The route may have been different but the destination was the same in Amstelveen on Saturday, as Pieter Seelaar’s young and relatively inexperienced side pushed the West Indies all the way in their third and final Super League ODI before eventually losing by just 20 runs.
Nicholas Pooran opted to set a target after winning the toss this time, and a brutally brilliant 120 from Kyle Mayers, promoted to open along with Shai Hope, and a composed 101 not out from Shamarh Brooks, enabled the tourists to reach a fairly formidable 308 for five.
The Dutch had reverted to their eleven from Tuesday, Viv Kingma returning in place of Shariz Ahmad, while the West Indies omitted Alzarri Joseph and Anderson Phillip in order to bring in Jayden Seales and Shermon Lewis.
It might all have been very different had Vikramjit Singh been able to cling on to a sharp chance in the gully after Mayers, yet to get off the mark, flashed at Kingma’s second delivery and got a thick edge, but once the left-hander had settled he inflicted heavy punishment on the bowling.
He lost Hope with the total on 58, as he hit across the line at Bas de Leede’s third ball of his spell, was beaten by the pace, and succeeded only in skewing it to Kingma at mid-off.
But that brought Brooks to the crease, and no further wicket would fall for almost 30 overs, the pair adding 184 in a stand which threatened to take the West Indies to a total well in excess of 300.
There were, it is true, quite a few might-have-been moments: Brooks was dropped by O’Dowd off Seelaar when he was on 61, and there were several reviews, which tested the patience of a considerably larger Saturday crowd who were unable to see a replay on the (generally illegible) scoreboards and were forced to follow the television coverage as best they could on their mobile phones.
But otherwise they were entertained by some magnificent hitting from Mayers, who increasingly treated all the bowlers with equal disdain, belting no fewer than seven sixes in his 106-ball 120 to go with his eight fours, several of the latter also struck over the heads of the fielders.
Almost ten overs were left when he finally pulled once too often, this time off Ryan Klein, and fell to a fine catch by Bas de Leede on the midwicket boundary.
Pooran succeeded him, Seelaar immediately brought Aryan Dutt back to bowl his final over – possibly kept back for exactly this moment – and the young off-spinner, after conceding a boundary, achieved this third successive dismissal of the West Indian captain in as many innings by trapping him in front as he went back to defend.
Suddenly it seemed as if it might be possible for the Dutch to keep their target to around 300, and when Logan van Beek had Brandon King caught behind by Scott Edwards for 10 and Akeal Hosein holed out to Musa Ahmad off Kingma for three, four wickets had fallen for 32 runs in the space of 36 deliveries.
Kingma, Van Beek and Klein were able to prevent any real acceleration in the final overs, but Nkrumah Bonner kept the scoreboard moving along with Brooks, who reached his maiden ODI century, off 114 deliveries, three balls before the end.
The four pace bowlers had stood up to Mayers’ onslaught reasonably well, but Dutt was the pick of the attack, conceding just 44 from his ten overs as well as memorably picking up that wicket of Pooran.
309 was a massive ask for this Dutch side, who have frequently struggled to reach 200 in recent games, but they are growing in confidence as well as experience, and Singh and Max O’Dowd began as if they knew that victory was well within their grasp.
Seales and Lewis were no more successful than Phillip and Joseph had been in the two previous games, and by the end of the initial powerplay the total had reached 58, just below the overall rate that the Dutch needed.
Singh, who had again shown that he is as prepared as Mayers had been to take on the pace attack, had given the Barbadian a taste of his own medicine with a remarkable flat-batted six over long on, and gratified his growing army of admirers by reaching his first international half-century, from 49 deliveries with seven fours as well as that six; and by the drinks break the Dutch were on 98 without loss, on the verge of a second successive century opening stand.
But Mayers had his revenge with the first ball after the break, bowling Singh for 54, and Musa Ahmad joined O’Dowd, who soon afterwards also passed fifty, in his case from 57 deliveries.
Musa, whose previous best international score had been 19 on his debut against Ireland last year, soon began to grow in confidence, and when he was eventually trapped in front by Hayden Walsh he had made 42 at a run a ball, by far his best performance at this level.
The run rate was still near five and a half an over, but with Hosein and Walsh again containing the scoring effectively the asking rate was beginning to creep upwards, and although De Leede contributed a brisk 25 before falling to Hosein, when the West Indian left-armer bowled O’Dowd for a determined 121-ball 89 the Dutch still needed 70 from the seven remaining overs.
Edwards went in the next, followed by Teja Nidamanuru and then by Logan van Beek, and the task was steadily becoming more improbable.
Seelaar had hammered Seales back for a splendid six, but even two boundaries for the Dutch skipper off Seales’s next over left 23 needed off the final over; Seelaar skied Lewis’s first ball back to the bowler, Klein hit a two and was bowled, and when Kingma was caught at backward point off the next the Netherlands were all out for 288, just 21 runs short of what would have been an epic victory.
Lewis finished with a flattering three for 67, but it was Hosein with two for 52, deservedly the Player of the Series, and Walsh with two for 54, who had again kept the West Indies in the game, taking wickets at vital moments and preventing an historic upset.
Denied the services of six or seven first-choice players, the Dutch could move on from this series, in which they had never been less than competitive, with their heads held high, and with every reason to view the rest of the summer with renewed confidence.
The West Indies may not have been at their best, but you can’t help feeling that for all their limitations this Dutch side is not far away from a performance which will properly reward their dedication, and above all, their courage.
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