An irrepressible Malaysian side fought all the way against the Netherlands in the second match of the T20I tri-series in Kathmandu on Sunday and, aided by some indifferent bowling from their opponents, came within 15 runs of the imposing Dutch total of 191 for two.
Their target was almost entirely due to a superb innings from Netherlands opener Max O’Dowd, whose unbeaten 133 was not only the first century for his country in men’s T20Is, but the highest ever in this format by an Associate player.
If he was unsettled by the early departure of Tobias Visée, who was brought into the side to lend more aggression to the batting after Saturday’s lacklustre effort against Nepal but who lasted only four deliveries before falling to a Pavandeep Singh arm-ball, O’Dowd certainly didn’t show it.
In company with Scott Edwards he took the score to 45 by the end of the powerplay, and although Anwar Rahman trapped Edwards in front when he had contributed 31 from 23 deliveries, out-scoring his partner in a second-wicket stand of 49, this was the cue for O’Dowd to up the ante.
He had at that point made 31 from 24 and took another twelve to reach his half-century, dispatching Rahman over the long-on boundary for his first six in doing so, but he needed only 23 more deliveries to post his historic hundred, by which point he had hit ten fours and five sixes.
With Ben Cooper playing an outstanding supporting role, pushing singles to give O’Dowd the strike and making his 20 not out at exactly a run a ball, O’Dowd continued to punish the Malaysian bowlers relentlessly, the four boundaries he struck off Syed Aziz’s final over underlining his complete control.
In all he faced 73 balls and hit 15 fours and six sixes, and he and Cooper put on a record-breaking 125 for the third wicket, off just 73 deliveries.
All the Malaysian bowlers came in for heavy punishment, but the two left-arm spinners – and only wicket-takers – Pavandeep Singh and Anwar Rahman were the pick of the bunch, conceding 22 from three overs and 25 from four respectively.
The Malaysians could have been forgiven for being somewhat dispirited after such slaughter, and even more so after Aryan Dutt removed Anwar Arudin and skipper Ahmad Faiz in the first over and Syed Aziz fell to Bas de Leede in the fourth, leaving them on 20 for three.
But Virandeep Singh and Sharvin Muniandy stood toe-to-toe with an attack which was still unable to mount consistent pressure, and they added 58 from 37 deliveries to keep their side in touch with the asking-rate.
It took a fine spell from Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar to slam the brakes on, but it was leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain who got the breakthrough, two difficult chances going to ground in the space of five deliveries before Muniandy hammered the final ball of the over straight to Ben Cooper at long on and departed for a 20-ball 28.
Virandeep was still there, however, and showing every sign of believing he could win the game for his side; now in company with Aminuddin Ramly he saw the total to 80 at the halfway mark, but 112 were still needed and five wickets were already down.
Ramly contributed 26 from 15 with two fours and two sixes before becoming De Leede’s second victim, and now Virandeep was left to do it on his own.
Seelaar came back to bowl his last, finishing with one for 20 off his four, and with 34 coming from the next three 37 were needed from the final two overs.
It was a huge ask, and although Virandeep hit Sebastiaan Braat for consecutive sixes off the first two deliveries of the penultimate over, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually miscue, Visée taking a very good catch at third man to remove him for a magnificent 53-ball 87.
That settled the issue, and although Muhammad Wafiq showed defiance to the end, the Dutch held on for their 15-run victory.
O’Dowd, unsurprisingly Player of the Match, and Seelaar were the difference between the two sides, and Dutch coach Ryan Campbell, while he could be pleased with the way his players bounced back from Saturday’s shellacking by Nepal, will still have plenty of work to do before his men face the hosts again on Tuesday.
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