Facing one of the finest pace attacks in the world on a quick and bouncy Perth pitch was in its way as alien, and alienating, an experience for the Dutch side as taking on India in Sydney-cum-Mumbai had been, and it was soon evident on Sunday evening that the encounter with Pakistan at the Optus Stadium would be, if anything, even more one-sided.
The Dutch made three changes, opener Steph Myburgh replacing Vikram Singh, Roelof van der Merwe returning from injury and taking over from Shariz Ahmad, and Brandon Glover playing his first game of the tournament at the expense of Logan van Beek.
After Scott Edwards won the toss and elected to bat, the initial powerplay comprised six overs of unrelieved pace from Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim and Haris Rauf, impeccably bowling fast, straight and just short of a length, and by the end of it the batters had painfully accumulated just 19 runs for the wicket of Myburgh who, immediately after cracking Afridi to the point boundary, was undone by the steep bounce and top-edged a catch to Wasim at fine leg.
For Bas de Leede, moreover, the pain was sadly literal, for the penultimate delivery of the powerplay, a bouncer from Rauf, caught the shoulder of his bat and crashed into the grille of his helmet, cutting his cheekbone and forcing him to retire.
Spin now replaced speed, and Tom Cooper promptly pulled Shadab Khan’s first ball straight into the hands of Wasim at midwicket.
Shadab and Mohammad Nawaz proved no easier to get away than the pace men had been as Colin Ackermann joined Max O’Dowd, and when Shadab trapped O’Dowd in front in the ninth over the total was a disappointing 26 for three.
Ackermann and Edwards set about a partial recovery, and after nine had come from Shadab’s third over, including just the third boundary of the innings, skipper Babar Azam reverted to pace, Ackermann taking advantage by skillfully scooping him to the rope at the finest of fine legs.
The pair had now more than doubled the score, but when Shadab returned to bowl the fifteenth Ackermann attempted a reverse sweep, was struck on the knee roll, and departed for a run-a-ball 27 after an unsuccessful review.
With a three-figure total now a remote prospect the pacemen began to collect their reward: Edwards scooped Naseem to fine leg where Iftikhar Ahmed took the catch, and then Van der Merwe was beaten by Rauf’s pace and comprehensively bowled.
The Dutch had brought in Van Beek as a concussion substitute for De Leede, but at the other end Wasim produced two magnificent yorkers to remove Tim Pringle and Fred Klaassen with successive deliveries, bringing Paul van Meekeren to the crease.
He and Van Beek managed to add ten runs from the last nine balls of the innings, and the Dutch closed on 91 for nine as Van Meekeren was run out looking for a second to long on off the final delivery.
There was no weak link in the Pakistani attack, Shadab finishing with three for 22 and Naseem the most economical with one for 11 from his four; Rauf took one for 10 from three and Afridi one for 19 from four, while Wasim had two for 15 from three.
The Dutch had stood up well to an Afridi-less Pakistan in Rotterdam in August, but Perth in October had proved a very different proposition.
With one eye on the net run rate situation in a very tight group, Pakistan began what promised to be a straightforward chase in positive mood, but they suffered an early setback when Babar was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from Van der Merwe as he attempted a quick single to mid-on.
But bowling on a Perth track is almost as unique an experience as batting on it, and 21 came from Klaassen’s first two overs, while Van Meekeren, taking the new ball for the first time in the tournament, conceded ten from his first two, then 16 from three.
Mohammad Rizwan was looking in great touch, and although Brandon Glover started with just four from his first over, Pakistan were on 41 for one by the end of the powerplay.
Fakhar Zaman, after making 20 from 16 deliveries, fell to a magnificent catch by Edwards off Glover, the keeper diving away to his left as Fakhar flashed outside off stump, but Rizwan and Shan Masood continued confidently towards the target, Rizwan in particular pouncing on anything even slightly wayward.
The bowlers worked hard, however, and Van Meekeren secured a breakthrough when Rizwan, on 49, got an inside edge and Edwards dived forward to accept the catch; the opener had faced 39 deliveries and hit five fours – as many as the Dutch had managed in their whole innings.
Only nine were now needed, but with the scores level Masood edged Glover to Van Meekeren at deep third man, and it was left to Shadab to finish it off with an off drive for four two balls later.
With one for 19 from his four overs Van Meekeren was once more the stand-out bowler for the Dutch, while concussion substitute Van Beek conceded only nine from two and Glover justified his selection with two for 22.
Apart from anything else, this game gave the lie to the shibboleth that T20 evens the differences between sides: conditions undoubtedly played a large part here, but the truth is that if you lack the particular skills that the best players have mastered in the shortest format there is simply nowhere to hide.
And so the safari moves to Adelaide, where Zimbabwe and South Africa lie in wait.
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