Dutch dragged back down to Earth by Sri Lanka
Records were falling again today, but the boot was on the other foot for the Netherlands as a ruthless Sri Lanka attack scythed through the Dutch line up for just 39 runs - a total that took just 30 balls to overhaul.
A Dutch team that thought they had nothing to lose were brutally reminded that pride is always on the line, and even the heady euphoria carried from their previous game could not assuage the nerves evident in the Dutch batsmen keenly, perhaps over-keenly aware that they carried the flag alone for Associates cricket. The clinical bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga held them to the lowest ever score in T20 Internationals from an innings that, at 63 balls, lasted barely longer than the Sri Lankan anthem.
The first over was a sign of things to come, Kulasekara starting with two dots and the wicket of Stephan Myburgh, slicing into the hands of Malinga on the third man boundary, following up with three more dots to complete a wicket maiden. The next over was still worse, Swart top edging a cross-batted slap which flew high and straight up before returning to the gloves of Sangakkara, and Barresi pushing the next ball to cover to put Mathews on a hat-trick.
The tournament's continuing floodlight problems returned to delay the hat-trick ball, leaving Peter Borren and Tom Cooper in darkness in the middle. But things improved little following the interuption, just eight more runs coming before Matthews struck again, trapping Borren in front with an in-swinger for the third duck of the innings, and reeling on 9 for 4, the Cooper brothers were confronted with Lasith Malinga.
A mis-communication in the middle and Kulasekara's direct hit from the boundary saw Ben Cooper run out to bring an end to the most productive partnership of the innings - 16 runs between the Cooper brothers to take the Dutch to 25-5. Cooper Sr lasted just 8 more balls before being trapped LBW by Mendis, and Logan van Beek was unable to better his his highest score of one. Malinga accounted for him with a trademark slower yorker, and Mudassar Bukhari went in near identical fashion three balls later.
Mendis' first ball of the next over took Pieter Seelaar's edge, as tragedy rapidly became farce. Two more balls and it was all over, Mendis trapping Malik in front, and the Dutch had followed up one of the best T20 innings ever played with what surely must count as one of the worst.
To their credit, the Dutch refused to let the calamity cow them, Timm van der Gugten and Ahsan Malik bowling with control and intent to make the Sri Lankans work for their win. Van der Gugten's first over brought two tough chances at Gully and cover, but Perera survived by inches as Myburgh and Cooper couldn't quite cling on diving forward. Malik succeeded in claiming what was to be the sole Sri Lankan wicket to fall, inducing Perera spoon one up to mid-on from the last ball of the second over.
But the Netherlands were essentially at least 100 runs short of a defensible total, and the initial sharp discipline in the field began to flag as the runs required moved into single figures. A simple catch put down by Bukhari off van der Gugten to reprieve Jayawardene was academic to all but the players involved, and two balls later Sri Lanka were home, having taken just five overs (another record) to complete a nine wicket win.
Captain Peter Borren, with his usual frankness, described the performance as "pretty embarrassing", and indeed a rapid improvement will be needed before the team meet a fired-up South Africa on Thursday.