By R Kaushik in Sylhet
UAE did put up 151 on the board but the reins of the match were always in the hands of the victors
If the Netherlands was affected by the Timothy Gruijters controversy, then it didn’t reflect in its cricket as it ran rings around an overmatched United Arab Emirates at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Monday (March 17) night.
If UAE had hoped to make an instant impact on their ICC World Twenty20 debut, it was in for a rude shock in the second Group B encounter of the day, in front of largely empty stands after the fans had filtered out following the nail-biting Ireland-Zimbabwe clash that preceded this mismatch.
Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, elected to bat in the hope of scoring big and putting the opposition under scoreboard pressure in the second game to be played on the same surface. His designs were foiled as much by Dutch discipline as the immaturity of his own batsmen, who all fell playing strokes that were not really on.
UAE failed to bat out its 20 overs, being dismissed for 151 with one delivery left of its quota. Stephan Myburgh then took command in Michael Swart’s company as the Netherlands sauntered to 152 for 4, completing a straightforward six-wicket victory with enough to spare.
Myburgh unfurled a stunning range of strokes through the on-side against Malinga Guruge, the left-arm paceman, and Shadeep Silva, the left-arm spinner, to get the Dutch off to a rollicking start. The Netherlands kept blasting away right through its chase; if it was Myburgh and Swart who called the shots up front, Tom Cooper came out and showed why he is rated so highly with a gorgeous cover drive off the second delivery he faced, which he followed up with a pull that went flat and parallel to the ground all the way to the square-leg boundary.
UAE’s bowling lacked sting for the most part, the fact that the pitch had livened up somewhat under the lights not really helping its cause. It wasn’t until Kamran Shazad, slightly slingy action and seriously express, appeared in the seventh over with 67 already on the board that it effected the breakthrough, Shahzad beating Swart for pace and eliciting a catch on the pull to mid-wicket, but by then, the bird had flown.
Myburgh, whose onslaught against Guruge had made for compelling viewing, was run out by a lob from Swapnil Patil from behind the stumps, but the Cooper boys Tom and Ben brought the Netherlands home with little drama.
The UAE innings had just two partnerships of substance – 67 for the third wicket in 52 deliveries between Khurram and Swapnil Patil, and 47 off 29 for the fifth between the enterprising Shaiman Anwar and the exciting Rohan Mustafa. Otherwise, there was little of note beyond optimistic wafts and ill-advised adventurism, both of which were made capital of by the experienced Netherlands squad astutely marshalled by Peter Borren.
Khurram looked in a league of his own, belying his 42 years, timing the ball beautifully and haring between the wickets as he dominated the association with Patil. UAE needed that stabilising hand after losing Amjad Ali and Faizan Asif, the openers, inside the first two overs. Indeed, the propensity to lose wickets in quick succession pulled UAE back considerably, with Patil and Khurram falling in identical fashion playing on in the first over sent down by Tom Cooper, and Anwar and Mustafa being dismissed in the space of three deliveries in the same over from Timm van der Gugten.
Most of the Dutch bowlers were on the money. No one impressed more than Ahsan Malik, the 24-year-old medium pacer who was used in four bursts and who made each one of them count with his round-the-wicket line of attack and his clever changes of pace. Malik might only have picked up the lower-order wickets, but he had been more than a handful even to the top order after being brought on in the tenth over.
The Netherlands not just bowled with parsimony, it also fielded brilliantly and caught everything that came their way. UAE, by contrast, was quite shoddy in the field, putting down five catches of varying degrees of difficulty and tending to drop concentration once it became apparent that the game was rapidly going away from it.
A tough day in the office for the debutant, but it will be better for the experience. UAE’s bigger tests in this competition still lie ahead in the shape of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Exactly what UAE have picked up from this drubbing should become apparent when it meets Ireland, again under lights, on Wednesday.