This week’s gleam of light was the defeat of Papua New Guinea by the UAE in the first of their two World Cricket League Championship matches in Abu Dhabi on Friday, which despite the Barramundis’ levelling the score in the second, left the Netherlands with a clear margin at the top of that all-important table.
With two rounds to go plus Scotland’s home fixtures against Namibia in June, Peter Borren’s side are now two points ahead of Papua New Guinea, and will still be one point clear even if the Scots win both their matches against the bottom-placed Namibians.
That means that the Dutch are guaranteed to take the Championship if they win all four of their remaining matches – against Kenya in Nairobi and then against Namibia at a neutral venue.
No-one, naturally, should underestimate the size of that task, nor should the possibility be excluded that the weather in Nairobi might play a role; with two rained-off matches against Scotland already in their record, the Netherlands can ill afford another match lost to the elements.
A point in their favour is that Papua New Guinea and Scotland meet in Port Moresby in Round 6, while with World Cup Qualifier places at stake, Hong Kong and Kenya will be dangerous opponents for the Netherlands’ two main rivals in the concluding phase.
All well and good, but at the same time a cloud appeared with the news that allrounder Michael Rippon has opted to qualify for New Zealand, a decision which could affect his availability for the Dutch side in the long term, and perhaps sooner.
The 25-year-old Rippon signed a contract in January with provincial side Otago, where former Dutch national coach Anton Roux is now assistant coach, and has enjoyed considerable success there. In February he wrote to New Zealand Cricket informing them of his intention to qualify to play for the Black Caps.
This will have no immediate effect on his availability to play for the Netherlands, since although the NZC Qualifying Player regulations forbid availability for ‘another country’s national team’, in practice this only applies to ICC Full Member countries.
Rippon himself was keen to stress this week that he remains committed to playing for the Dutch side for as long as possible, and that his change of status in New Zealand will in principle not restrict his availability.
Experience in other similar situations suggests that difficulties may arise when the New Zealand domestic schedule clashes with that of the Netherlands side, but for the present the Dutch management will be able to continue to include Rippon in their plans.
Since making his Dutch debut in 2013 he has played 34 times for the Netherlands across all formats, and he had proved one of the most dependable members of the squad, making 752 runs at 27.85 and taking 58 wickets with his left-arm wrist spin at a cost of 23.32.
He is the side’s leading wicket-taker in the current WCL Championship, his 19 wickets at 15.42 second only to Hong Kong’s Nadeem Ahmed with 20.
The variety he brought to the attack would be severely missed, as would his role as a partner for Stephan Myburgh at the top of the batting order; his fine 58 against Hong Kong in his most recent appearance in the side illustrates what a great loss he will be when he and the Netherlands side eventually part company.
This article was modified on 5 April 2017 to correct the false impression that Michael Rippon had ended his Dutch career by signing as a Quafifying Player in New Zealand.