A devastating century by Aiden Markram and a hostile performance by South Africa’s trio of fast bowlers overpowered Scott Edwards’ Netherlands at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday, but not before the Dutch had shown that they could go toe-to-toe for significant periods.
Viv Kingma, brought into the side in place of Ryan Klein, shared the new ball with Fred Klaassen and removed the in-form Temba Bavuma and his opening partner Quinton de Kock within the first eight overs, reducing the home side to 32 for two.
Both bowlers posed problems for the batters, but Markram soon began to punish any delivery which was less than perfectly directed, and Rassie van der Dussen set about helping him to rebuild the innings.
The pressure from the Dutch attack was relieved somewhat when Shariz Ahmad replaced Klaassen, but from the other end Paul van Meekeren started well, and Aryan Dutt, again showing a mature composure beyond his years, was more successful at containing the growing threat from Markram than Shariz had been.
It was Dutt’s poorest ball of his spell, however, which accounted for Van der Dussen, who swung a long hop around the corner, only to see Van Meekeren pounce like an underfed cheetah to take a fine catch.
Markram brought up a 47-ball half-century with a six off Van Meekeren, and now the innings was beginning to achieve real momentum: at the halfway point the total was 144 for three, and with Heinrich Klaasen matching his partner’s aggression the Dutch were in serious need of a breakthrough.
It was Shariz who provided it, Klaasen top-edging a pull shot and Edwards running to his right and diving full-length in the gully to complete the dismissal; Klaasen’s 28 had come from just 21 deliveries.
David Miller joined Markram, and with the total on 177 he had a stroke of fortune, when he drilled Shariz low to extra cover and Max O’Dowd was unable to hold on to a sharp chance.
The attention, though, was on Markram, nearing his maiden ODI century, and in the 33rd over he drove Dutt through the covers to achieve the milestone, made from 86 deliveries with nine fours and three sixes.
Now the runs started to flow like the drinks in the large and enthusiastic Pink Day crowd, and although Vikram Singh bowled a couple of tidy overs and Klaassen returned to reduce the rush of boundaries, the century stand came up from 78 deliveries.
With ten overs left the total had raced to 262, Markram on 139 and going, and it was clear that the Dutch were going to be facing a very demanding chase.
81 came from the next five, 42 of them in sixes, as ‘batter’ began to take on a double meaning, but finally Markram, now on 175, failed to deposit a Klaassen delivery in the stands, instead finding Tom Cooper at long on; his innings had taken 126 balls and contained 17 fours and seven sixes.
Miller followed in the next over, skying a return catch to a grateful Van Meekeren, and Klaassen picked up another in his next, Sisanda Magala hammering him to Van Meekeren at extra cover.
Van Meekeren removed Anrich Nortje, but still South Africa finished on 370 for eight, Klaassen the pick of the bowlers with two for 43 in the midst of all the mayhem.
The Netherlands’ highest-ever total against a Full member was 298 for eight against Pakistan in Rotterdam last August, but Singh began as if records were simply there to be broken, hitting Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen for five boundaries before Jansen ripped through his defences and scattered the stumps.
O’Dowd and Musa Ahmad now combined in an 85-run partnerhip for the second wicket, standing up to some very hostile pace bowling; Musa, in particular, weathered the storm bravely, twice receiving painful blows from Nortje bouncers.
It was Magala, however, who got the breakthrough, bowling O’Dowd for 47, and when Bavuma brought Tabraiz Shamsi into the attack Musa immediately celebrated by lofting him over midwicket for six.
At this point, 20 overs in, the Dutch were going at nearly six an over, but Bavuma had runs to play with, and everyone was aware of the lack of firepower in the middle order.
Musa brought up his first ODI half-century, but when Markram came on in place of Shamsi he immediately fell to a fine catch by Klaasen at point, departing for a career-best 61.
Cooper came and went, but Barresi stayed long enough to show some flashes of the Barresi of old, while Edwards deployed sweeps, both conventional and reverse, to good effect.
Magala’s return, though, signalled the beginning of the end, Barresi holing out to Van der Dussen at deep backward square to make it 193 for five.
Edwards reverse-slog-swept Markram for six, but when he tried it again three balls later he missed and was trapped plumb in front; Magala did the rest, bowling Shariz, Van Meekeren and Klaassen in quick succession to bag his first five-wicket haul in ODIs, finishing with five for 43, while Shamsi had the last word, bowling Kingma as the Dutch innings closed on 224.
It had been a brave effort, much more encouraging than Thursday’s defeat in Benoni, but the gap in experience and, let’s face it, skill was still painfully obvious.
Only lots more matches against top-quality opposition would help the Netherlands bridge that gap, and with the ICC’s inexcusable abolition of the Super League it’s anybody’s guess when or how that might happen.
To quote the Duckworth Lewis Method again, it’s just not cricket.