With the four qualifying sides already decided after this morning’s thrilling escapade between Papua New Guinea and Kenya, the outcome of Netherlands v Scotland would decide whether Papua New Guinea or Netherlands (if victorious by a significant enough margin) would top the group and thus achieve automatic qualification to the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Winning the toss, the Netherlands put Scotland in to bat – a move that made perfect sense considering it would give them knowledge of how they would need to chase to achieve table topper status. With a big heave from George Munsey playing across the line and missing, Scotland lost their first wicket courtesy of Colin Ackermann, failing to get off to the start they would have desired from their big-hitting opener.
With Munsey’s wicket came in Matthew Cross, playing at number 3 for the first time in the competition. Cross and skipper Kyle Coetzer established a partnership, rotating the strike against restrictive bowling from the Netherlands, waiting for the loose balls. Coetzer, upon receiving a short and wide gift outside off from van der Gugten, cut the ball behind point to register his first boundary and lead his side to 17/1. A few balls later, Cross joined his skipper with consecutive boundaries – one off a good length ball outside off that he mis-hit through the slip cordon, and the other a delicious straight drive. Continuing the philosophy of “putting away the loose deliveries,” the pair rotated the strike to find boundaries off van Meekeren, van der Merwe and Ackermann, including Cross hitting Ackermann for two fours and a six in the 6th over.
With Scotland looking rebuilt at 55/1 from 7 overs, Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar came in to bowl. With a short of a good length delivery, skipper Coetzer slogged straight over the bowler, only to be caught by van der Gugten comfortably at long on, dismissing the skipper for 17 off 17, and ending a partnership of 46 runs. Lasting just 2 balls, Calum MacLeod fell to Ben Glover via an lbw that caught a clear inside edge, continuing Scotland’s terrible luck with ICC tournaments that inexplicably lack DRS. Responsibility squarely on experienced all rounder Richie Berrington’s shoulders, the duo manoeuvered a sluggish pitch and accurate bowling utilising cuts, flicks, drives and even the odd defensive shot to rotate the strike off Glover, Seelaar, van der Merwe and van der Gugten. Amassing a partnership of 30 by the start of the 14th over, van der Merwe pitched a fuller ball on the leg stump to Berrington, who lofted it to van der Gugten at long on, failing to make an adequate connection and finding himself dismissed for 16 off 17 with Scotland on 90/4 from 14.
Michael Leask could not give Cross the partner he required, surviving four balls before pulling a high, slower back-of-the-hand delivery for which Ben Cooper at long on put in an impressive last-minute dive to grab. Leask made 4 from 5 balls. Craig Wallace’s stay at the crease was also brief – looking to take on a faster delivery from Seelaar, coming forward and missing, only to be hit on the front pad for LBW with no DRS needed. Cross’ valiant efforts, consisting of 52 runs from 44 balls, including five fours and a six, came to an end on the next delivery from van der Gugten. Trying to dab at a short delivery outside off, Visee dove to his right at gully, completing a great grab. With Josh Davey and Safyaan Sharif the new batsmen at the crease with just under 4 overs remaining, Davey and Sharif hit three fours between them, with Glover eliciting an edge through to the keeper from Sharif who contributing 10 from 10 balls to the score with Scotland posting 130 on the board.
With the Netherlands requiring 131, all eyes were on the equation required to push the Dutch net run rate above Papua New Guinea’s – including the PNG side themselves, observing the unfolding match eagerly from the stands. Needing to complete their chase within 12.3 overs to top the group, the Dutch sent in Tobias Visee and Max O’Dowd to open the batting. Safyaan Sharif, task in mind, sent down a tough over to Visee who faltered on the fifth ball, pushing the ball high for Davey to take a catch at long on, bringing in Ben Cooper.
With Cooper and O’Dowd’s record stand from their previous match still in the minds of the Netherlands fans, a repeat performance was not to be – Ali Evans sent down a short of good length delivery that O’Dowd pulled straight to mid-on where the safe hands of Calum Macleod were at the ready, being dismissed for 5 off 8. With the Netherlands on 17-2 midway through the 4th over, it seemed that a table topping performance was not on the cards as Colin Ackermann came to the crease. Ben Cooper, however, remained determined, meeting a delivery from Sharif by making room and smashing it to the cover boundary for four, then hoiking a full delivery over long on for six. His heroics were short-lived, chasing a wide one from Davey and sending it through to the keeper, Cross and displaying Watt and Cross’ two man celebration – potentially one of the best bro-shakes in global sports. Cooper made 21 off 15, bringing in T20 veteran Ryan ten Doeschate. Quick to work, ten Doeschate defended the first ball then took a quick two past point before he pulled a short delivery to square leg for four. In his characteristic manner, ten Doeschate began mixing up effortless looking big hitting with quick running, taking 7 off his first over, adding 11 to the scorecard in his second.
In the 8th over, Scotland brought Mark Watt on to bowl, utilising their seamers longer than usual thanks to Richie Berrington’s bowling to try and maximise the on-pitch conditions. The scoring rate slowed, with the Netherlands only obtaining 5 runs from Watt’s over, including a delivery which could have gone on to hit the stumps if the batsman was not over 3 metres outside of the crease. With only 3.5 overs remaining to make 76 runs to achieve automatic qualification, ten Doeschate decided to accelerate against Ali Evans. He flicked a full delivery over midwicket for six in an effortless fashion, ran singles and twos, and then pulled a half-tracker for six over deep square leg, running another two thanks to a deft flick off the final delivery of the over to rack up 18 from the 9th over. In the 10th over, Ackermann came to the party with a six off Berrington’s first delivery, a four pulled over deep midwicket and a scoop over the keeper for another four. With the same swift pace that the Netherlands looked like they might achieve an accelerated run chase, Ackermann’s innings came to an end. Watt angled in a ball in from his characteristic wide-of-the-crease delivery, beating Ackermann who made a nifty 22 off 15 and sending in van der Merwe.
With van der Merwe’s innings lasting a mere two balls, thanks to a fuller ball from Watt, sent straight to MacLeod at deep midwicket, an accelerated chase seemed an impossible achievement, even with ten Doeschate still at the crease. Seemingly as a marker of PNG’s victorious group stage, another Dutch wicket fell at 12.3 overs, with Watt inducing skipper Seelaar’s stumping. With cheers resonating around the ground from the PNG players and their team, Scott Edwards came out, resolute to partner ten Doeschate to attain the remaining 30 runs needed for victory and second place in the group, which they obtained with ease. Netherlands sealed a comfortable victory by 4 wickets with 18 balls remaining.
One can’t help but wonder whether a different result in this morning’s match would have lit a fire under the Scottish, and how they would have played differently if there weren’t guaranteed going to the Play-Offs. One also can’t help but wonder if Ryan ten Doeschate had more balls to face, or a greater proportion of the strike, whether he would have taken the Netherlands to their goal within 12.3 overs. But such is cricket – if wishes were fishes, we’d all swim in riches.
Pieter Seelaar, receiving player of the match and becoming the first Dutch player to reach 50 wickets in T20 internationals.
Ryan ten Doeschate for a characteristic 51* off 35 balls – his 33rd in T20 cricket.
Ben Cooper and Colin Ackermann for assisting their senior player with a respective 21 off 15 balls and 22 off 15 balls to achieve the target.
Matthew Cross for a standout 54 off 44, batting with a total of 5 partners.
Mark Watt whose bowling was head and shoulders above his peers, taking 3 wickets for 18 runs from his 4 overs.
Netherlands will be playing in the first Qualifying Play-Off against the UAE on Tuesday at 10:10am. The loser of the Play-Off will face Scotland on Wednesday.