New Zealand were a class too good for the Netherlands in the first match of their Super League series at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval on Tuesday, an unbeaten Will Young century guiding the hosts to a seven-wicket victory with 11 and a half overs to spare.
It was always going to be a big ask, even with a whole side’s worth of leading Blackcaps away at the IPL.
But after Pieter Seelaar had taken on the challenge at the Bay Oval by electing to bat the Dutch top order made life difficult for their side with some ill-judged batting against a lively home attack.
There were some early signs of promise: Steph Myburgh struck two crisp cover drives to the boundary before falling to a fine low catch by Martin Guptill in the gully, and young Vikram Singh had the commentators carolling his praises with a quartet of boundaries before he gave fellow-debutant Blair Tickner his first ODI wicket with a rather tame attempted ramp to Ish Sodhi at third man.
Bas de Leede played a squarer version of the same laconic shot to Colin de Grandhomme on the backward point boundary and – Max O’Dowd having gloved a lifting leg-side delivery from Kyle Jamieson to Tom Latham behind the stumps and Scott Edwards offering a soft return catch to De Grandhomme – the Netherlands were facing disaster at 45 for five.
That brought Seelaar in to join Michael Rippon, however, and with steely discipline the pair gradually worked their side back into the game, first against the pace of Tickner, De Grandhomme and Matt Henry, then against the wiles of Michael Bracewell and Sodhi.
The stand was worth 80 when Tickner, again troubling the batters with pace and extra bounce, induced Seelaar to edge down the leg side to Latham; the Dutch skipper had made a fine 43, his best ODI score, and had given his team a fighting chance of getting past 200.
Much now depended upon Rippon, who had reached 32, and when Logan van Beek hit Tickner for four and six of consecutive deliveries it seemed as if he might get some valuable support in raising the tempo.
It didn’t last long, however, for Van Beek became Tickner’s fourth victim when he chipped a full delivery to Will Young at mid-on, and the Dutch were 147 for seven.
With Henry off the field Latham brought Sodhi and Bracewell back to eat up some overs, yielding some moments of levity as Philippe Boissevain battled to cope with his fellow leg-spinner; he was eventually caught and bowled by Bracewell, but he stayed long enough to see Rippon through to his fifty, made from 81 balls.
Tickner came back again, looking for the wicket which would make him the first New Zealander to claim five on ODI debut, but it was Jamieson who finished the innings off, first getting Fred Klaassen well caught by De Grandhomme at long on and then Rippon, who had moved to 67 with a six and a four off Tickner, caught by Guptill at deep midwicket.
202 represented a notable recovery from 45 for five, but it was a long way short of what the Dutch needed, and the disappointment was due at least as much to some feckless batting early on as it was to excellent New Zealand bowling and the unfamiliarity of the wicket.
Defending a modest total, Seelaar needed his bowlers to create early pressure, but although Van Beek secured a breakthough when the menacing Guptill edged to keeper Edwards with the total on 12, generally speaking the pace attack was unable to command consistent line and length.
Henry Nicholls and Young took full advantage, bringing up 60 by the end of the initial powerplay, and although Seelar and Rippon were able to stem the flow of runs to some degree, the Blackcap pair brought up their century stand in the 22nd over.
Young was the more aggressive, reaching his fifty from 54 deliveries; Nicholls followed suit, from 65, and by the completion of the 30th over the partnership had been extended to 154.
It was beginning to look like a cakewalk, but then Rippon finally broke through, bowling Nicholls for 57 as he made to cut.
The Ross Taylor valedictory parade now began in earnest: with 29 still required, there was time for a Taylor cameo and a Will Young hundred, and Taylor duly obliged with a splendid late cut off Rippon.
In a dramatic passage of play he then survived a rather optimistic DRS challenge for caught behind, before falling victim to a superb Rippon delivery which spun back prodigiously and bowled him through the gate, departing for 15.
Latham joined Young, now on 93 with 17 needed, and it was the latter who fittingly brought up his maiden ODI century and completed the victory with a four to long off, ending on 103 from 114 deliveries with eight fours and three sixes.
Rippon finished with two for 32 from eight overs, while Seelaar bowled steadily throughout, his ten overs costing just 30 runs.
The Netherlands’ lack of experience at this level is a huge handicap, but they do not lack fighting spirit, and they will move on to Hamilton for Saturday’s second match keen to show that they have learned important lessons from this game.
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