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July 11, 2005
The ICC Trophy is a quirky event for a quirky sport. In what other game would the fifth and sixth-place play-off be the biggest match of the tournament, with the most lucrative prize and the most inconsolable losers?
Holland faced the United Arab Emirates in this do-or-die rubber. The top four teams after the group stages had automatically qualified for the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, and there was one more place up for grabs.
But it was not just the World Cup spot that the teams were battling for - with qualification came ODI status and all the additional ICC funding that comes with the territory - $500,000 over four years. It was the sort of boost that could launch an emerging nation, if not onto the global stage, then significantly closer.
Under clear skies and in temperatures more suited to Dubai than Dublin, UAE won the toss and chose to bowl. This was the first sign of what would unfold. It is a truism in sport that the teams that want it the most tend to get it.
Fielding first surprised the Dutch captain, Luuk van Troost, who admitted he would have batted and, despite a faltering start with the new ball swinging round corners on this coastal ground, they posted an imposing 287 in 50 overs.
The star of the show was the ex-Sussex batsman, Bas Zuiderent, who batted throughout the innings to finish unbeaten on 116. It wasn't so much the runs he made as the manner in which he made them that displayed the true depth of this contest.
On reaching his hundred, Zuiderent threw both arms in the air and saluted an erupting dressing-room. As he walked from the pitch, his teammates cheered him from the square, and with a steely determination, he thumped his bat, adrenaline flowing with the look of a man who had only done half the job.
His was not the only commanding performance - Ryan ten Doeschate joined him on 143 for 4 and together they doubled the score without losing another wicket. Any momentum UAE had enjoyed disappeared as they wilted under a hefty, Dutch flogging. For Zuiderent, pleased though he was with his hundred, only one thing mattered.
"The biggest thing for us was to win, that is all that was on our minds. It has given me the biggest pleasure the win today." In truth, from the moment Tim de Leede and Zuiderent added 122 for the third wicket, this was not in doubt. UAE's fielders did not back up their medium-pace and slow bowlers. Too many fumbles, too many players letting the ball go without chasing - there was a feeling of inevitability that once it infects a team, is impossible to shake.
In contrast, when the Dutch were in the field, they dived and stopped, threw accurately to the top of the stumps, bowled to one side of the wicket and let UAE make the mistakes. Simple cricket - the mantra of their coach, Bob Simpson. UAE finished on 142 all out. An emotional skipper paid tribute to Simpson's method - saying the right thing at the right time, never panicking even when results went against them earlier in the tournament (Holland lost to Scotland and Canada in a rain-affected game - one they should have won).
But van Troost could not emphasise enough what this meant for Holland: "If we had missed qualification, it would have been a disaster financially and for the prospect of Dutch cricket. It is important to win and we deserved it. I think we wanted it more. With that total, we knew a few quick wickets would win us the game."
In fact, the Dutch courage and desire came from their anger and disappointment at failing to qualify through the group stages. "We should have qualified then, after Ireland and Scotland, we should be the third team. Not Canada or Bermuda, we are a better team than them."
The UAE captain, Khurran Khan, was positive in defeat, despite missing out on the huge prize: "It is a heart-breaking defeat but I think Holland played well. I feel they won it, our batting did not click - too many rash shots and too much casual play. I do not think it is down and out for UAE cricket, we can take positives from the game and go and work on our weaknesses."
Holland deserved this victory and their chance in the Caribbean because they wanted it, they needed and, when it mattered, they won it. Convincingly.