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Feature

Bas de Leede shoots his shot to ignite Netherlands party

Just when their qualification hopes appeared dicey, he came to life with an ODI knock for the ages

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
06-Jul-2023
Bas de Leede was positive from get go, Netherlands vs Scotland, ODI World Cup Qualifier, Super Six, Bulawayo, July 6, 2023

Bas de Leede scored a maiden ODI century to follow his first five-wicket haul  •  ICC/Getty Images

The ball was pitched short, and Bas de Leede looked ready for it. He had got the basics right - his feet were in line and backlift poised to pull it away over midwicket. But this was Perth, where short balls tend to keep on rising. Netherlands don't get too many opportunities to play in Perth, and, on the international circuit anyway, de Leede doesn't get many chances to face pace of the kind Haris Rauf had just sent cannoning his way.
The ball rose just a little too high, just a little too quick. There was that dreadful moment where it looked to have pierced the uncomfortably large gap between the helmet and the grill with a sickening clunk as it hit de Leede in the face and floored him. The medics rushed to gauge the extent of the damage and de Leede walked off with a cut underneath his right eye. He then met Rauf after the game where the fast bowler told him, "You'll come back stronger and hit sixes. Go well." They embraced briefly before heading separate ways. Two men representing two nations that sit far apart at the table in cricket's pecking order.
The sentiment from Rauf was heartfelt, but there was nowhere for de Leede to go. Between that T20 World Cup in October 2022 and the ongoing Men's World Cup Qualifier, de Leede played no internationals*, missing the ODIs against Zimbabwe and South Africa due to injury. And now between the Qualifier and the upcoming 50-over World Cup, Netherlands have no matches in any format scheduled.
Netherlands were in a must-win against Scotland, who broke local hearts in Bulawayo just two days earlier. They needed to chase 278 in 44 overs to leapfrog Scotland on net run rate and assure themselves of a spot at the World Cup. Both Netherlands and Scotland are two hugely improved sides denuded of the opportunities they merit, so financially hamstrung that they can't even select first-choice squads for a tournament of this value because the English domestic system provides better financial reward.
So, de Leede arrives at the crease after a steady start for Netherlands. The last time a de Leede played an ODI World Cup match was in 2007 when his father, Tim, took on this very opposition in the West Indies. But that was 16 years ago, in the heady days when a World Cup comprised 16 teams. It was Tim's 29th, and last, ODI. De Leede has already played 30 ODIs and is far from done.
For most of the innings, de Leede does what any quality batter in this position would do. He rotates the strike with his captain Scott Edwards, picks off the poor deliveries and sets his side on course for the chase. There's little sign of the late surge that will sideswipe Scotland in an hour's time, but despite being 23 and getting few opportunities to play this format, he knows they're likelier to lose the game taking low-percentage chances than win it at this point.
"We had a look at the target where we wanted to be at the halfway point and I think from there comes the point where you stop talking about it, and actually do it," de Leede said after the game. "Max [O'Dowd] and Vikram [Vikramjit Singh] setting up the platform and then the rest of us to come in and finish it off."
But Edwards falls and the asking rate rises; the Dutch now need 102 in ten overs to qualify. Hoping to make a career playing cricket for the Netherlands is a low-percentage shot in itself. So it's a bit late to start worrying about taking too many chances now. And when Mark Watt drops one in slightly short, de Leede shoots his shot; he hits his first six of the innings.
With Saqib Zulfiqar helping out from the other end, victory looks assured, but qualification is still up in the air with four meaningful overs left and 45 still to get. De Leede then demonstrates his six-hitting ability and goes 6,6,1,6,2,2,6,2 in his next eight balls. Somewhere in there, he gets to his first ODI hundred. It's a moment most never forget, but de Leede might barely remember it as a happy side note to the euphoria that awaits him around the corner.
"It is amazing," an overwhelmed de Leede said after Netherlands were India-bound. "I can't describe the feeling. It is going to be one big party tonight I can tell you that.
"It was 10 or 11 an over at the death, so for us it was almost like going into T20 mode. We had to try and get as many runs as we could every over and see where we ended up."
They have ended up on the flight to India, where they will dine at the big table with teams that appeared to have locked teams like Netherlands out. As Rauf might put it, de Leede is indeed going well.
*Jul 7, 2023, 9:08 GMT: The article mistakenly mentioned that Netherlands had no international fixtures between the 2022 T20 World Cup and the 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifier. This has been corrected.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000