Dutch teams may have become used to even their home games being played in front of overwhelmingly opposition supporters – their Super League series against England and Pakistan last summer were cases in point – but nothing could have prepared them for facing more than 36,000 flag-waving, chanting Indian fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
Egged on by roving TV cameramen and by the tournament organisers’ relentless hype of all things Indian, from the piped music to the advertising on the big screens, the enthusiasm of the crowd could have intimidated Scott Edwards’s side into a debacle, and that it did not is a tribute to the team’s character.
Indeed, in conditions in which South Africa had earlier plundered 205 from a much more experienced Bangladesh attack and then dismissed their opponents for 101 in only 16.3 overs, the Dutch bowlers could be proud of restricting the Indians to 179 for two, and even prouder of the fact that at the halfway point in their innings Virat Kohli’s men had reached just 67 for one.
It could have been even better had Tim Pringle not dropped Rohit Sharma off Fred Klaassen’s bowling when he had made 13; the Indian captain went on to make a 39-ball 53 which established an ideal platform for the onslaught from Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav which produced 95 runs from the final eight overs.
Paul van Meekeren was again the pick of the bowlers, achieving the initial breakthrough by trapping KL Rahul in front when the total was 11, while Pringle conceded just eight from his first two overs before coming in for some punishment from Kohli and Yadav.
But Klaassen produced his best effort of the tournament so far, and Shariz Ahmad showed great composure in his single over, going for only five; the bowlers were, moreover, backed up by some excellent ground-fielding, especially from Klaassen, Shariz and Ackermann in the deep.
Nothing could really contain Kohli and Yadav, however, who added that 95 from 49 deliveries, Kohli making 62 from 44 and his partner 51 from 25.
Facing a chase of nine an over, the Dutch were not helped by Bhuvneshwar Kumar starting with two maiden overs, the second of them including the wicket of Vikram Singh as the left-hander was bowled swinging across the line.
Max O’Dowd started positively, twice hitting Ashdeep Singh behind point for four and pulling Mohammed Shami over square leg, but then he tried to sweep Axar Patel’s second ball, missed, and departed for 16.
Bas de Leede and Ackermann more than doubled the score, but the asking rate was climbing past 13 an over as the Indian bowlers turned the screw, Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin conceding just 30 from six overs of spin between the 8th and the 13th for the wickets of De Leede, caught at point off Patel for 16 and Ackermann and Tom Cooper falling in the same Ashwin over, both caught on the boundary as they tried in vain to force the pace.
The lack of firepower in the Dutch middle order was once again painfully evident, although Pringle top-scored with 20, smacking Ashwin over the long on boundary in the process, and Shariz again showed splendid temperament, playing Kumar sweetly for four behind point off the first ball he received.
He and Van Meekeren thrived in the closing stages as the Indians perhaps took their foot off the pedal a little, although that was belied by Ashdeep Singh’s dismissal of Logan van Beek and Klaassen with successive deliveries, the former attempting to pull a quick bouncer, the latter undone on review by a magnificent yorker.
Still, the Dutch managed to use their 20 overs as they finished on 123 for nine, Van Meekeren finishing with a flourish as he hit Arshdeep for three fours off the final deliveries of the innings.
With two for 18 and two for 21 respectively Patel and Ashwin tied up the middle overs, but Kumar’s two for 9 from three overs – 14 dot balls in 18 deliveries – was an outstanding effort, and Arshdeep had two for 25 before Van Meekeren’s mini-onslaught.
The 56-run margin, huge in a T20I, was a fair reflection of the difference between the sides, perhaps even flattering the Dutch a little, but they deserved credit for the way in which they stood up to one of the best outfits in the world in the SCG cauldron.
It may not be much comfort to them that their next assignment is against Pakistan in Perth.
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