The Netherlands missed an excellent opportunity to beat Afghanistan in Qatar on Friday. Unfortunately, a strong and disciplined bowling and fielding effort did not get a follow-up. The Netherlands had no answer to Afghanistan’s excellent spinners and were all out for 186.
Players like Van der Merwe, Van Beek, O’Dowd and Ben Cooper were not available for this match. On the other hand, this offered opportunities for homegrown talents such as debutant Boris Gorlee, Philippe Boissevain, Musa Ahmad, Saqib Zulfiqar and Viv Kingma.
After winning the toss, captain Pieter Seelaar decided to field first. After all, an unknown pitch and strong winds (soon the bails were even removed by the umpires) could give the bowlers an advantage.
Viv Kingma drew first blood when he got opener Gurbaz played on. In the fifth over, Kingma seemed to strike again, but unfortunately for the Netherlands, it was a no-ball for overstepping. From the other end, left-arm seamer Fred Klaassen opened strongly as usual. Bas de Leede conceded only five runs in three fine overs.
After ten overs the score was 34/1. The ball stayed low and the pitch was slow. The Netherlands worked disciplined and steadily, sticking to the game plan: bowl line and length with relatively many changes and well plotted fielding positions, helped by excellent ground fielding. The fact that Afghanistan could never accelerate was therefore entirely attributable to the Netherlands.
Nevertheless, Afghans Rahmat Shah and Usman Ghani almost unnoticedly worked on a 50+ partnership. After a six over the top of Rahmat on the otherwise well-varying legspinner Boissevain, Ghani wanted the same. That meant the end of his innings. Colin Ackermann had to move 20 meters to the left and took a very good catch at the boundary: 75/2 in the nineteenth over.
Unfortunately, ‘keeper Scott Edwards missed a stumping chance on the incoming captain Hashmatullah. That ball also ‘skidded’ a bit and stayed low.
Rahmat reached his 50 in 27th over. Boris Gorlee seemed to catch him in the outfield, but the ball bounced inches in front of him. After thirty overs, the Afghans still made exactly four runs per over: 120/2. On the Dutch side, most bowling changes worked out well. But the Afghans knew they could get to 240-250 with enough wickets in hand.
To achieve that, Afghanistan tried to accelerate a bit, but the Dutch bowlers very cleverly took the pace off the ball. Offspinner Ackermann was rewarded when he got Shah lbw for a well-made 70: 141/3/36, and after forty overs the scoreboard stood at 159/3.
Najibullah could not live up to his reputation. Klaassen got the dangerous pinch-hitter lbw and that meant 161/4 in the 41st over. One over later, Glover was also rewarded for a varied spell when he was able to grab a simple caught and bowled off a leading edge: 168/5/42 and the Netherlands on top in this part of the game.
Captain Hashmatullah reached his 50 in the 44th over. With him in the middle, a score of 230+ was still possible for Afghanistan. Since everyone bowled well, captain Seelaar had plenty of options in the ‘death’. However, his choice to bowl the 48th over himself did not work out well and went for 15 runs.
In the 49th over, Musa Ahmed helped Fred Klaassen to his second wicket through an insane catch at long on. He caught the ball, ran over the boundary, but threw the ball back into the field just in time and completed the catch. Fortunately, the video footage showed that he had timed everything perfectly.
Glover’s final over (3-43) was brilliant and was rewarded with catches from Bas de Leede and Philippe Boissevain, Glover finishing on 3-43. As a result, Afghanistan only reached 222/8.
Musa Ahmed and Scott Edwards provided a reasonable start. After six overs, as expected, a spinner came on: Mujeeb ur-Rahman, the number three in the world. However, it was seamer Ahmadzai who claimed the wicket of Musa Ahmed (caught at extra cover): 37/1 in the eighth over.
Colin Ackermann (10) and Bas de Leede (9) could not make the difference despite careful batting. Both went out to world-class spinners: Ackermann facing Mujeeb and De Leede fell to legspinner Rashid Khan. 70/3 in the seventeenth over.
“Never mind the run rate”, the coach and captain will have whispered. Keeping wickets in hand and not letting the required run rate rise too far would be crucial, especially considering the four (at least in international cricket) specialised bowlers in the tail.
That is why Edwards and Seelaar were extremely concentrated working on a 51 run partnership, which unfortunately came to an end when the outstanding Edwards (a great 68) fell victim to a fantastic arm ball from Mujeeb. 121/4 in the 31st over.
Knowing that Khan still had six overs left, the experienced Seelaar and debutant Gorlee had to accelerate. However, they had to fight for every run. Ahmadzai bowled off cutters and got some reverse swing. Gorlee scrambled it out for a single, but the next ball went through the defence of Seelaar (32): 152/5 in the fortieth over.
The young Saqib Zulfiqar could not be expected to easily find the boundary on this quality attack. Now that the required run-rate was rising, Gorlee went for an impossible single and was run out. Philippe Boissevain offered some resistance but was eventually cleaned up by a googly from Khan.
In a desperate attempt, Kingma and Klaassen were both run out in the 48th over. The Netherlands (186) came up just short to crown a fine bowling and fielding performance with what would have been a wonderful victory.
Scorecard, click here.