For anyone who thought that the Netherlands had reached the limits of their ambition with their one-run, last-ball victory in the opening match of the Super League series against Ireland last Wednesday the final encounter would have been a revelation, as Pieter Seelaar’s men came back from their eight-wicket defeat on Friday with a resounding win to clinch the series.
The Dutch dominated for most of the match, apart from when they were held up by a fine fourth-wicket partnership between Harry Tector and George Dockrell and during a flurry of wickets towards the end of their chase which meant that the final, four-wicket margin was somewhat flattering to the Irish.
Ireland made one change to Friday’s winning side, bringing in Kevin O’Brien to open in place of William Porterfield, while the Netherlands replaced the injured Saqib Zulfiqar with the debutant Musa Nadeem and dropped pace man Brandon Glover in favour of Viv Kingma.
Kingma took the new ball in tandem with Fred Klaassen after Andrew Balbirnie won the toss and elected to bat, and it was Klaassen who set the tone by not only bowling O’Brien off his pad with the fourth ball of the match but by then, in his following over, removing the always-dangerous Paul Stirling.
This was a classic one-two: bowling a seventh-stump line, Klaassen saw one delivery disappear to the backward point boundary, but the next, equally wide, was a little fuller, and Stirling flashed an edge to keeper Scott Edwards.
6 for two became 28 for three when, half-forward, Balbirnie was bowled by a Kingma delivery that kept low, the variable bounce again the random factor which lurked to punish any batter who failed to get well forward or who chose the wrong moment to play across the line.
Neither fault could be ascribed to Tector, who had learned the lesson of the first two days and whose front-foot technique largely neutralised the twin threats of the Dutch attack and the unpredictable pitch, and whose partnership of 89 with Dockrell, compiled over 23 overs, was the highest of the series for either side.
They withstood the hazards of the settling-in phase, and once they had a sight of the ball both punished anything loose, so that by the time Logan van Beek returned to remove first Dockrell, bowled for 40 by a ball that kept cruelly low, and then, three overs later Tector, caught behind for a splendid 58, a total of around 200 had become thinkable.
Those blows, however, were the cue for a dramatic Irish collapse, in which the remaining five wickets fell for just 35 runs as Ireland were bowled out for 163.
Simi Singh did his best to marshal the tail, making an unbeaten 21, but the Dutch seamers were now back in business, Klaassen finishing with three for 23 and Van Beek three for 29, while Timm van der Gugten collected two for 22.
Seelaar had revealed before the match that his squad had done some serious thinking over the weekend, and what that meant immediately became apparent when the Dutch replied, Stef Myburgh dispatching Barry McCarthy’s first delivery over the midwicket boundary for six.
The home side had managed just one half-century partnership in the series so far, and that from the lower order, but the new, more aggressive policy now produced another, Myburgh and Max O’Dowd putting on 66 for the first wicket in 14 and a half overs.
They were helped by some indifferent fielding from Ireland, and very clearly from a missed chance when Balbirnie dropped Myburgh at straightish midwicket when he had made just eight.
So effective was this greater positivity that when Josh Little, who had exercised near-magical control over the Dutch batters in the previous games, came into the attack, Myburgh greeted him by smacking the final ball of his first over for another six.
When Singh finally got one through O’Dowd’s defences and he departed for 36, Musa Nadeem’s arrival at the crease was delayed by the unsuccessful experiment of promoting Edwards to three – he was caught at slip by Stirling off McCarthy without scoring – but his advent kept the pressure on Ireland, as he made 19 with a confidence which augured well for the future.
It was, inevitably perhaps, Little who removed him, but now Bas de Leede joined Myburgh in another half-century stand which took the Dutch to the brink of victory.
The left-handed opener went on to post his third ODI fifty and then his highest score at this level but then, on 74 and with just six needed, he swung mightily at a full-length delivery from Singh and was bowled.
Only two were needed when De Leede fell to McBrine, and when Seelaar was trapped in front, also swinging across the line, in Singh’s next over one began to contemplate a climax even more stunning than Wednesday’s.
Van Beek was equal to the moment, though, and his drive to the long off boundary made sure of the win.
It was a momentous victory for the Netherlands, who were without several key batters but whose bowlers took full advantage of the conditions to give their side a priceless 20 points in a series which was hard fought throughout.
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