We have all seen this script before, the Dutch cast in the role of the plucky challenger, going toe to toe with a heavier, more fancied champion and winning several rounds before finally ending up on the canvas.
Scott Edwards’s side’s opening encounter with Pakistan was never going to be easy, but after he had won the toss and elected to field they very clearly had the better of the first round, removing Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq inside the initial powerplay.
For forty minutes it was the Pakistanis who looked like the nervous tyros, with well-controlled opening spells by Aryan Dutt and Logan van Beek giving them little opportunity to get the innings moving.
Then van Beek induced Fakhar to hit back a head-high return catch, and some inspired captaincy by the Dutch captain saw Babar pull Colin Ackermann’s third delivery to Saqib Zulfiqar at midwicket and Imam hit a lethal bouncer from Paul van Meekeren to Dutt on the square leg boundary.
Pakistan were 38 for three, and in real trouble.
It might have been 49 for four had Vikram Singh at slip been able to take a low catch from Saud Shakeel off Dutt’s next over, but he and Mohammad Rizwan survived that and a couple of other tricky moments, and it was their 120-run partnership, made in just nineteen overs, which steadily turned the game back Pakistan’s way.
Edwards deployed his bowlers imaginatively, tossing the ball to six of them inside the first sixteen overs and persisting with spin from the Pavilion End – only five overs of seam were bowled from that end – but Rizwan and Saud both made their way to 68 before he was able to secure a breakthrough.
By this time eight of the side had turned their arm over, but it was the return of the admirable Dutt which did the trick, Saud miscuing to Zulfiqar at short and straight mid-on; he had faced just 52 deliveries and hit nine fours and a six.
Rizwan followed three overs later, bowled by Bas de Leede, and Iftikhar Ahmed fell in the same over, Edwards diving low to his right to cling onto a fine catch.
Three wickets had fallen in the space of 24 deliveries, another round going decisively the way of the Dutch, and at 188 for six Pakistan appeared to be in danger of subsiding to an embarrassingly low total.
But they bat deep, and now Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan added 64 precious runs for the seventh wicket, mostly in singles to start with but gradually becoming more adventurous as the final powerplay got under way.
Dutt and Ackermann continued to keep things quiet but the quicker bowlers were easier to get away; that said, it was De Leede who again claimed two wickets in an over, bowling Shadab for 32 with a reverse-swinging yorker and then trapping Hasan Ali in front two balls later.
Nawaz went on to 39 before falling to a Keystone Kops-inspired run out, and when Haris Rauf fell to a splendid stumping off Ackermann the innings ended on 285.
It was more than had been on the cards at a couple of points, but it was still a big target for the Dutch, for whom De Leede’s four for 62 was balanced by Dutt’s one for 48 and Ackermann’s two for 39.
The last time these teams met, in Perth in the T20 World Cup last October, the Netherlands batting had crumbled in the face of Pakistan’s fierce pace attack, but this time, despite the early loss of Max O’Dowd, caught at deep fine leg hooking Hasan Ali, Singh and Ackermann won the opening exchanges, each unleasing a series of drives which largely neutralised the threat of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Ali and Rauf.
It was, in fact, the off-spin of Iftikhar which broke their stand, Ackermann attempting a premeditated sweep off his first delivery and seeing it take his middle stump.
This setback, though, brought De Leede in to join Singh, and together they added 70 for the third wicket, dealing confidently enough with the three-pronged spin attack of Iftikhar, Nawaz and Shadab.
One towering six off Shadab apart, Singh dealt mostly in singles with the occasional two, but De Leede was more proactive, going along at a run a ball and keeping his side in touch with the required rate.
At 120 for two with 26 overs left the men in orange were again ahead on points, but when Singh, shortly after passing fifty for the sixth time in his 26 ODIs, went after Shadab again and was well caught by Fakhar at deep midwicket it was the cue for what would quickly become a decisive slump.
Rauf had returned in place of Nawaz, and when he removed Teja Nidamanuru and Scott Edwards in the space of three deliveries the Dutch had gone from 120 for two to 133 for five, the heart ripped out of their middle order.
Rauf now hit the accelerator pedal, cranking up to 149 km/h against De Leede, whom he had struck on the grille during that rout in Perth, but the young Dutchman was equal to the challenge, coolly pulling him hard and flat for six.
Saqib Zulfiqar was offering valuable support, but when he was trapped in front by a returning Afridi and De Leede followed in the next over, bowled by Nawaz for a fine 68-ball 67, his side were on the ropes at 164 for seven, now needing almost eight an over with three wickets left.
Logan van Beek, nursing a leg injury which had meant that he did not bowl in the second half of the Pakistani innings, offered some defiant hitting, but his inability to take quick singles contributed to the run-out of Roelof van der Merwe, while Ali proved too wily for Dutt.
There was time for some by-play between Van Meekeren and Rauf, the former cheekily winding up Pakistan’s quickest bowler, but it was Rauf who had the last word, surgically removing Van Meekeren’s leg stump to end the innings on 205.
Rauf finished with three for 43 and Ali two for 33, but all the Pakistani bowlers had contributed to those closing rounds, which saw the Netherlands lose eight wickets for just 85 runs.
As Edwards acknowledged afterwards it had been another disappointing outcome, but his side had done enough to prove that they are worthy participants in this competition, and to ensure that their remaining opponents don’t take them lightly.