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Match Analysis

Fresh thinking and specific scenario prep help Netherlands dream of Super 12s

Acing the powerplays and keeping bowling plans simple have lifted the men in orange to first place on the Group A table

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Tim Pringle and Bas de Leede closed off a tricky chase against Namibia  •  ICC via Getty Images

Tim Pringle and Bas de Leede closed off a tricky chase against Namibia  •  ICC via Getty Images

Netherlands have held their nerve to put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the Super 12s, but it has been far from nerveless.

For the second match running at Kardinia Park, they have turned a relatively straightforward chase at roughly a run-a-ball into a nerve-jangling last-over thriller.
But to come out on top on both occasions, particularly against a disciplined Namibia attack on a difficult pitch, is proof of a maturing team that is starting to learn how to close games under pressure. But they also know that there is more work to be done, as player of the match Bas de Leede noted.
"Obviously it's very nice to walk away with two wins here, but I think it's also a learning [experience] for us," de Leede said. "We've had two good powerplays. And then how do we get to those middle overs without losing too many wickets and still scoring at the rate we want, to be able to chase possibly a higher total set by Sri Lanka on Thursday. So yeah, a bit of confidence but also, we will try and look at the things we can do better."
This is a team that has been planning and preparing for such scenarios over the last 12 months since the disastrous 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE where they twice capitulated to be bowled out for 106 and 44 against Ireland and Sri Lanka respectively to make an early exit.
It has been helped by the influence of some fresh thinking. Ryan Cook, who took over as coach from Ryan Campbell, has been influential in setting up player-driven meetings where individuals can talk through how they would approach difficult scenarios. In Zimbabwe earlier this year, during the World Cup qualifiers, de Leede was asked by his teammates, in one such meeting, how he would approach entering a powerplay in a tricky pressurized chase after the loss of early wickets.
De Leede talked through in detail how he would approach it. It was no shock then when he walked out at 0 for 1 in the opening over of the semi-final of the T20 World Cup qualifier against USA chasing 139 and peeled off 91 not out off 67 to send Netherlands to the World Cup with an over to spare.
That experience, that planning, and that belief is what has Netherlands on the brink of advancing after de Leede did it again against Namibia. He kept his head when those around him were losing theirs, as Netherlands slumped from 101 for 2 to 102 for 5 with their most senior batting trio each holing out in seven chaotic balls.
But de Leede calmly steered them home with a risk-free 30 not out off 30. "I thought to myself if we can take this deep it's a five an over, six an over run chase," de Leede said. "The main focus there was not losing any more wickets. In the end, five, six an over, it takes one boundary to get us in so it was always trying to get as deep as we could and pretty much wait for the one ball you could hit."
'Take it deep' is the philosophy of Dan Christian, one of the world's most successful franchise T20 players who has won more tight games than most. He has worked as a consultant for Netherlands in this tournament and has preached self belief and self trust under pressure to deliver in key moments.
Netherlands' attack have also been clinical with the ball, another clear sign of how clear-headed they have been with their execution on two bizarre pitches in Geelong. Where Sri Lanka erred from their plans against Namibia on Sunday, and Namibia themselves erred in the powerplay on Tuesday, the Dutch attack have trusted their skills without veering away from what was working.
"The more simple we can keep it, the better it is on this surface," de Leede said. "You don't have to have three or four different balls on a surface like this. If you can nail your length and you can nail your slower balls you are tough to face. So for us, it was great that we didn't go searching too much and just stuck to what we know."
They now know they are one win away from a Super 12s berth, but they know nothing is guaranteed. "Winning two World Cup games is not going to do your confidence any harm," de Leede said. "We're definitely taking it into the next game. But like I said, there's plenty of learnings there as well there. So I think we're best off not getting ahead of ourselves and kicking on to the next game."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo