Netherlands captain Pieter Seelaar has hailed his pace bowling unit as the foundation behind their third straight qualification to the T20 World Cup following their rampant performance in an eight-wicket win over UAE. In particular, Seelaar singled out Man of the Match Brandon Glover and Paul van Meekeren as two players who "are there to give us a bit of firepower" with game-changing ability that has consistently disrupted opposition batting units throughout Netherlands' matches in Dubai.
"As in real X-factor, I would say Paul van Meekeren and Brandon Glover, not just by today," Seelaar said in the post-match press conference when asked who stood out most to him in Dubai. "I think they've bowled superbly well throughout the tournament. Timm van der Gugten started off very well just by doing his change-up. But there was more at the Academy when the wickets were a bit slower. But every time, pretty much every time Paul and Brandon had the ball in their hands, whether it was the Powerplay, whether they had to come back, they would always provide us with that breakthrough.
"Bowling has definitely been our strong suit throughout the tournament. So I would say those two would be our real X-factors for us in this tournament to date. The other thing is we've had five different Man of the Match awards in all our wins. So it's not one or two blokes, it's most of the guys. But definitely those two have been match-winning for us."
Glover claimed Man of the Match honours for his career-best 4 for 12. He built off the early carnage unleashed by van Meekeren, who dismissed UAE's two most threatening batsmen, Rameez Shahzad and Muhammad Usman, off back-to-back balls in the second over. It was another stellar display for van Meekeren who has a habit of turning in his best work in televised tournament matches.
"I think it's more the big occasion rather than the TV games," Seelaar said of van Meekeren's penchant for performances in big moments. "But to be honest, he actually forgot his shoes this morning. So I'm not quite sure he was right on it! To be fair, he bowls well, generally, a lot. I think he had a little bit of a tough period last year.
"This year, especially later on in the season, he started to bowl with some real gas. I think this whole tournament, whether the games have been [on TV] or not, he's been fast, he's been nasty. And to change it up with skills later on in the innings, that is something you don't come across very often. But I think Paulie has just bowled superbly well throughout the tournament. And yeah, probably the TV brings the best out of him."
"He actually forgot his shoes this morning. So I'm not quite sure he was right on it! To be fair, he bowls well, generally, a lot." Pieter Seelar on Paul van Meekeren
Netherlands had entered the tournament winning just two of their previous 11 T20Is. However, many of those losses came with under-strength squads that were hit either by injury or unavailability due to County Cricket commitments. But Seelaar said he was confident his side could produce winning results in Dubai once they got their best XI on the field.
"We struggled with keeping 11 fit guys on the park," Seelaar said. "But in saying that, I think we also probably looked to experiment too much with our bowling and batting rather than sticking to what we do best. After that [Oman pentangular] tournament, we had our plans nailed down properly.
"Going back to what I said about having a structured gameplan, that has [been] what we have been doing and executing in this tournament very well. Still not quite the 100 percent game. I mean bowling a team out for 80 and chasing it two-down is close to 100 percent, but we still haven't hit our full straps. I think we can do a little better and the semi-final is the perfect opportunity."
Netherlands will come up against Group B winners Ireland in that semi-final. Netherlands have historically held the upper hand against Ireland in ICC tournament play. Most fans remember the famous chase in 2014 at Sylhet, but Netherlands also won convincingly in the 2015 T20 World Cup Qualifier semi-final at Malahide as well as at the 2016 T20 World Cup in India. Seelaar is quietly confident that his side can do enough to win against their European rival on Friday.
"One advantage is that we've played at the [Dubai] stadium quite a bit," Seelaar said of his side's matches compared to Ireland playing all of their group games in Abu Dhabi. "I think that counts for something. Ireland-Holland have been very close games in recent times and I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm sure Ireland will be as well. We're going to do our analysis work a little bit. Obviously we know them quite well. We're gonna see how it goes, but semi-finals are always a little different and I'm looking forward to the challenge."