Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy

Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy-Did the real Sri Lanka team stand up after defeating the Netherlands in Geelong on Thursday
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Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy
Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy

Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy

Did the real Sri Lanka team stand up after defeating the Netherlands in Geelong on Thursday? Will the team that lost against Namibia on Sunday be remembered as the distractions who took a wrong turn on their way out of a bad dream and crashed into the middle of Kardinia Park?

No, not least because only three of Sunday's XI - Danushka Gunathilaka, Pramod Madushan and Dushmanth Thixana - did not feature on Thursday. And because the two matches were played on the same pitch, the ball came into the bat more fluidly on Thursday though.

But you'd be forgiven for believing the Sri Lankans who walked onto the field as if they owned it just four days later felt like they weren't out of their own backyard and didn't know each other.

Dhananjaya De Silva was not the victim of a first-baller trapped in front of Paul van Meekeren - a delivery that Gizmos said would have missed the leg stump - soon after Van Meekeren had yorked Pathum Nisanka, nor the fact that only two Lankans. Asian Express on route 162/6 may be derailed.

Kusal Mendis batted through six partnerships for his 44-ball 79, a commanding innings that lasted until the last over and gave authority to a batting line-up that showed none of that quality when bowled out for 108 on Sunday. Max O'Dowd's unbeaten 71 kept the Dutch in touch with the game, at least in theory, but Sri Lanka's 16-run win - and their U-turn from the cliff edge of elimination - was never in serious doubt.

The result moved the Lankans from third to first in the Group A standings. Like them, the Netherlands won two of their three matches and finished second - good enough to advance to the second round. But the Europeans faced a nervy evening as the UAE needed what they have yet to do in two editions of the event: win.

"These are just cutthroat tournaments, aren't they," Netherlands captain Scott Edwards said at a press conference between the games. "We think we played a lot of good cricket in all three matches. But the nature of this tournament is one little slip-up and you can get knocked out. Hopefully the UAE can pick up and we're still there. Going on tomorrow."

After they defeated the Lankan giants, the Namibians stumbled against the Dutch. Now the Netherlands need a UAE side who have lost all of their previous T20 World Cup - or T20 World Cup - games. If the Emirates win, the Namibians will finish third and the Lankans and the Dutch will advance to the second round. If Namibia win, their muscular run-rate will likely seal them in second place.

Will the Netherlands hang around to see what happens? "I'm not sure where we're going to be," Edwards said. "I think we'll probably talk a little and share a drink together. It's been a great month or so, and hopefully it will continue. But, yeah, we'll just enjoy each other's company."

They actually lived and saw. How could they not, considering what was on the line? And the UAE rewarded them for their trouble by scoring 148/3, their highest batting total in the tournament since they were bowled out for 151 by the same Netherlands in Sylhet in March 2014. At least one of their top order, Mohammad Wasim, was at the crease in the 17th over with Britya Arvind and CP Rizwan, Wasim unbeaten on 50 and Rizwan 43. Then Basil Hamid scored an unbeaten 25 runs off 14 balls and with Rizwan scored 35 runs off 18 balls.

But the Dutch know all too well what happened that day in Bangladesh more than eight years ago: they were bowled out at six wickets and seven balls to spare. So the excitement would not have subsided when Namibia collapsed to 69/7 in 13 overs. Because David Wiese, the human oil rig, the moose in pads, the mountain man, were not among the batters fired.

Wise joined Jan Frylonk in the eighth over, when the required run rate was 8.58. It soon climbed to double figures, reaching two runs off a ball after 14. But Wies was always going to be the difference in the team, and he found a worthy ally in Ruben Trumpelmann. Playing his first match of the tournament, Trumpelman kept a low profile in a stand that continued to rise with 14 needed in the last over.

It should never have come. Wasim bowled the 17th and Wiz skidded the last delivery to midwicket. Obviously it's a catch by wicketkeeper Arvind. Wasim instead ended up under the ball - which burst through his hands and bounced onto the turf.

So after a committee meeting in the middle, the decision to give Wasim the charge of the final over was bravery and arrogance. And when Wiese made the fourth ball down the throat of long-on with 10 needed, it paid off. With that, every Dutchman and every fan in the stadium was on their feet and screaming.

Wiese went on to score 55 off 36 balls and his dismissal ended the partnership on 70 off 44 balls. This also ends the match as a contest. Weiss walked away slowly, mournfully, tossing and grabbing her bat, searching the night sky for a silver lining. He did not find it.

The UAE finished bottom of the group and were on their way home, but that didn't matter to them as they hugged and prayed and felt the blood of the winners, by seven runs, pumping through their veins. The Namibians finished one place above the UAE, but that didn't matter. Africa is far away, and they will have a lot of time to think about what went wrong and what almost went right on the way there.

Sri Lanka's first match in the second round is against the runners-up in Group B - scheduled for Friday in Hobart - also at Bellerive Oval on Sunday. The Dutch can also look forward to a clash with Bangladesh in Hobart on Monday.

But that's another topic for another day. For Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, and even the UAE, Thursday was all about relief and happiness. For Namibia, not so much. Cooper was right. Some teams are here to cut their throats, others to cut teams.

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Thanks for reading: Sri Lanka and Netherlands: The two tales of relief and joy, Sorry, my English is bad:)

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