Preview: Netherlands v Afghanistan
If you think it has been a lean season for Scotland’s leading cricketers, spare a thought for their Dutch counterparts who have been almost entirely without international action since they performed with some distinction at the World T20 in March.
That frustration has been voiced regularly by the Netherlands captain, Peter Borren, but he and his team will finally have an opportunity to get involved in a high-profile contest when they tackle Afghanistan in the Intercontinental Cup in The Hague, starting on Friday morning.
It’s an important match, not only for the hosts, but all the Associates who have been left in the slipstream of Ireland and Afghanistan, both of whom have been lavished with money and fixtures by the ICC.
Perhaps that explains why the Dutch have unveiled a very strong-looking squad for this tussle, not least because they are currently second in the I-Cup table, 14 points behind the Irish, but five in front of their imminent opponents.
From their perspective, if they could beat Asghar Stanikzai’s side, it would throw an enormous spanner in the works of the visitors’ hopes, given that they have still to take on the Irish – in India next March.
That outcome would be a positive development for Borren’s personnel, who have never defeated Afghanistan in the I-Cup, but who might fancy their chances on home soil.
They have recalled Tim Gruijters, who has been missing from the side since departing early from the World T20 in controversial circumstances in 2014, and have also recruited Shane Snater, a former Zimbabwe age-group player.
Yet, it’s the quality of the bowling resources which might offer most succour to Borren. Quite apart from such experienced campaigners as the skipper, spinner Pieter Seelaar, and veteran seamer Mudassar Bukhari, the Dutch boast some genuine pace and zip in the guise of Paul van Meekeren and Timm van der Gugten, who could pose problems for the Afghan line-up if they perform with the same speed they exhibited on the T20 stage last winter.
Afghanistan will begin as favourites – despite signs of frailty and temperamental issues during their ODI series in Belfast – but the Netherlands have made it clear they are determined to send a positive message to the ICC.
They possess plenty of firepower with the bat as well, featuring such redoubtable customers as Wesley Barresi, Ben Cooper, Stephan Myburgh and Gruijters and Borren, and this next fortnight is crucial to their hopes of being in the mix in the I-Cup and the World Cricket League, which they currently lead.
In short, particularly given the noises which Borren has made in joining with his Scotland counterpart Preston Mommsen in calling for fairer treatment from the sport’s governing body, we can expect a fiercely committed display from the Dutch.
Don’t be surprised if they push their higher-ranked rivals all the way!