Feature photo credit: Sander Tholen
If Thursday’s match in the brief T20 International series between the Netherlands and New Zealand suggested that the teams were more or less evenly matched, that illusion was quickly dispelled at Westvliet on Friday, when it was all too evident that this was a contest between the fifth- and 18th-ranked T20 sides in the world.
The Dutch had competed gamely for much of the first game, but here the disparities were much more evident, in part perhaps because the Blackcaps were more familiar with the conditions, but also because of the inclusion of spinner Michael Bracewell in their eleven and because, having won the toss, Scott Edwards elected to bat first.
Bracewell was immediately into the action, bowling the first over and removing Max O’Dowd with its final delivery, and he struck again in the eighth over of the innings, when he had Steph Myburgh caught by Finn Allen at deep fine leg for 24.
In between Myburgh, who had batted confidently, at one point hitting Ben Sears for six over that same fine leg boundary, had lost Vikram Singh, brought into the side for Teja Nidamanuru but soon falling to a finger-tip catch by skipper Mitchell Santner off Blair Tickner’s bowling.
Myburgh’s departure made it 44 for three, and with the arrival of Tom Cooper came the home side’s best passage of play in the match, as he and Bas de Leede added 67 for the fourth wicket off just 35 deliveries, Cooper at his improvisational best while De Leede continued in the same fluent vein in which he had batted on Thursday.
A total in excess of 160 seemed possible, but then Cooper tried to hit Ish Sodhi over the extra cover boundary, the ball hung in the wind, and Daryl Mitchell made good ground to his left to take the catch; Cooper, visibly furious, departed for an 18-ball 26.
De Leede and Cooper had been going at ten an over, but now the rate slowed perceptibly as the New Zealand bowlers applied the brakes very effectively in the closing overs.
Scott Edwards played some enterprising shots, De Leede brought up his second consecutive half-century in the penultimate over, but Santner, Sodhi, Tickner and Sears were able to cut down the boundaries, and it took an extraordinary reverse-scooped six from Edwards in the final over to get the total to 147 for four.
Bracewell had two for 20 from his four overs and Tickner one for 25.
Chasing a comparatively modest total, the Blackcaps batters asserted themselves from the outset, and even after Tim Pringle – who had dropped Allen on the midwicket boundary in the previous over – bowled Martin Guptill for 6 and Bas de Leede had trapped Allen in front with his first delivery, it was evident that the tourists were intent on taking this chase at a gallop.
The Dutch had been fortunate to dismiss Mitchell early on Thursday, but this time he gave them no such opportunity, while at the other end Santner, who had despatched the second ball he faced over the long on boundary, dealt harshly with all the Dutch spinners.
He soon moved past his best T20I score, and although he was dropped on 43 and again on 56 he went on to record an unbeaten 42-ball 77, hitting nine fours and four sixes, while Mitchell reached a 27-ball half-century with the winning boundary off the final ball of the 14th over.
Santner and Mitchell had put on 123 for the third wicket off only 64 deliveries, ruthlessly exposing the limitations of the Dutch attack and constantly putting the fielders under pressure.
Unequal as this struggle may have been, the value of such games in the development of Associates players is incontestable, and the opportunity this series provided for Bas de Leede, with his knocks of 66 and 53 not out, to demonstrate to a Dutch public just how far he has progressed should not be underestimated.