Netherlands' last-ball victory a two-edged sword?
The second Twenty20 International between the Netherlands and Bangladesh, which resulted in that stunning last-ball victory for the Dutch, might so easily never have happened.
It was a last-minute addition to the Bangladeshis’ itinerary, only announced three days before it took place. But it acquired a permanent place in Dutch cricket history, the national side’s second T20 International victory over an ICC Full member, and its second defeat of Bangladesh in three years.
There was little indication as the Bangladeshis cruised to an eight-wicket victory over their hosts in the first match on Wednesday that the Netherlands would be able to emulate Scotland, who had beaten the tourists by 33 runs in their first game at the Westvliet ground.
With Michael Swart leading the way with a 41-ball 57 and useful contributions from the middle order – not least Tim Gruijters with an undefeated 21 – the Dutch did pretty well to post a total of 144 for seven, but Tamim Iqbal’s 69 not out from 53 deliveries was a devastating reply, and an unbroken third-wicket stand of 82 with skipper Mushfiqur Rahim was enough to ensure that Bangladesh made it home with two overs to spare.
Tamim was at it again when Bangladesh won the toss before the second match and elected to bat first, but this time he was called upon to adopt more of a sheetanchor role, if such a thing can exist in the hurly-burly of a T20 game, as Peter Borren’s strategy of opening with spin at both ends produced three wickets in four overs.
Two wickets for Swart and one for Gruijters meant that Junaid Siddique, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim were all back in the dugout before anyone had time to draw breath, but Tamim and Mahmudullah steadied things with a 62-run fourth-wicket stand in eight and a half overs.
Now Borren turned to his seamers, and Ahsan Malik Jamil secured the breakthrough when Mahmudullah holed out to Borren on the long on boundary, the second of the Dutch skipper’s four catches.
Ziaur Rahman took over the lead role, contributing 22 of a fifth-wicket partnership of 36, but when he fell to a stunning catch by Borren off Timm van der Gugten and Tamim succumbed to the same combination immediately after posting his half-century, the Bangladeshi innings began to lose momentum and the last four wickets produced just eight runs, Van der Gugten finishing with three for 18 and Mudassar Bukhari two for 13.
Just as Swart’s 57 had been eclipsed by Tamim’s unbeaten 69 in the first game, the latter’s 50 was now trumped by the Dutch opener’s 49-ball 61 in the second. In an innings where the next highest score was Borren’s 16, Swart’s contribution was massive, and by the time he was seventh out the Dutch needed 17 to win from 13 deliveries.
But still the match hung in the balance, and when Shafiul Islam bowled Gruijters three balls later it seemed to be swinging the Bangladeshis’ way.
10 runs were needed from Abdur Razzak’s final over, and the first three deliveries produced only a two. Eight from three balls. Then Van der Gugten lofted the fourth ball over long off, and the advantage swung the Netherlands’ way.
With his fifth ball Razzak trapped Van der Gugten in front – advantage Bangladesh once more – and Jamil came to the wicket with two still needed and every result possible. Imperturbably, the No. 11 cut the final delivery through backward point to the boundary and, as at Lord’s in 2009, the Netherlands had beaten a Full member off the very last ball of the game.
In their six T20 Internationals against the Associates, Bangladesh had twice come within an ace of losing to Ireland and had suffered defeats by Scotland and the Netherlands. If this tour was primarily aimed at preparing the side for the World T20 championship in September, coach Richard Pybus will no doubt be relieved that that tournament is taking place in Sri Lanka rather than in European conditions.
For the Associates, their relative success is bound to produce mixed feelings. While these results can be used to argue that they are gradually closing the gap between them and the weaker Full members, it can also encourage the view that T20 is the format in which ‘upsets’ are most likely, and where the developing nations’ energies can therefore most usefully be deployed.
That is a self-fulfilling argument as long as most Full members remain scandalously unwilling to take on the leading Associates in the longer formats, and it does scant justice to the achievements of Ireland in two World Cups and ignores the Netherlands’ ODI victory over Bangladesh (admittedly in a rain-affected match) in 2010.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are to be congratulated for undertaking this tour, and it must be hoped that other Full members will follow their example and fit more games against the top Associates, in whatever format, into their schedules. If that produces more finishes like last Thursday’s, cricket can only be the winner.