It was a bitter-sweet victory for the Netherlands at Kardinia Park on Tuesday, with the brutal realities of Associates cricket fully in evidence as they squeezed out another final-over victory to beat Namibia by five wickets.
This second win took the Dutch to the top of the Group A table, but two tight matches leave them at a net run rate disadvantage with Sri Lanka still to play in their last group match on Thursday.
For much of their innings, chasing Namibia’s modest total of 121 for six, Scott Edwards’ side had seemed to be cruising to a comfortable victory, but when a direct hit from mid-off by Gerhard Erasmus found Max O’Dowd well short of the crease and the Dutch lost their second wicket, the complexion of the game changed radically.
On a drop-in pitch which strongly favoured the bowlers and with an outfield which could charitably be described as sluggish, the Dutch bowlers took full advantage of the conditions, restricting the Namibian batters to 33 for three in the powerplay and conceding just six fours and a single six across the twenty overs.
The initial phase could have been even more dramatic had an LBW decision against Stephan Baard off Paul van Meekeren’s final delivery of the powerplay been upheld on review, but he was rightly saved by a little inside edge which it seemed for a time might go unnoticed by TV umpire Marais Erasmus.
Van Meekeren had removed Nicol Loftie-Eaton earlier in that over, after Divan la Cock had fallen to Tim Pringle and Michael van Lingen had been removed by Colin Ackermann, both holing out to Bas de Leede, and when Baard eventually slog-swept Roelof van der Merwe to Fred Klaassen at deep midwicket Namibia had only 63 on the board and all four wickets had fallen to the spinners.
Namibia’s fortunes were partially restored by a 41-run partnership between Jan Frylinck, promoted to five after his display against Sri Lanka, and skipper Erasmus, but as they battled to up the tempo in the closing overs both fell to De Leede in the space of three deliveries, Frylinck finding Van Meekeren at long on and departing for a 48-ball 43 and Erasmus then bowled as he tried to make room to drive into the off side.
David Wiese and JJ Smit had only a handful of deliveries to exercise their hitting skills, and a succession of yorkers from Timm van der Gugten kept the scoring within bounds, even though the Namibian pair managed to squeeze 12 runs from his final over.
Van Meekeren was the most restrictive of the Dutch bowlers, just 18 coming from his four overs, while Klaassen and Pringle conceded only 15 apiece from their three.
Vikram Singh made light of the tricky conditions when the Netherlands replied, smacking Ben Shikongo for back-to-back sixes over midwicket in the fourth over, and by the end of the powerplay the total was already 51, Singh having made 36 of them from 24 deliveries.
The Dutch appeared to be in control even after he had gone for a 31-ball 39, holing out to Loftie-Eaton at deep midwicket off the admirable Bernard Scholtz, as O’Dowd and De Leede added a further 33 at a run a ball, and it seemed that they might knock off the remaining runs quickly enough to achieve a significant improvement in their NRR.
But Erasmus’s run-out of O’Dowd when he had made 35 from as many deliveries left 30 still needed from 6.1 overs, and when Smit dismissed first Tom Cooper and then Ackermann, the pressure was suddenly on the chasers.
Frylinck removed Edwards in the next over, the 17th and a wicket maiden, and four wickets had fallen in 17 balls for the addition of just 10 runs; now it was clear that the Netherlands would have to be content with making sure of victory.
Pringle joined De Leede, and a string of singles with an occasional double left the pair requiring six off Wiese’s final over.
A straight four for De Leede off the first delivery took much of the pressure off, and a two off the third gave the Dutch the points, leaving them to watch nervously as Sri Lanka set about recovering from their opening defeat and reversing their negative net run rate.
Frylinck’s four overs cost just 16 runs, while Erasmus conceded 13 from three and Scholtz went for 21 from his four.
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