That the Netherlands won the 2019 World T20 Qualifier in the UAE was not due to a dominant performance by one or two individuals, but to a sustained team performance which, with one exception, enabled them to come out on top even when circumstances seemed to be against them.
Although they had twice reached the final at previous tournaments – both, in Belfast in 2008 and Dublin in 2015, fell victim to the Irish weather before a ball could be played – in between the Dutch had been cast in the role of ‘nearly-men’, losing vital matches which cost them qualification in 2010 and 2012 and, with an expanded pathway, saw them reach the main event from fifth place in 2013.
But this time there was no stopping them, as they recovered from a five-wicket defeat by Papua New Guinea midway through the group stage to beat their traditional nemesis Ireland in the semi-final and then take the re-match against the Barramundis by six wickets in the final.
It did not make a huge difference whether they were defending a total or chasing one: four of their wins came through batting first, when they averaged a total of nearly 160, and three when they fielded first, restricting their opponents to an average of around 120.
Part of their success came from a strong four-man pace attack, Brandon Glover, Paul van Meekeren, Timm van der Gugten and Fred Klaassen taking fifty wickets between them, backed up by the left-arm darts of Roelof van der Merwe, who claimed 14 wickets and had the best economy rate of the Dutch bowlers at 5.23 per over.
Captain Pieter Seelaar, too, contributed with the ball, especially in the latter stages, his best performance three for 17 against Ireland in the semi-final.
As for the batting, they had a powerful opening pair in Max O’Dowd, who made 218 runs across the tournament with a strike rate of 103.80, and Ben Cooper, the leading run-scorer for the Dutch with 246 at 111.33.
But this pair was followed by the experienced Colin Ackermann, Ryan ten Doeschate and Van der Merwe, all of whom played crucial innings at intervals throughout the tournament.
It was this middle-order engine-room which enabled the side to come back from a perilous 65 for five when they were chasing Singapore’s modest 101, Ackermann making 34 not out and Van der Merwe 19 not out, and which took them to 158 for four against Ireland, with Ten Doeschate (43 not out from 25 deliveries) this time joining forces with Van der Merwe.
Rescue from a more unexpected quarter came in the loss to PNG, when an outstanding performance by the Barramundis’ bowlers had reduced the Dutch to 74 for seven; Van der Gugten had never previously made more than 13 in a T20I, but now he smacked an unbeaten 40 from just 21 deliveries.
It wasn’t enough to prevent defeat, but it spoke to the character of a team who worked hard for each other, whether in the field or at the crease.
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