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March 22, 2014
Choice of game
It was the last day of the men's World Twenty20 matches in in Sylhet and there was no way that I was going to miss this. The first match was pretty much one-sided, with Zimbabwe winning comfortably against UAE. It all now depended on the second match, where Ireland were up against Netherlands. As the scorching sun finally moved away to rest behind the green hill, the crowd started building up. I can safely say not one of us would have guessed what we were about to witness.
When Netherlands came out to bat facing the daunting total of 190, I don't think anyone would have even contemplated about them qualifying. Stephan Myburgh changed everything. The sheer ease with which he was hitting the boundaries was just fantastic to watch. We could all sense his belief. The ball flew everywhere, and the sense of bewilderment settled upon the entire stadium. If it weren't for the dot balls when he was on 44, I bet he would have equalled the record for the fastest fifty. Unbelievable run rates flashed on the big screen as overs passed by. I believe it was 17.45 at one time and it was all courtesy of Myburgh and Peter Borren. Tom Cooper also deserves a mention, carrying on in a similar fashion to Myburgh. When he hit those four consecutive sixes, I thought he was going to do a Yuvraj Singh on George Dockrell.
The oranje brigade
There were quite a lot of Dutch supporters in the crowd and they were all proudly adorned in their national colour. Some of them even added a touch of Bangladeshi flavour to their attire - wearing orange panjabis over their khaki shorts. I was sitting close to two of them. It was clear they were not too familiar with the rules of the game but they often asked the two locals, who had accompanied them, if they had any confusion.
As soon as the winning shot was scored, the Dutch players all rushed to the field, picking up the two batsmen and taking them for a piggy-back ride. The crowd went into a frenzy, having witnessed one of the best chases, if not the best chase, in a T20. I can safely say the sting from the disappointment of what happened in Chittagong the night before was soon lost in the jubilation of the Netherlands players and supporters.
Shot of the day
Off the fourth ball of the second over, Myburgh dropped on one knee and sent the ball soaring over midwicket. Off the next ball he did the same. It was a sign of things to come and by then everyone in the crowd was forced to sit up and take notice.
The ride home
The small Dutch contingent gathered outside of the gates of the stadium, dancing in circles. They were sometimes joined by a few enthusiastic locals. Some of the supporters sat on top of the mini-buses, proudly waving their national flag. As their vehicles made their way along the streets, bystanders cheered them on, flashing thumbs-up signs.
As our fairytale comes to an end and the Dutch one begins, I can't help but feel a touch of sadness amongst all the joy of the night. I have had to skip meals, deal with terrible sunburn, and yet it is the happiest I have felt in a long time. To the commentators and crew at the stadium, the players and staff of Ireland, Netherlands, UAE and Zimbabwe, I would like to wish a heartfelt thank you. Sending lots of love to you all from Sylhet.
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