Rain has the last word in Centurion

The Netherlands T20 World Cup
The Netherlands T20 World Cup

With rumours of the premature abandonment of the series crackling around Centurion like a Highveld thunderstorm, Pieter Seelaar’s Dutch side put up a fine performance in their first Super League encounter on Friday, restricting their opponents to 277 for eight and making an enterprising, if all too brief, start to their reply before the weather closed in for real and it was all over bar the continuing speculation.

After Seelaar won the toss and elected to field, the new ball pairing of Fred Klaassen and Viv Kingma quickly adjusted to the combination of a slowish pitch and a lightning-fast outfield, and Klaassen was duly rewarded with the wickets of both openers.

First Reeza Hendricks was well caught at shortish cover by Van der Merwe, and in Klaassen’s next over, his fourth, Janneman Malan, advancing down the pitch, edged the left-armer high to slip, where Seelaar reached up to grasp the catch.

But this brought Kyle Verreyne in to join debutant Zubayr Hamza, and the pair proceeded to take control, adding 119 in 22.1 overs and threatening to take their side to a score well north of 300.

Verreyne was the more aggressive, although both took full advantage of any delivery which strayed in length or direction and Hamza hit the first six of the innings when he lifted Glover effortlessly over midwicket; it was Verreyne who was first to his half-century, reaching that mark from 54 balls, while Hamza followed suit in the next over, from 71 deliveries.

Seelaar was using his seven bowlers in short bursts, almost in T20 mode, and it was Glover, who had initially had trouble with his radar, who eventually inveigled Hamza into top-edging a pull shot high and fine, keeper Edwards coming across to snaffle the chance.

Verreyne continued to find the boundary, but once David Miller had holed out to Max O’Dowd at deep midwicket off Timm van der Gugten, the complexion of the innings began to change.

Keshav Maharaj and Pieter Seelar pose with the trophy (Photo: Cricket South Africa)

Van der Gugten and Van der Merwe were able to restrict the scoring to singles, and the latter secured another breakthrough by bowling Khaya Zondo as he tried to cut a straight delivery.

22 runs had come from the last six overs, and much now depended on Verreyne, whose scoring had slowed somewhat as he closed in on a maiden ODI hundred.

From 300 plus South Africa’s sights seemed to have lowered to a total nearer to 250, and even that appeared less likely when Verreyne, on 95, pulled a slower ball from Kingma straight to Bas de Leede on the square leg boundary.

Two deliveries later Wayne Parnell miscued towards Van der Merwe, who covered a lot of ground to take the catch, and the Proteas were on 209 for seven with six overs left.

Dutch spirits were high, but the imposing figure of Andile Phehlukwayo now joined skipper Keshav Maharaj in the middle, and after three more relatively quiet overs which added 16 to the score, he launched an onslaught which again transformed the game.

First he smashed Kingma for two straight sixes, Maharaj chiming in with a four; an almost identical over from Klaassen yielded the same result; and then Phehlukwayo hit Glover for six, four and six again to bring his tally to 48 from 20 deliveries.

Glover had the last word, however, as the big man heaved mightily at the final ball in search of his half-century, and the ball crashed into the stumps.

Still, 52 runs had come from the last three overs, and South Africa could be happy with their 277 for eight.

Klaassen had been the pick of the bowlers with two for 45 from eight overs (two for 28 from seven before that near-death experience at the hands of Phehlukwayo), while Kingma with two for 49 and Van der Gugten with one for 40 toiled hard in the thin Gauteng atmosphere, and the spin trio of Seelaar, Van der Merwe and Ackermann all largely kept the brakes on in the middle overs.

O’Dowd and Myburgh clearly meant business as the Dutch began their chase, taking 11 off the first two overs, but then the weather decided to have the last work.

Whether this absorbing match will have a sequel is now in the lap of the gods, or at least of airline KLM.

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