Netherlands – Strong On Paper, Undercooked In Preparation

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Netherlands - Strong on paper, undercooked in preparation. Ryan ten Doeschate's return to the Netherlands side provides a massive boost to their qualification chances

Netherlands – Strong On Paper, Undercooked In PreparationRyan ten Doeschate's return to the Netherlands side provides a massive boost to their qualification chances

As champions of the 2019 T20 WC Qualifier the Netherlands are, at least on paper, favourites together with Sri Lanka to progress from Group A. Coming through the Qualifier unbeaten but for a single group-stage match against Papua New Guinea, upon whom they revenged themselves in the final, the near-full-strength Dutch team looked a cut above their Associate peers, and indeed Ireland – the sole Full Member at the tournament. Unexpectedly back in the UAE for the tournament itself, the Netherlands squad superficially has the look of a side geared toward a tournament in Australia, but their rotating pace attack proved their principal weapon at the Qualifier too, with the Dutch regularly playing four seamers through the tournament.

The Netherlands' comparatively lowly T20I ranking belies their consistently strong performances in major tourneys – in truth more an artefact of their being consistently forced to field understrength sides in bilaterals. The fact that the full-strength Dutch side rarely plays together may also prove a significant weakness, however, the Netherlands often proving slow starters in critical tournaments. This current squad is (bar the addition of Stephan Myburgh and Logan van Beek) much the same as that which won the Qualifier two years ago, but has not played together since. In this context, the Netherlands failure to schedule any extra preparatory matches despite their early arrival in the Emirates is particularly baffling. The batting especially looked undercooked in their first official warm-up against Scotland, where Mark Watt and Chris Greaves bundled them out for 90 as they collapsed chasing just 123. Though the Dutch middle order is doubtless the strongest they have ever fielded, with the talismanic Ryan ten Doeschate back in orange alongside newcomer Colin Ackermann and the veteran Roelof van der Merwe. The top three is in something of a state of flux, with a partner for Max O'Dowd at the top still an open question, and a generally timid approach in the powerplay risking undue pressure on the middle order. While the Dutch pace attack has proved capable of adapting to most conditions, a cautious approach in the first six overs may prove more of a handicap on the pitches currently being served up at Abu Dhabi and Sharjah compared to those at the ICC Academy and Dubai two years ago, where the Dutch played most of their games at the Qualifier. Nevertheless, a deep batting line up, experienced spin section and balanced and varied seam attack make the Dutch serious contenders for a top two spot if they can hit the ground running.

Danger Man: Timm van der Gugten, as something of a pars pro toto for the Dutch seam attack together. Van der Gugten is not the out-and-out quick he once was but has become a canny operator, and of the Dutch pacers the best suited to expected conditions in the Emirates. The Glamorgan seamer will likely be the linchpin of the Netherlands attack, as well as lending potential rope-clearing power down the order to a batting line up that has generally dealt more in fours than sixes.

Key Question: Stephan Myburgh, Max O'Dowd's likely opening partner, returns to the side with a mercurial record at the T20 WC. His exploits against Ireland, South Africa and England at the 2014 edition were among the most memorable innings in the tournament's history, but two years later a belaboured knock against Bangladesh was emblematic of the Netherlands' miserable time at that tournament. Myburgh's confidence, form and approach could dictate how the Dutch deal with the powerplay overs, and has the potential to be either a great asset or a serious weakness in the side.

Rising star: Philippe Boissevain. The Dutch have lacked a front-line wrist spinner since Michael Rippon marooned himself in New Zealand, and going forward the left arm wrist spinner looks destined to don a black cap sooner rather than later. Aiming to fill those shoes is legspinner Boissevain, still raw but a big turner of the ball with a knack for dismissing set bats. He may not get a run out this tournament, and indeed didn't at the qualifier, but even if he doesn't make the cut this will likely be his last tournament riding the bench.

Strengths: The Dutch pace attack is blessed with sufficient riches in the seam department that the likes of Vivian Kingma or Ryan Klein did not even make the initial squad, and which pacemen take the field is not yet a settled question. Timm van der Gugten's variations and experience at the death likely ensure a place, while Fred Klaassen adds a left arm option, Paul van Meekeren extra bounce and seam movement, and Brandon Glover outright pace, while Logan van Beek and Shane Snater are likewise first-class options. The presence of three spin all-rounders in Seelaar, Ackermann and van der Merwe also allows the Dutch to play an extra specialist, adding depth and adaptability to the Dutch roster.

Weaknesses: A lack of competitive preparatory matches has left the Dutch looking undercooked with the bat and unsure of their best team with just days to go. Uncertainty regarding the top three is likely to compound the Netherlands' now-habitual timidity in the first six overs, which saw them post an average powerplay score in the mid 30s during the Qualifier – a gambit which recent results suggest will likely lead to defeat at Sharjah and Abu Dhabi regardless of wickets in hand.

The Dutch batting is statistically also vulnerable to quality spin, with all but Ackermann having significantly better records against pace. It might be said that coach Ryan Campbell has been building a side for a World Cup in Australia, and with little opportunity to reorient and re-strategise after the venue change a combination of caution with the bat and lack of match preparation could be fatal.

Past Highs and Lows: The Netherlands' famous last ball win over hosts England in the opening game of the 2009 edition is an image etched into the history of the tournament, though arguably more impressive was their comprehensive deconstruction of the English five years later. On the way to that win, of course, was the nigh-impossible chase against Ireland that saw them come from behind to claim the sole Super 10s spot on offer in their first round group. Not all of their memories from 2014 are as happy, of course. Coming back from the humiliation of 39 all-out against Sri Lanka, the Dutch played themselves into a winning position against South Africa before squandering their shot at a memorable upset and even a shot at the semis in the face of Imran Tahir. The 8-run margin of their defeat to Bangladesh at the 2016 edition likewise left them wondering what might have been as the rain washed them out of the tournament against Oman.

Netherlands Fixtures

Ireland vs Netherlands – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -14:00, Monday October 18

Netherlands vs Namibia – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -14:00, Wednesday October 20

Sri Lanka vs Netherlands – Sharjah -18:00, Friday October 22 (D/N)

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