Dutch pull off epic T20I run chase

The Dutch completed their highest successful run chase in men's T20I history in an epic at the TU Ground.

Scorecard Summary: The Netherlands 209/7 at 19.3 (Bas De Leede 81*, Ben Cooper 55, Sandeep Lamichhane 4-48) beat Nepal 206/6 at 20 (Kushal Bhurtel 62, DS Airee 60, Pieter Seelaar 2/37, Vivian Kingma 2/44) by 3 wickets with 3 balls remaining.

It was one of the greatest days of Associate cricket action Tuesday at the TU International Ground in Kathmandu. Visitors the Netherlands chased their highest target ever in T20Is, chasing 207 with just 3 wickets with 3 balls to spare. 

The match was played behind the closed doors of TU ground amidst Covid-19, without thousands of spectators who could play the role of the 12th man for the hosts.

Nepalese Cricket fans climb trees to witness live match in the TU Ground

Nepal, who won the toss and chose to bat first, pinned up a mammoth total of 207 runs on the board, losing six wickets. It was once again the Kushal Bhurtel, who became the first man to score consecutive half-centuries in their first three career T20I matches. 

After dominance in his first two matches, his third innings was no different. Although his opening partner Aasif Sheikh (0) with whom he shared two hundred-run partnerships previously departed early, he took the onus and guided the team score to 60 for 1 at the end of the powerplay. 

Kushal Bhurtel celebrates his third consecutive half century in T20Is. (Photo: CAN)

Skipper Gyanendra Malla scored 20 runs in 14 balls before being caught by de Leede, at deep mid-wicket, off opposing skipper Pieter Seelaar. But it was the 78-run partnership between Bhurtel and vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee at the middle overs that gave Nepal a solid foundation to score big on the batting-friendly wicket. Kushal Bhurtel scooped the first two balls in the 15th over off Vivian Kingma scoring consecutive boundaries, just before de Leede took a sublime catch next ball, at mid-wicket. Bhurtel scored 62 off 46 that included 8 fours and a six which he whipped into the long-off in the last ball of thirteenth over off young Aryan Dutt’s ball. 

In the 16th over, Airee dominated Seelaar firing two successive big sixes, one over the deep midwicket and the next, straight over the bowler’s head. Seelaar bowled a short ball in the next ball, luring Airee to go for a big once again, but this time, the ball found a top edge and landed straight to the hands of Tobias Visee who was positioned at backward square leg. Airee’s quickfire 60 off 30 balls included three boundaries and five sixes. On the next two balls of the over, Kushal Malla smashed sixes one after another over the deep midwicket and at long-on. Seelaar conceded 24 runs in a single over picking a wicket. Nepal scored 82 runs losing 2 wickets at the middle overs reaching 166/4 until at the end of the 16th over. 

Dipendra Singh Airee celebrates his half century. Photo: CAN

At the death overs, Nepal added 54 runs losing 3 wickets, proceeding the score to 206/6 with Sompal’s cameo of 21*(13) that included two boundaries and a six. The story was only half-over with hundreds of fans outside the gate and at trees almost predicting Nepal another straight win. 

Chasing a stiff target of 207 runs, the opener Max O’Dowd survived an early chance off the second ball of the innings with Sompal bowling a no-ball. Unlike Bhurtel in the tournament opener, Maxi could not really make the most out of it as he couldn’t escape an LBW off Lamichhane’s googly in the third ball of the second over, returning back to the Pavilion for just 9.

Ben Cooper, the new man on the crease left no mercy to the Nepalese bowlers, hitting boundaries all over the park. However, in the third ball of the sixth over, Lamichhane’s googly produced another wicket ceasing the 51-run partnership between Cooper and Visee for the second wicket. Visee (15), who came down the track was successfully stumped by Binod Bhandari. 

Sandeep Lamcihhane after picking up the wicket of Max O’Dowd. Photo: CAN

At the end of the Powerplay, the Dutch reached 71 for 1 as Cooper raced for his individual fifty, scoring 36 off 17. Yet, not a single six was being hit by the team in the powerplay despite having a flying start. The Dutch seemed shaky chasing the mammoth total, though the next partnership between Ben Cooper and de Leede became vital. The duo shared a 68-run partnership for the third wicket to lay a foundation. Cooper’s knock of 55 off 35 balls came to an end in the fifth ball of the fourteenth over, as the ball found a top edge trying to sweep off Lamichhane. Airee caught Cooper at the backward square leg sending him off towards the pavilion.

At this stage, the Dutch were 133/3 still needing 71 runs off 39 runs with de Leede batting at the crease for 39 off 25 balls and was joined by young Aryan Dutt who was supposed to be a big hitter. 

Ben Cooper raises his bat after completing his half century. (Photo: CAN)

After Lamichhane’s wicket-taking spell, the Nepalese skipper introduced his seventh bowling option, the left-arm spinner, Kushal Malla, in the fourteenth over. The first two balls were dots and the third ball he bowled, Aryan slogged the fuller length ball towards the deep midwicket and everyone’s eyes focused on Dipendra Singh Airee who sprinted for yards and took the most spectacular catch of the day to send off Aryan for a duck. Kushal Malla bowled four crucial dot balls and single and that took the equation to 73 runs of 36 balls.

Bas De Leede raises his bat after scoring his half century. Photo: CAN

De Leede completed his half-century in 32 balls on the 16th over scoring a straight boundary off Kushal Malla. The Dutch sides scored 71 runs in the middle overs losing just two wickets, the score exactly matching that in the powerplay.  After the sixteenth, the visitors needed 53 from 24 balls. De Leede found the only boundary in Abinash Bohara’s last ball slicing a wide yorker towards the point boundary. The equation reduced to 45 from 18 balls for the Dutch.

Nepalese skipper Malla introduced Lamichhane in the 18th over, but the visiting captain Pieter Seelaar dominated Lamichhane right from the first ball, smacking consecutive three sixes off three balls; one straight, next to deep mid-wicket and one over cover. On the next ball, Seelaar ran for two and lost his wicket, though all the damage was done. He was caught by Malla at cover after scoring 31 off 15 balls including one four and three sixes. Seelaar reduced the equation to 25 from 12 balls with De Leede still at the crease on 56 off 36 balls. 

De Leede took on the first ball in the 19th and hammered a fuller length ball of Abinash Bohara over the long-off for a six. The next two balls single and double, and the fourth ball, Scott Edwards finds a top edge and Lamichhane catches beautifully at the short third man. Bohara’s thought processes seemed correct in bowling yorkers but the executions went poor with de Leede on striking the next two balls for 10 runs. With the end of this over, the equations reduced to run-a-ball for the Dutch in the final over.  

Karan KC dismissed Tony Staal for a golden duck, but over the next two balls, de Leede pulled and dabbed for two boundaries, to chase the target of 207 runs with three balls to spare.

Bas De Leede was awarded Man of the Match in playing one of the spectacular innings under pressure, in what will be remembered as one of the greatest T20I run chases in history. 

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