Eight crucial overs cost the Dutch dearly

Feature photo: Sander Tholen

‘Valiant in defeat’ is at best a compensatory sort of tribute, but it fairly describes the Dutch performance in their 16-run defeat in the first of their two-match T20 International series against New Zealand at Voorburg’s Westvliet ground on Thursday evening.

Apart from a period of eight overs, four each side of the innings break, a Dutch team wholly without its county-contracted players, competed well against the Blackcaps, and in the end they achieved the narrowest defeat so far of the New Zealanders’ seven-match tour of Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands.

After 16 overs of their innings, Mitchell Santner having won the toss and batted, New Zealand had only reached 101 for five, and it took a spectacular onslaught from Jimmy Neesham, who smacked 20 runs off a Logan van Beek over, to create any serious momentum for the tourists.

The damage might have been even worse had Bas de Leede not leaped high on the midwicket boundary to grasp Neesham’s final blow, which otherwise would have gone for a third six but which instead saw the batter depart for a 17-ball 32.

But Ish Sodhi maintained the pressure by going after Clayton Floyd’s penultimate over, hitting him for a four and two sixes, and New Zealand closed on 148 for seven.

Earlier, Martin Guptill had kept the scoreboard moving with a 36-ball knock of 45, but the honours had largely been with the Dutch bowlers as the visiting batters battled with the pace of Westvliet’s hybrid pitch.

Young Shariz Ahmad turned in the most assured performance of his brief international career to date, conceding just 15 runs in three overs and claiming the wickets of the dangerous Daryl Mitchell, well caught by Max O’Dowd at long on, and of Glenn Phillips, who provided him with a straightforward return catch.

Van Beek had gone for just 10 from two overs before Neesham went after him, but he came back well to concede only three from the bat in the final over of the innings to end with two for 35, and Tim Pringle also bowled well for figures of one for 24 from four.

The Dutch bowlers were well backed up by some committed ground fielding and excellent catching, and although 47 had come from the last four overs they could afford to begin their chase in positive mood.

Where Scott Edwards had largely depended on his slower bowlers, the Dutch spinners having bowled 12 overs between them, Santner relied more on his pace trio of Lockie Ferguson, Blair Tickner and Ben Sears, and within the first four overs of the Dutch reply they had reduced their opponents to 15 for three, effectively taking control of the game.

Steph Myburgh edged Tickner to keeper Dane Cleaver, O’Dowd attempted a premeditated, ambitious scoop shot against what proved to be a fast, straight yorker, overbalancing in the process, and then the Cleaver-Tickner combination accounted for Tom Cooper to leave the Dutch reeling.

Tickner at this point had three for 4 and an embarrassingly low total seemed on the cards, but De Leede and Edwards set about restoring their side’s fortunes with a fourth-wicket stand of 49, doing so at a tempo which kept the Dutch in the hunt.

It was Santner who got the breakthrough as Edwards played his favourite sweep shot and was caught by Phillips at deep midwicket, to be followed seven deliveries later by Teja Nidamanuru, caught by a leaping Cleaver as he tried to pull a Sears bouncer.

De Leede was still there, but when Van Beek was bowled by a Sodhi wrong’un and Pringle brilliantly caught on the square leg boundary by Phillips, running thirty metres to his right to grab the ball one-handed, the Dutch were again in trouble at 93 for seven, still needing 56 from the last four overs.

De Leede reached his third T20I fifty with a glorious six off Tickner, having taken just 44 deliveries to get there, but even with Ryan Klein playing a brief 11-run cameo and Shariz contributing his first international boundary 23 were required from the final over.

Fighting to the last, De Leede belted Tickner’s first ball to the cover boundary and then took two to long off off the next; 17 needed from four, and now De Leede had to contrive a six.

He tried his best off the next, hitting Tickner hard and high over his head, but Mitchell was under it as it descended short of the boundary, and a bitterly disappointed De Leede departed for a heroic 53-ball 66.

Tickner finished with a match-winning four for 27 and Sears with three for 22; it was the extra pace of the Blackcaps’ pace attack which had been decisive, and which will again provide a serious challenge when the teams meet again on Friday.

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