A repeat performance by Peter Borren's side
It was déja vu all over again at Mission Road on Saturday, as the second WCL Championship match between Hong Kong and the Netherlands followed the pattern of the first, the visitors eventually winning another tight game by 13 runs after Hong Kong seemed well set for victory.
As on Thursday, both sides failed to capitalise on excellent starts, although on a pitch which, while remaining pretty true, played slower and lower than it had two days earlier, the Dutch total of 315 for nine probably constituted a slightly more imposing target than the 330 they made then.
For the third time in a row Peter Borren called correctly and elected to bat, and Stephan Myburgh and Michael Rippon got their side off to a good start with a stand of 63 in 13 overs. The Hong Kong new ball bowlers had tightened up their act a good deal, bowling better lengths and lines, but it was left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed who got the first breakthrough, Myburgh holing out to Shahid Wasif when he had made 23.
Rippon reached an excellent half-century in partnership with Ben Cooper, but almost immediately afterwards he was beaten by Nadeem’s flight and departed for a 78-ball 53. Barresi did not last long, wafting airily at a straight delivery from Ehsan Nawaz, and after 25 overs the Dutch were on 124 for three.
That was a great platform with Cooper well set, and he and Roelof van der Merwe proceeded to add 78 in just nine overs as the home side’s attack began to seem rather threadbare. Cooper was dropped at point when he had made 47, soon afterwards reaching his fifty from 49 deliveries, but it was Van der Merwe who was the first to go, caught by Shahid off Nizakat Khan’s third delivery for a punishing 24-ball 28.
Four overs later Cooper, on 78, chopped an Ehsan Khan delivery into his stumps; his innings took just 72 balls and included seven fours and two sixes. Peter Borren and Pieter Seelaar also went along at better than a run a ball, adding 54 for the sixth wicket in six-and-a-half overs before Seelaar, on 31, chipped Ehsan Khan to fine leg.
Borren, having made 49 from 43 deliveries, departed somewhat reluctantly to a waist-high full toss from Aizaz Khan which he top-edged to third man, but the umpires were adamant that the delivery was just within the legal limits.
Aizaz, who had been the most consistent of the Hong Kong attack throughout the innings, Ehsan Khan and Tanveer Ahmed again kept the batsmen relatively quiet in the closing overs, but Borren’s contribution had got the total past 300, and the tail got it up to 314 by the end.
Nadeem was the most economical of the bowlers with two for 49, and Ehsan Khan finished with three for 59.
Chris Carter and Anshuman Rath set about the chase with considerable confidence, assisted by some wayward bowling from Shane Snater, who had replaced Viv Kingma in the Dutch side. Paul van Meekeren was steadier at the other end, but Borren was again forced to steady the ship by bringing himself into the attack.
57 came off the ten powerplay overs, and Borren immediately turned to spin. Rippon and Van der Merwe slowed the scoring down, and then Carter charged the latter, lost the grip on his bat, missed the ball and was adjudged stumped, although it seemed equally possible that he had been bowled. Either way, he was out for 24, and Babar Hayat joined Rath.
These were Hong Kong’s two form batsmen, who had shared a record-breaking stand of 197 on Thursday. They again took command, adding 64 in 13 overs, but the Dutch in their turn began to eliminate the boundaries, and Rath, having made 85 from 83 balls to bring his tally in three matches to 405, tried to charge Rippon and was more conventionally stumped by Barresi. At just 19, he has established himself as an outstanding and already accomplished talent.
The asking rate had gradually crept up to around 8 an over, but Babar and Nizakat Khan kept it within reasonable bounds, despatching anything loose to the boundary, and Nizakat hit four sixes in a 26-ball innings of 41 before he was bowled by Van der Merwe.
Babar, the whole weight of Hong Kong’s prospects upon his shoulders, reached a well-deserved half-century, but he was now having to bat with more circumspection and the rate kept rising inexorably as Borren’s bowlers built up the pressure.
Waqas Khan fell to Rippon, well caught by Max O’Dowd at deep backward square, and when Shahid Wasif was caught by Cooper off Borren for a 22-ball 20 Hong Kong, despite Babar’s heroics, needed 12 an over.
He was now batting almost single-handed, and that proved his downfall. Pushing for a second in order to retain the strike he was caught well short and departed for a magnificent but ultimately vain 86, made from 80 balls with six fours and three sixes.
The lower order found the demand of two a ball beyond them, and Borren, Van Meekeren and Ahsan Malik closed out the final overs as Hong Kong finished 14 short. It had been a gallant attempt, but once again it was not quite enough.
Van der Merwe was strangler-in-chief, his nine overs conceding just 36, but it was Rippon, with his two wickets including the vital one of Rath to go with his 53, who took the Man of the Match award for the second time in three days.
The two victories keep the Netherlands on course for the Championship title, although they still face tricky encounters with Kenya in Nairobi and Namibia at a neutral venue, and they will need their main rivals Papua New Guinea to drop points somewhere along the line.
But after three days of the Intercontinental Cup game in which they scarcely took a trick, they have come back well, dominating the final day of that match and then withstanding the pressure well in the two one-day games. They will go home with a sense of mission accomplished at Mission Road.