World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015
Dynamic Dutch gunning for top spot
The Netherlands were the most successful Associate team in the last World T20, despite a scratchy start to their campaign at the 2013 Qualifier. Having secured a place at the WT20 in Bangladesh by virtue of a fifth place finish in Dubai, the Dutch pulled off a record-breaking run chase against Ireland to escape the group phase and become the sole Associate represtenative at the tournament proper, where they ran South Africa close and picked up a convincing win against England.
Since then the Netherlands has played relatively little T20 cricket, a four-match series against Nepal last month the first time the national side has played the shorter format since besting England. Nonetheless the Dutch look in decent form coming into the tournament, winning the first three of their games against Nepal and losing the last while resting first-choice openers Stephan Myburgh and Michael Swart.
With an deep and dangerous batting line up and one of the strongest bowling attacks in the competition, the men in Orange are serious contenders for the title this time round. That said, the manner of loss against Nepal, and to Hong Kong in their first warm-up does highlight the fragility of the Dutch batting card and its dependence on explosive starts.
A slow start and wickets falling in the powerplay has a habit of precipitating collapse in an otherwise capable top-order. In Ben Cooper, Wesley Barresi, Peter Borren and newcomer Roelof van der Merwe, the Dutch have more firepower in numbers three through six than most sides in their entire line-up, but depite batting all the way down to nine the Netherlands nonetheless tend to struggle to recover from poor starts.
Generally the Dutch are more disciplined in the field, and Captain Peter Borren has an enviable armoury of bowling options to cycle through, not least former Titans and South Africa left arm spinner van der Merwe, and the leading wicket taker in the last Qualifier - medium pacer Ahsan Malik. Muddassar Bukhari, Timm van der Gugten and Paul van Meekeren make up a formidable pace battery and with capable spin options in Pieter Seelaar, Michael Rippon and Michael Swart the Dutch skipper is almost spoilt for choice.
Nonetheless the Netherlands have historically been their own worst enemy at high-pressure tournaments, potentially the best side in the competition but capable of losing to anyone on a bad day. If the Netherlands find a measure of discipline and consistency in the coming weeks the title is within reach, but placed in an improbably strong group and facing Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE first-up, calamity may be just around the corner.
Star Man: Ahsan Malik. For all the firepower in the Dutch line-up, their most consistent matchwinner is the innocuous-looking medium pacer from Rotterdam. With an expansive arsenal of slower variations and a canny knack of taking wickets, Malik is arguably the best T20 bowler in Associates Cricket.
Players to watch: Newly Dutch-qualified Roelof van der Merwe is an eye catching addition to the squad, in the absence of Tom Cooper the former South Africa allrounder is the biggest name at the tournment. The mercurial Mudassar Bukhari is capable of winning games with bat or ball, and a good tournament for him could see the Dutch go all the way.
CricketEurope verdict: A very tough group stage ahead and a batting line-up by turns brilliant and brittle, the Netherlands prospects are hard to guage. A poor start may put the finals beyond reach, but anything less than a top-four finish would require a remarkable under-performance.
The Netherlands: Peter Borren (captain), Rahil Ahmed, Wesley Barresi, Mudassar Bukhari, Ben Cooper, Ahsan Malik, Stephan Myburgh, Max O'Dowd, Michael Rippon, Timm van der Gugten, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren, Thijs van Schelven, Pieter Seelaar, Michael Swart