Feature image: Sander Tholen
The utter, self-defeating stupidity of the ICC Board’s decision to abolish the Super League was fully evident at the Hazelaarweg in Rotterdam on Tuesday, as a defiant Dutch side, chasing a target of 314 for six, took their Pakistani opponents deep into the final powerplay, and indeed into the final over, before losing by just 16 runs.
‘Matches must be competitive’ used to be the ICC’s mantra when defending the marginalisation of its Associate members, but no-one could have demanded a more competitive game than this, in which with a little more good fortune on their side the Netherlands, without all seven of their county-contracted players, might have pulled off a sensational victory.
And at a time when the international game is under more pressure than at any time in the ICC’s 113-year history, who could have failed to be impressed by the fervour with which green-and-white clad Pakistan supporters from all over north-west Europe waved their flags, cheered every run and wicket and waited at the end for a glimpse of their heroes, and the good humour that existed between them and their orange-shirted hosts?
Whatever enthusiasm may exist for the hired hands of the cash-flush franchise teams which are sprouting like toxic mushrooms all over the globe, this hard-fought game was an illustration of what will be lost if the money-men get their way and the IPL and its clones take over world cricket.
So well did Aryan Dutt and Viv Kingma bowl after Babar Azam had won the toss and elected to bat that only ten runs had been accumulated by Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq when, in the sixth over, Kingma struck Imam on the pad and the Dutch successfully reviewed umpire Michael Gough’s not-out decision.
Zaman was looking comfortable enough at the other end, but Babar had a couple of strokes of fortune when he almost played on, first to Tim Pringle and then to Logan van Beek, and the complexion of the game might have been very different had Zaman, who had been stung on the elbow by a wasp two overs earlier, not been dropped by Kingma at third man off Bas de Leede’s bowling in the 19th over, by which point he was on 43 and the total on 67.
As it was Zaman and Babar were able to extend their partnership to 168 before the Pakistani captain, who had gone on to 74 with six fours and a six, went after Van Beek once too often and was caught by Tom Cooper at mid-off.
Zaman, on 94 when he was joined by Mohammad Rizwan, soon completed his seventh ODI century, made from 105 deliveries, but then he fell to a fine piece of fielding by De Leede, whose throw from deep midwicket, fast, flat and accurate, beat the opener’s dive as he attempted to complete a second run.
At 196 for three with 13 overs left Pakistan had the platform for a really big score, but the Dutch bowlers stuck to their task well, and it took some enterprising batting from Shadab Khan, who made a 28-ball 48 not out and from ODI debutant Agha Salman with an unbeaten, 16-ball 27 to get their total up to 314.
De Leede harried the batters throughout, and his figures of two for 42 might have been even better had two straightforward catches not gone down off his bowling, while Dutt’s offspin conceded just 44 runs from his nine overs.
Facing Pakistan’s three-man pace attack, all bowling at 140 kmh. or more, ensured a torrid start to the Dutch reply, Naseem Shah trapping Max O’Dowd in front, Haris Rauf bowling Wesley Barresi and Mohammad Wasim getting De Leede leg-before as the home side battled their way to 62 for three in the 13th over.
Much of the scoring, 16 extras apart, had come from young Vikram Singh, who rode his luck and had reached 27 from 35 deliveries by the time he was joined by Cooper in what became the best partnership of the Dutch innings: together they added 97 runs in 18 overs before Cooper, on 65 – the tenth time he had passed 50 in 26 ODI innings – miscued a shot off Rauf to Babar at mid-off.
At 159 for four in the 31st over the Dutch were almost up with the Pakistani run-rate at the same stage, but against a more consistent attack, with four wickets down and less fire-power in the lower middle order, they nevertheless seemed to be heading for defeat.
Singh, at 19 and in only his tenth ODI still a work in progress, had taken 63 deliveries to go from 27 to 65, his highest international score to date, when he, too, was trapped in front, by left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz; nevertheless he had batted into the 33rd over and survived fifteen overs of spin from one of the best attacks in the world, and he should gain great benefit from the experience.
If anyone expected the Dutch now to fall apart they would have been thoroughly surprised by what followed: leaving out a bowler to deepen their batting undoubtedly paid off, as Scott Edwards, on his way to his fifth ODI half-century of the summer and his ninth in all, shared stands of 55 with Teja Nidamanuru and 58 with Logan van Beek (who successfully reviewed a leg-before decision by umpire Gough, not having one of his better days, off the first ball he received), and with three overs left the home side needed 42 for victory with four wickets standing.
Not unthinkable in these days of T20 mayhem but a tall order against Naseem and Rauf, and when Van Beek, after making 28 from 24 deliveries, was caught at backward square off Rauf, to be followed next ball by Tim Pringle, the task became next to impossible.
26 were needed off the last but Edwards and Dutt could manage only nine; even that took them to their highest-ever ODI total against a Full member, passing their 292 for six against England at Nagpur in the 2011 World Cup.
Edwards finished on 71 not out from 60 deliveries, while Rauf and Naseem picked up three for 67 and three for 51 respectively, seven of the eight Dutch wickets having fallen to the Pakistani pace attack.
The men in green may never have been in serious danger of defeat but they had been made to work hard for their victory, and the Dutch had once again demonstrated their ability to compete at this level.
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