Scots meet Dutch in top of the table clash
Scotland's tour of Netherlands shifts from The Hague to the south Amsterdam precinct of Amstelveen for round two of the World Cricket League Championship. The two sides have been neck and neck all summer, sharing the title at July's World Twenty20 Qualifier before a tense four-day Intercontinental Cup encounter that the hosts won by 44 runs. Now the two sides are set to tussle for sole possession of first place in the ICC's 50-over Associate competition.
"This is obviously a hugely important series," Scotland captain Preston Mommsen told ESPNcricinfo ahead of Monday's first one-dayer. "These wins are crucial taking every point we can in the bigger picture. So we need to be at full strength and at our best to get these points off the Dutch."
After losing ODI status following a disastrous campaign at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand that saw them briefly drop out of Division One, Netherlands bounced back in dramatic fashion at the WCL Division Two in January.
They started the campaign in Namibia with a solid 67-run win over Canada but then dropped their next two matches against Nepal and Namibia. However, Netherlands avenged their 2014 loss to Kenya in New Zealand, beating them by five wickets with more than 19 overs to spare.
They then bowled out Uganda for 79 and chased the target in 6.3 overs to not only win, but surpass Nepal on net run-rate and clinch a spot in the final. The Dutch then got payback on Namibia for the group-stage loss, beating them by eight wickets to secure the Division Two title, thus earning their way back into the WCL Championship for the 2015-17 cycle.
Netherlands carried that momentum into round one where they beat Papua New Guinea by five wickets in a rain-affected match reduced to 24 overs in Rotterdam. Peter Borren then clubbed an unbeaten 105 in an 85-run win two days later at the VRA Ground in Amstelveen.
Even though Netherlands beat Scotland in the recent four-day game as well as in the World T20 Qualifier by 32 runs in Edinburgh, Borren isn't taking the challenge lightly.
"Obviously they're a really very good side and a dangerous one-day cricket team and we know that," Borren said. "They bat all the way down and have got a lot of dangerous players. They've also got a good bowling attack. I think we've got a lot of respect for the Scottish team. We've seen them play some really good aggressive, attacking cricket under Preston since he became skipper and we respect that.
"At the same time, we're also pretty similar actually. We're also going to be playing that brand of cricket. It's going to take one or two guys to step up and play special innings and a lot of discipline in the field for us to win. We're probably going to get a pretty good wicket at VRA and it'll be pretty entertaining cricket. It's two teams that like to play pretty aggressively. I'm sure it'll be a great series."
Scotland's 50-over results in 2015 are tempered by a winless campaign at the World Cup. They beat Afghanistan by 150 runs in an ODI prior to the World Cup, then came agonizingly close to beating them in New Zealand before going down by one wicket. A Kyle Coetzer century against Bangladesh was scored in vain in a six-wicket defeat.
However, the experience gained against Full Members appeared to set them up for a successful season against Associate competition. Following their World T20 Qualifier joint-title with the Dutch, they claimed both 50-over matches against Nepal in round one of the WCL Championship, including a nine-wicket thumping in the second match.
Despite the loss last week to Netherlands in the four-day game, Mommsen is still feeling positive about his team's chances of securing maximum points in the upcoming 50-over matches due to their consistent white-ball form through June and July.
"The Dutch take with them a bit of momentum into these one-dayers but we've got to nullify that as quickly as possible at the start of that series," Mommsen said. "We know the type of cricket they play and they'll come pretty hard at us with the white ball so we have to plan accordingly."
At the conclusion of the four-day match, Matt Machan and Rob Taylor have returned to county cricket while Calum MacLeod, George Munsey and left-arm spinner Mark Watt have come into the squad. MacLeod had a rough World Cup, scoring 48 runs in six matches and did not play against Nepal. But he has started to regain a bit of form at Durham, where he scored a century in the Second XI 50-over Trophy.
"Obviously having Calum back is a good thing for the squad," Mommsen said. "He's one of the more experienced players in the squad. He's going well at the moment for Durham so hopefully he can bring some freshness and a bit of confidence into the team and he'll be crucial for us at the top of the order with the white ball trying to get us off to an explosive start."
The four-day match was played under bright sunshine for all of last week at Voorburg Cricket Club. Rain is forecast throughout the next four days at Amstelveen, located about an hour to the northeast, meaning it is highly likely one or both matches could head into the reserve days scheduled.
MacLeod and Munsey are likely to come in for Scotland and Gavin Main could take the spot of Taylor after excelling on debut against Nepal. Meanwhile, Watt and Michael Leask are also strong chances of entering as a spin option in place of Con de Lange, who took match figures of 2 for 50 while also bagging a pair in the four-day match.
For Netherlands, Mudassar Bukhari is a mainstay of their limited-overs teams and is likely to return in place of Quirijn Gunning.
Netherlands (probable): Rahil Ahmed, Stephan Myburgh, Ben Cooper, Peter Borren (capt), Wesley Barresi (wk), Roelof van der Merwe, Pieter Seelaar, Michael Rippon, Mudassar Bukhari, Paul van Meekeren, Vivian Kingma
Scotland (probable): Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod, Matthew Cross (wk), Preston Mommsen (capt), George Munsey, Richie Berrington, Josh Davey, Michael Leask, Safyaan Sharif, Alasdair Evans, Gavin Main
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna