Dutch left to ponder what might have been

Netherlands celebrate the wicket of Harry Brook. Photo Credit: @KNCBcricket on X

It was the kind of umpiring situation that DRS was introduced to prevent, and this time that system signally failed; the result was a reprieve for England’s Ben Stokes which, while it may not have cost a battling Netherlands side the game, certainly contributed substantially to the magnitude of their 160-run defeat in Pune on Wednesday.

The moment could scarcely have been more loaded: the Dutch had fought their way back from another profligate powerplay to reduce England to 192 for six, Stokes and Chris Woakes had gone into the last ten overs at 215 for six, and by time Aryan Dutt began his final over with six to go, Stokes has just starting to unleash the kind of onslaught that takes the total well beyond pursuit.

He had just hit a four and a six to make it 257, and then he missed a reverse sweep, overbalanced, and was struck on the pad, at first glance arguably plumb.

On-field umpire Rod Tucker gave it not out, Edwards reviewed, and although the pictures seemed to show a clear gap between bat and ball, there were sufficient ‘grumblings’ on Ultraedge for TV umpire Marais Erasmus to rule that ‘I’ve got bottom edge and potentially glove as well’.

It’s true that the Ultraedge line was not completely flat, and that the DRS protocol requires there to be sufficient evidence for the man upstairs to have ‘a high degree of confidence’ that the original decision was incorrect, but repeated viewings appear to confirm that the ball did not touch the bat, and leave one wondering about that ‘potential glove’.

The fact is, though, that Dutt’s next delivery was a high full toss which went for six, followed by the free hit, so that 13 came from those two deliveries, and from that crucial moment Stokes, who was on 68 at the time, added 50 runs from 17 more deliveries, England adding a crushing 93 in all from the final six overs.

That is not to say that the Dutch did not contribute to their own misfortune with some poor death bowling, less disastrous than their effort against Australia but still conceding 13 wides in the last five overs and going for another 40 in boundaries.

It left them chasing England’s 339 for nine, and it undid some fine work in the middle overs, when they pressured their opponents with accurate bowling backed up by another disciplined display of fielding.

Although the middle order again stumbled, Dawid Malan took full advantage of the Dutch waywardness early on with an aggressive 87 before he was run out, and the Stokes-Woakes partnership, which added 65 before the LBW-that-wasn’t and another 64 after it, was another of those game-changing stands which have so often made the difference in this World Cup.

Nor should one underestimate the value of Woakes’s own contribution, his 45-ball 51 his sixth ODI half-century, while Stokes’s 108 was his fifth three-figure innings in ODIs.

Colin Ackermann was again the most economical of the Dutch bowlers, his seven overs going for just 31, Paul van Meekeren was again outstanding before the final mayhem, and Bas de Leede picked up three for 74.

Notably, though, England’s pace attack of Woakes, David Willey and Gus Atkinson were able to produce the kind of lateral movement which had eluded the Dutch, and Wesley Barresi, Max O’Dowd, Ackermann and Sybrand Engelbrecht all struggled in a powerplay which yielded just 23 runs (by contrast with England’s 70) for the wickets of O’Dowd and Ackermann.

There were a couple of promising partnerships, Barresi and Engelbrecht adding 55 for the third wicket before the former was run out in the Netherlands’ tenth such dismissal of the tournament and Edwards and Teja Nidamanuru putting on 59 for the sixth.

But the asking rate crept inexorably upwards, and once Edwards, who had made 38, holed out to mid-off off Moeen Ali, it all ended disappointingly abruptly.

The last five wickets, indeed, fell to Ali and Adil Rashid for just 16 runs as the Dutch were dismissed for 179; Nidamanuru, restored to the side, was left not out on 41, while Ali and Rashid finished with three for 42 and three for 54 respectively.

It was another curate’s egg performance, well short of the standard Edwards’s side had achieved against South Africa and Bangladesh, and the sad truth is that cricket’s enemies of growth will choose to remember this and the Australia match rather than those epic performances.

For better or worse, though, Dutch chances of reaching the Champions Trophy are not yet quite dead: all they have to do in their final match is cause the greatest upset in World Cup history by seeing off unbeaten, and seemingly unbeatable, India in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Now that really would be a never-to-be-forgotten final flourish!

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