Logan van Beek
Netherlands’ players celebrate after Logan van Beek dismissed South Africa's David Miller in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023, at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, in Dharamsala on October 17, 2023. Van Beek’s three-wicket haul broke the back of South Africa and set up the Dutch’s third win in World Cup history. Image Credit: ANI

Is the Dutch win over South Africa a big shock? Bigger than Afghanistan’s defeat of champions England the other day? Yes, it is! Simply because the Netherlands are an Associate nation, the only one in the Cricket World Cup 2023. The rest are full members of the International Cricket Conference.

Not just that. South Africa have been in fine form with rousing wins over Australia and Bangladesh. They have also run up a superb net run rate of over 2. And Aiden Markram blazed the fastest World Cup century (49 balls) in the annihilation of Sri Lanka.

Well, that’s what the formbook says. Looks like the Dutch ignored it as they went into Tuesday’s match in Dharamsala. They had nothing to lose. After all, the Netherlands are the minnows in the tournament. Losses to New Zealand and Pakistan weren’t surprises. They weren’t routs either, which gave the Dutch the confidence they could joust with the big boys of international cricket.

Why South Africa spur the Dutch

The sight of South Africa seems to get the adrenaline going for the Dutch. Maybe because much of the team is composed of South African expats. Even their coach Ryan Cook is from South Africa; his brothers Jimmy and Stephen opened for the Proteas. Given the familiarity, I guess the Dutch always fancy their chances against South Africa.

Remember the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia last year? The Netherlands pulled the rug from under the South Africans’s feet in Adelaide, denying them a slot in the semifinals. But this is the ODIs, a longer format where cricket skills undergo a sterner, more thorough examination.

The Dutch innings did founder. They were 82 for 5 before it became 112 for 6, which looked like it was payback from the South Africans. But the Netherlands’ skipper Scott Edwards wasn’t ready to go down without a fight. He shepherded the Dutch in the last 10 overs in the company of Roelof van der Merwe before young Aryan Dutt delivered a six-heavy coup de grace. They blasted 119 off the last 12 overs, and the Netherlands finished at 245/8, a solid score in a 43-a-side game (curtailed by rain interruption).

Scott Edwards
Netherlands’ captain Scott Edwards plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against South Africa at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala on October 17, 2023. His unbeaten 78 steered the Dutch out of trouble and to a good total of 245/8 in 43 overs. Image Credit: AFP

But South Africa had the batting to chase it. They had tamed the Aussie pace attack and unravelled the mysteries of Bangladesh spin. How can the Dutch rein in the Proteas?

Edwards had the answer. A double attack at the start was a masterstroke, with Colin Ackerman and Dutt keeping the batters on a tight leash. The rejigged first Powerplay of nine overs yielded only 39 for the loss of the high-scoring Quinton de Kock.

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More wickets fell, and South Africa were looking down the barrel at 109 for 6 with Logan van Beek accounting for Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller. It was only a matter of time before the Dutch coasted to only their third win in World Cup history, which came after a 16-year wait.

It was the Netherlands’ biggest win — the first over a Test Nation in ODI World Cups — since their debut in 1996, having beaten Namibia in 2003 and Scotland in 2007. In a way, it wasn’t a surprise. After all, they qualified ahead of three Full Members: Ireland, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Who knows, more upsets could be in store. The Dutch are coming. India, Australia and England better watch out.