Brendon McCullum’s side is a settled and dangerous unit, but it can't afford to take it easy against an unpredictable Netherlands line-up
Peter Borren, captain of The Netherlands team, has been forced to deal with a mixed bag of emotions in the ICC World Twenty20 2014. After being led to the exit door in the qualifying round, The Netherlands won an unbelievable game of cricket against Ireland to stay in the mix.
Having got to the Super10s - the only Associate nation to do so - Borren was well aware that his team was not merely playing for itself. “We understand that in a way we are representing all the Associate nations,” Borren had said before The Netherlands’ match against Sri Lanka. Cricket served up another twist, as the side was bowled out for 39, a target that Sri Lanka chased in only five overs.
Borren then pleaded with spectators not to judge his team too early, not to write them off as a team who could not mix it with the big boys of world cricket. And in the next match, The Netherlands came within inches of stunning South Africa. For 30 of the 40 overs in that match, The Netherlands was comfortably ahead of the game, but with less than a run-a-ball needed and five wickets in hand, it froze with a famous win in sight.
With this history in mind, New Zealand will know that it has to be extremely careful when it takes on The Netherlands in Saturday’s (March 29) first match at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. New Zealand has come to the tournament as a settled and dangerous team, its only obvious weakness being the lack of a second quality spinner to back Nathan McCullum up. However, no need has arisen for spin bench strength at Chittagong, with the pitch playing true and the ball skidding along.
New Zealand is stacked with batsmen who can take the game away, and its lower order strength, which includes the dynamic Corey Anderson, is yet to be properly tested.
Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, kept his wits about him in a rain-curtailed match against England that gave his team two vital points, and he knows he will have to keep a keen eye on The Netherlands. “The way the Dutch are playing, I think it's incredibly courageous, rocks or diamonds, so to speak,” said Brendon. “They're either going to come off or they're not, and it's why they're a dangerous team to play against. They don't fear the losing side of things or if it doesn't work out, playing that style, so we've prepared well today and we'll see what we come up with tomorrow. Hopefully, if we play well, we should be strong enough for them.”
New Zealand comes into the match on the back of a four-day break, a different run from The Netherlands. For Borren, the team’s stated ambition from before the Super10s began has not changed, irrespective of the fact that the results have been a mixed bag of losses. “We just really want to get a win or an upset at this tournament,” reiterated Borren. “We had a really good opportunity against South Africa, we've got two more opportunities and I really hope we can take one of those.”
If The Netherlands is to make that dream come true, a lot will depend on how its top order does. Stephan Myburgh played a blinder against Ireland and replicated that, to a lesser extent, against South Africa. If Myburgh provides the power at the top of the order, it is Tom Cooper who is expected to give the innings backbone. While the others, including Borren, are capable cricketers, some of whom have been involved in as many as four World Cups, New Zealand will know exactly which cricketers to fear. Unless, of course, there are more surprises up those orange sleeves.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Anton Devcich, Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McClenaghan, Trent Boult, Ronnie Hira.
The Netherlands: Peter Borren (capt), Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudassar Bukhari, Ben Cooper, Tom Cooper, Tom Heggleman, Ahsan Malik, Vivian Kingma, Stephan Myburgh, Michael Rippon, Pieter Seelaar, Michael Swart, Eric Szwarczynski, Logan van Beek, Timm van der Gugten.