Four cracks at immortality
"Having nothing to lose in Twenty20 can make you very dangerous." Peter Borren said it after the incredible victory over Ireland that took Netherlands into the main group stage of the World T20 and the captain said it again ahead of their first Super 10 match against Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, this Netherlands side really doesn't have a lot to lose. Alongside being the only Associate side left in the competition, they face an uncertain future due to a failure to qualify for the 2015 World Cup and the loss of their ODI status. The level of their continued funding from the ICC is yet to be confirmed and their coach at this tournament, Anton Roux, is still an interim appointment due to the KNCB's financial situation.
Coming into the tournament, two substandard performances in warm-up matches against Afghanistan and Hong Kong had left Borren visibly frustrated at the direction their cricket was going in. Then there was the controversy of Tim Gruijters being replaced in the squad by Tom Cooper, no longer required by his Sheffield Shield side.
Since then Netherlands' fortunes have, at least superficially, been given a lift. Borren and his at-the-double Dutch have returned to Chittagong with the chance to shake up the order and tug at the sleeves of the game's decision-makers once again.
"For us we've had a pretty tough few months," Borren said. "Having failed to qualify in New Zealand we're not quite sure what the ICC are going to do moving forward, with our status, but also with Associate cricket. We're very proud of the fact that we're representing the Associates here now. We hope that we can do them proud. It's an achievement in itself that we're the only Associate to have made it this far. It wasn't easy."
At around 5pm in Sylhet two days ago, the odds of them being that front-running Associate had entered Headingley '81, 500-1 territory. With Netherlands needing to score 190 in 14.2 overs or less, Irish fans would have been heading online to confirm hotel bookings in Chittagong. Borren, however, had not started making other plans.
"We were sort of hoping to be here. I'm glad that that's eventuated," he said. "Otherwise we would have been back home in Holland. I was very much hoping to be here and it took something pretty special in the end. When we went to the ground to play against Ireland it wasn't going to be quite as difficult as it ended up being. Zimbabwe thrashing the UAE as they did made our task quite a lot harder.
"As we were preparing for the last game we did genuinely believe there was a chance of us making it here. By the time the game started the chance had become small, and by half time in that game it had become even smaller. Although we decided that we were going to have a go at getting the runs in 14 overs, perhaps the belief might have been there, but it was definitely in the back of the head that we might be going home. We're excited to be here."
The emotions were more earthy a little more than a week ago, when Borren said he was "p**sed off" at continued batting failures. It did not require much to exceed expectations but Stephan Myburgh, Wesley Barresi, Cooper and Borren himself put on an incandescent display of brilliant orange against Ireland. It was a shot to nothing - that word again - and seemingly nothing could hold Netherlands back.
"When we failed to chase a couple of manageable targets, I wasn't happy," Borren said. "But this last target, I wouldn't have called manageable ... It's a captain's nightmare, inconsistency. It is something we should look at, but it is Twenty20 cricket. You've heard that a million times, that anything can happen if you have a fearless approach. We've got guys who are capable of achieving really good things in the next few games. I'm not p**sed off after the last game."
Netherlands have form for this sort of thing, of course, although Borren said that the memory of their win over England in the opening match of the 2009 World T20 was beginning to fade. Now they have four more cracks at "knocking over a Full Member" and making sure the flame of Dutch cricket has fuel to burn, even as a period of hardship threatens to set in.
"For some of us, this may be the last time at this level, so we'd like to leave this stage with the memory of orange shirts playing some good cricket."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here