The Netherlands’ hopes of progressing to the tournament proper (a.k.a. the Super 12) were brutally crushed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday when not only were they beaten by a brilliant innings from Namibia’s David Wiese, but Sri Lanka’s subsequent, clinical demolition of Ireland’s batting left them with no route out of the group even before they face the Sri Lankans on Friday.
A much improved performance with the bat had seen the Dutch reach a perfectly respectable 164 for four, but this time it was the bowling, combined with a bold batting performance by Namibia, which let them down as they lost by six wickets with one over remaining.
The post mortems had started even before the patient was etherised upon the table, and there are indeed serious questions to be asked about team selection and about the preparation, or lack of it, which underlie this disappointing performance from the winners of the 2019 qualifier.
But the immediate reasons for the Dutch coming to Abu Dhabi so undercooked, important as they are, ultimately matter less than the underlying causes, and the time for a clear-eyed, sober analysis of that will be once we’re out of the kitchen, not as the dish is failing to come together.
Skipper Pieter Seelaar said after the match that he thought the Dutch total was par, and that was perhaps true; nevertheless, despite Max O’Dowd’s splendid 56-ball 70, his second half-century in as many games, Colin Ackermann’s 35, and an enterprising 11-ball 21 not out from Scott Edwards, one felt even before the Namibians replied that the Dutch innings had fallen a little short.
That was due in part to a disciplined performance by the Namibian attack, which had kept the scoring within bounds, especially in the overs immediately after the power play, but while the Netherlands batting showed more urgency this time it remained for the most part determinedly risk-averse.
O’Dowd remains a rock at the top of the order, and the recall of Stephan Myburgh to the other opening spot produced a much more promising powerplay, yielding 45 runs, while if the promotion of Roelof van der Merwe to three didn’t entirely come off, at least it didn’t delay proceedings for long.
Then came the 82-run stand between O’Dowd and Ackermann, and while they were adept at rotating the strike – almost half those runs came from singles – they found it difficult to craft more than a handful of twos; Ackermann in particular remained in second gear for much of the partnership, and then fell just as, with three overs to go, he began to launch a major offensive.
Wiese was the pick of the Namibian attack, his first three overs conceding just 18 runs and collecting the wicket of Van der Merwe, but apart from a couple of overs in the middle of the innings all five bowlers contained well, and they were backed up by fielding which, if there were a couple of missed run-outs, was otherwise pretty sharp.
The Dutch bowlers, especially the seamers, started well enough: Fred Klaassen’s two power play overs cost just four runs and a leg-bye as well as claiming the wicket of Zane Green, and when two more wickets fell to reduce the Namibians to 52 for three in the ninth over it seemed as if 164 might prove to be sufficient.
But the dismissal of Stephan Baard by Seelaar (in a rare T20 wicket maiden) brought Wiese to the crease, and he and Gerhard Erasmus immediately launched an attack which produced 46 runs in three overs and created the momentum which would eventually carry Namibia to victory.
Under pressure, the Dutch struggled with length and even more with their line, but that should not detract from the skill of Erasmus’s 22-ball 32 or from the superb hitting power of Wiese, whose 66 not out from 40 deliveries included four fours and five sixes.
Together they added 93 in eight and a half overs before, with just 20 needed, Erasmus edged Van der Gugten to keeper Edwards, and it was left to JJ Smit to help Wiese bring Namibia home.
Klaassen, with one for 14 from four overs, and Seelaar with one for 8 from two fought all the way to the end, although one might legitimately question why the skipper, having bowled that wicket maiden in the ninth over, delayed his second until the 16th.
Ireland could scarcely have dreamed of a better start against Sri Lanka, when after Andrew Balbirnie had put the opposition in Paul Stirling and Josh Little combined to reduce them to 8 for three, including the removal of the dangerous Avishka Fernando, bowled by Little for a golden duck.
The Irish would, however, enjoy no more success for almost 14 overs, as Pathum Nissanka (61 from 47 deliveries) and Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva (71 from 47) added 123 for the fourth wicket.
After Mark Adair had broken through by dismissing Hasaranga Little returned to remove first Bhanuka Rajapaksa and then Nissanka, finishing with an admirable four for 23 from his four overs, and Craig Young did well to concede just 24 from his four, but a cameo 11-ball 22 not out from skipper Dasun Shanaka carried Sri Lanka to 171 for seven.
Ireland lost three key wickets in their power play, but Balbirnie and Curtis Campher kept their hopes alive with a fourth-wicket stand of 53 at just better than a run a ball, but once Campher had been bowled by Maheesh Theekshana for 24 the innings rapidly fell apart.
Balbirnie held firm until the 16th over, but once he was out for 41, brilliantly caught by Fernando at backward point, the end came quickly, and Ireland were all out for 101.
The pace of Lahiru Kumara (two for 22), Dushmantha Chameera (one for 16) and Chamika Karunaratne (two for 27), combined with the off-spin of Theekshana (three for 17) and the leg-breaks of Hasaranga (one for 12) underlined Sri Lanka’s superiority, and suggested that they will be a force to be reckoned with when the Super 12 gets under way.
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