It was, after all, their urgent, determined running between the wickets during the Qualifier in Zimbabwe which had been instrumental in getting the Netherlands to this World Cup in the first place.
But their judgement and luck deserted them in Lucknow on Friday, as they equalled their own unwanted record with no fewer than four run-outs and were dismissed for 179 by Afghanistan, who went on to win this crucial encounter by seven wickets.
The first of those four, to be fair, was due to a stroke of brilliance by Azmatullah Omarzai at deep fine leg: Max O’Dowd glanced a legside delivery from Mohammad Nabi, and Azmat covered a lot of ground to gather the ball and throw down the stumps from just inside the boundary as O’Dowd, never the quickest between the wickets, dived despairingly as he tried to get back for a second.
That put the Dutch on 73 for two, and it was all the more galling because O’Dowd, who had had a poor tournament with the bat so far, had rediscovered his mojo with a fine 40-ball 42 and, assisted by some wayward bowling from Mujeeb ur Rahman and Fazalhaq Farooqi, had added 70 for the second wicket with Colin Ackermann in just eleven overs.
With illness running through the squad the Dutch had had to juggle their side, with Vikram Singh omitted and Wesley Barresi promoted to open, but he had been trapped in front by Mujeeb in an opening over which gave little hint of what was to follow in the rest of the powerplay, at 66 for one the Netherlands’ most productive so far.
If O’Dowd’s dismissal gave credit to the fielder, the second, seven overs later after Nabi had switched ends, was pure kamikaze cricket: Sybrand Engelbrecht played the ball firmly to Rashid Khan and called Ackermann through for an impossible single, giving his partner no chance of making his ground, breaking another promising stand.
Worse was to follow, for Scott Edwards, swept at and missed Nabi’s next delivery, overbalanced, and was smartly run out – or arguably stumped – by keeper Ikram Alikhil.
Now it was 92 for four, and when Bas de Leede, one of those who had passed a fitness test to make it into the side, was caught behind in Nabi’s next over it was 97 for five and the Dutch were in serious difficulties.
The Netherlands’ traditional weakness against quality spin bowling now kicked in, with the four-man Afghan spin attack of Nabi, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad and Mujeeb taking near-complete control.
Ikram smartly snaffled a catch off Noor to remove Saqib Zulfiqar and then stumped Logan van Beek off the unfailingly accurate Nabi, and at 152 there was a repeat of the Ackermann dismissal.
Engelbrecht had again batted patiently through the chaos, reaching his second ODI half-century, but when he was on 58 Roelof van der Merwe called him through for a quick single to Nabi at midwicket and as both batters hesitated momentarily before continuing the return to Ikram was too quick for Engelbrecht’s dive.
Van der Merwe, Aryan Dutt and Paul van Meekeren managed to add another 27 for the last two wickets, but the damage had been done, and with Nabi finishing with three for 28 the spinners claimed all six wickets to fall to the bowlers.
Defending 179, the Dutch attack needed to produce an even more disciplined and effective effort than they had achieved against Bangladesh, but here that proved beyond them.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran began confidently against Dutt and Van Beek, although the former fell to a stunningly acute review by Edwards: convinced that Gurbaz had gloved a legside delivery by Van Beek the Dutch skipper sent it upstairs, and DRS confirmed the finest of tickles.
Edwards struck again five overs later, when he brought Van der Merwe into the attack and the left-armer justified the move by bowling Ibrahim with his first delivery.
At 55 for two Afghanistan might have displayed a hint of a wobble, but this brought Hashmatullah Shahidi to the crease to join Rahmat Shah, and the pair proceeded to add 74 for the third wicket, effectively snuffing out any vestige of hope the Dutch supporters might have maintained.
Rahmat looked particularly untroubled, reaching fifty for the 31st time in ODIs with a superb straight drive, and when, with De Leede unable to bowl and off the field because of illness, Edwards turned to Saqib Zulfiqar, the previously-subdued Hashmat smashed him for back-to-back boundaries.
It was Zulfiqar, however, who claimed the wicket of Rahmat, deceiving him in the air and moving to his left to take a good return catch.
But only 51 were now needed, and Hashmat and Azmatullah Omarzai saw their side safely home, Hashmat striking a one-bounce four off Dutt to complete the victory with eighteen and a half overs to spare and finish on an unbeaten 56, Azmat’s 31 not out coming from just 28 deliveries.
The win kept alive Afghanistan’s not-quite-forlorn hopes of making the semi-finals, but the Netherlands, with England and India still to play, face an uphill battle to finish in the top eight and qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.
The squad have five days to recover from their collective illness and get ready to take on an undoubtedly wounded and dangerous England.
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