Coming down both literally and metaphorically from the heights of their Dharamsala triumph, the Dutch camp will doubtless ask themselves some serious questions about how it was that in Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium on Saturday they performed a distinct cut below the standards they have set for themselves, losing by five wickets to Sri Lanka.
One factor, perhaps, was Scott Edwards’ decision to bat in the Netherlands’ first and only day game of the tournament; the conditions undoubtedly helped the Sri Lankan attack early on, and batting in general became easier as the match developed.
Until South Africa put them in in Dharamsala the Dutch had preferred to chase, albeit unsuccessfully, and with the benefit of hindsight that might have been preferable here; Sri Lankan captain Kushal Mendis certainly let it be known that he would have bowled had he won the toss.
That, though, was far from being the only factor in the Dutch defeat.
The top order was again unable to give the side the sort of start they often managed in the Super League: facing some of the best pace bowlers in the world on unfamiliar pitches, they again struggled in the powerplay, and indeed throughout the first half of the innings.
Max O’Dowd again unleashed a couple of fine strokes before departing for 16, his tally for the tournament now 55 runs in four innings, while Vikram Singh has managed just 18 in three since his half-century against Pakistan, while Bas de Leede and Teja Nidamanuru went in single figures.
The early carnage was mostly the work of Kasun Rajitha, who claimed the first three wickets in a seven-over spell which cost just 27 runs, while Dilshan Madushanka chipped in with two to reduced the Dutch to 71 for five inside 19 overs.
When Maheesh Theekshana produced a ripper to bowl Scott Edwards it was 91 for six, and the side was again facing the prospect of an embarrassingly low total.
But now Logan van Beek joined Sybrand Engelbrecht, and slowly they began to transform the innings, cautiously at first but then with steadily-increasing confidence.
In the course of 24 overs they put on a record-breaking stand of 130, not only a Dutch record in List A matches and ODIs, but the highest in World Cups for any team for the seventh wicket; it was a monument of resilience and determination, and by the time Engelbrecht departed for an 82-ball 70, his maiden ODI half-century, they had taken the total to 221 and given their side the chance of posting a defendable total.
Van Beek reached his fifty in the following over with a single that was truly never there, and went on to 59 before falling to a brilliant catch at deep midwicket by Charith Asalanka off the bowling of Rajitha, who finished with four for 50.
Madushanka had meantime removed Roelof van der Merwe to end with four for 49, and when Paul van Meekeren was run out attempting a preposterous run to the keeper the innings closed on 262.
It was a lot more than had seemed likely a couple of hours earlier, but the Dutch attack would need to keep grabbing wickets, or at least build scoreboard pressure with disciplined, accurate bowling, if they were to defend it.
In fact they were able to do neither: although Aryan Dutt again bowled magnificently, removing the Kusals, Perera and Mendis, inside the powerplay, runs were leaking at the other end, and a half-century by Pathum Nissanka kept Sri Lanka well ahead of the asking rate.
Van Meekeren, once again the pick of the pace unit, got Nissanka caught behind with the total on 104, but then Asalanka joined Sadeera Samarawickrama in a 77-run partnership for the fourth wicket which really turned the game the Sri Lankans’ way.
Edwards continued to rotate his bowlers in a search for the breakthrough, but they were unable to maintain their line and length as effectively as they had against South Africa – admittedly a very big ask – and after De Leede had gone for 16 in one over the captain’s options were somewhat reduced.
Dutt continued to find both turn and bounce, and when Edwards gave him one final spell he responded with Asalanka’s wicket, frustrating the left-hander until he went for the big heave and was bowled for 44.
With 82 still needed that gave the Dutch a sniff of possible victory, but there were more than 17 overs left, and Dhananjaya de Silva set about helping Samarawickrama to tick off the runs, so successfully that by the time Colin Ackermann found a way past his attempted blow back over his head and bowled him for 30, only six were required.
Samarawickrama’s fine innings deserved a century, but that was now out of the question, and it was Dushan Hemantha who finished things off with a boundary with ten balls remaining, his partner finishing on an unbeaten, 107-ball 91.
Dutt’s three for 44 was a fair reflection of another outstanding effort by the 20-year-old off-spinner, but otherwise the bowling was, to put it bluntly, for the most part pretty lacklustre; perhaps it was inevitable after their near-impeccable effort against South Africa, but Edwards and Ryan Cook have made it clear that they expect those standards to be the norm, and in this match they fell short.
Their next opponents will be Australia in Delhi, and with the Australians resurgent after a poor start to their campaign the Dutch will need to fire on all cylinders. We knew in advance there would be no easy games.
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