The Netherlands completed the remarkable resurrection of their WCL Division 2 campaign with a convincing win over Namibia in the final. After the same team had nearly put an end to their hopes of promotion on Wednesday with a massive 166 run win many had written the erstwhile favourites off as dead and buried. But after emphatic victories over Kenya and Uganda saw them sneak past Nepal into the final, the Dutch rounded off their campaign with a convincing 8 wicket win in the return match in front of a thousand strong crowd at Wanderers.
The Namibian top order had established a solid platform to the Namibian innings, Craig Williams hitting 54 as the hosts pushed past 100, but a five wicket haul for Michael Rippon saw them subside from 120-2 to 212 all out. The Netherlands made light work of the chase, a brisk 93 run opening partnership between Rahil Ahmed and Stephan Myburgh establishing Dutch dominance, and Ben Cooper and captain Peter Borren putting on 116 for the third wicket to see them home.
After Borren had won his fifth consecutive toss and inserted the hosts, Gerris Snyman threatened a repeat of Wednesday's game as he built partnerships with Stephan Baard and Merwe Erasmus to take Namibia to 56-1 after 14 overs. Snyman's departure for 30, clean bowled by Ahsan Malik, did little to slow the scoring, as Williams looked to accelerate, taking the total past 100 with the support of Erasmus. But Erasmus was to become the first of Rippon's victims in the 29th over with the score on 121, clean bowled through the gate pushing forward.
William's innings of 54 from 56 ball was brought to an end four overs later, trapped in front by the same bowler. At 140-4 with 17 overs remaining, the hosts still looked well-placed for a big score, but Rippon and Malik kept the Dutch on top through the rest of the innings, Sarel Burger's rearguard 29 the only othe substantial contribution to the total. Rippon ensured a steady dtream of new partners joind Burger in the middle, finishing with Man-of-the-Match winning figures of 5-37 from his ten overs. Burger himslef was last man out, looking to pull Malik over the midwicket boundary on the second ball of the final over, only to see Borren hold the catch on the rope.
212 looked short of par at the break, and Rahil Ahmed and Stephan Myburgh quickly made it look indefensible. Both passing 30 at better than a-run-a-ball, pushing on toward the century partnership briskly, Ahmed even outscoring the famously frenetic Myburgh initially, smashing Tiaan Snyman for four and six on consecutive balls. Both were to fall in consecutive overs however, Ahmed falling 9 short of 50 driving Bernhard Scholtz uppishly at cover where Nicholaas Scholtz claimed a fine low catch diving forward, and Myburgh popping a leading edge back to Gerrie Snyman just after reaching his half century.
It was to be the last breakthrough for the hosts though, as the third wicket partnership between Ben Cooper and Peter Borren took the Dutch over the line with 9 overs to spare. Borren alternated between milking the spinners for singles and hitting out, his 76 ball 60 featuring three fours and two sixes. As the pair closed on the total it briefly looked as if Borren's accelerating innings might deny Cooper his own half century, but a straight driven four and a leg glance for two off Tiaan Snyman got Cooper past the milestone and sealed the game, and the title, for the Netherlands.
The hosts nonetheless have good reason to be pleased with their performance in the campaign, and promotion to the World Cricket League Championship and Intercontinental Cup a fine consolation prize. For the Dutch though, the dominant feeling will be one of relief. In the last three games they have looked a class apart, yet had to rely on Kenya to secure their spot in the final and their place in the WCLC and I-Cup for them, once again almost bringing disaster upon themselves in two bad games. However precipitous the route they travelled to get there though, the Dutch are back in top-flight Associates cricket - and that's undeniably where they belong.