113 for six.
Heinrich Klaasen and Maharaj needed 44 from the last four overs, but Logan van Beek and De Leede managed to cut out the boundaries, and when Klaasen was well caught by Van Beek off De Leede 39 were still required, now from 15 deliveries.
The Proteas’ cause was further hampered by a leg injury to Maharaj which left him able only to hobble between the wickets, and although he was able to hammer Van Beek over midwicket for six 26 were needed from the last.
With the pressure telling De Leede bowled a wide and a no ball, but only two came from the free hit, and when O’Dowd caught Maharaj off the penultimate ball the die had already been cast.
Nortje hit the last delivery for four, but the Dutch had pulled off a famous victory, and the celebrations had already begun.
The immediate beneficiaries of their win were Pakistan and Bangladesh, one of whom would now leapfrog South Africa into the semi-finals, and the Dutch themselves would have to wait to see whether a Pakistani victory, and an Indian win against Zimbabwe, would enable them to slip into fourth place on the group table and into the next World Cup.
It’s a measure of the ICC’s stupidity that they would otherwise be facing a European qualifier in which one of Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands would miss out, and very probably do so without some or all of their county-contracted players.
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