by: Atika Mehboob TN Sport Pakistan:
Netherlands faced a series of setbacks, including four run-outs, a stumping, and a stifling spin attack in Lucknow. Meanwhile, Afghanistan improved their chances of securing a semi-final spot with their fourth win in seven games, boosting their net run-rate in the process.
Their 111-ball victory, chasing a target of 180, was orchestrated by contributions from Rahmat Shah (52) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (56). However, the most dramatic action occurred in the first half of the game, where Afghanistan’s bowlers, aided by regular errors from the Netherlands, set the tone.
Netherlands began the day with their best batting start of the World Cup, reaching 72 for 1 in 11 overs, largely due to Max O’Dowd’s aggressive early play. Unfortunately, O’Dowd’s pursuit of a second run in the 12th over led to his run-out, as Azmatullah Omarzai executed a direct hit from fine leg.
The run-out woes continued as a well-set Colin Ackermann (29) reacted slowly to a single called by Sybrand Engelbrecht. In the next ball, Scott Edwards lost track of the ball after mis-hitting a reverse sweep, and by the time he realized, wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil had broken his stumps. A trio of quick dismissals followed, courtesy of Mohammad Nabi, Noor Ahmed, and Rashid Khan. Engelbrecht, who was anchoring the innings, was also run out after an ill-advised single call by Roelof van der Merwe.
These four dismissals left the Netherlands demoralized and allowed Afghanistan to maintain their grip on the match. With the Dutch slipping from 72 for 1 to 97 for 5, Afghanistan’s spinners took control of the middle overs. Afghanistan managed to recover from a challenging start with the ball, where they conceded 6.6 runs per over in the powerplay, despite taking the first-over wicket of Wesley Barresi. Fazalhaq Farooqi, one of only two seamers in their XI for this game, conceded eight boundaries in the powerplay, a record for the 2023 World Cup.
Wicketkeeper Alikhil had an outstanding performance behind the stumps, contributing to three of the four run-outs, taking two difficult catches off spin bowling, and stumping Logan van Beek. He held on to catches offered by Bas de Leede and Saqib Zulfiqar and displayed agility when van Beek charged Nabi. Nabi, with his figures of 3 for 28, was the standout bowler on a day when Afghanistan omitted Naveen-ul-Haq and included Noor to play alongside four spinners.
Afghanistan’s pursuit of 180 runs started with a few hiccups, as Rahmanullah Gurbaz was dismissed in the fifth over, and Ibrahim Zadran followed suit by the 11th. However, they weren’t under pressure to maintain the run rate, thanks to an initial burst of boundaries from Rahmat Shah, who batted effectively in front of square on the off side. His partnership of 74 runs in 77 balls with Shahidi kept Afghanistan comfortably ahead in the chase. Netherlands’ seamers struggled to make inroads once the shine wore off, and the batters approached the spin of Aryan Dutt and Zulfiqar with caution.
Rahmat Shah achieved his third consecutive fifty in the World Cup and his 26th in all ODIs, but he was caught-and-bowled by the wrong-footed wristspinner Zulfiqar. Nevertheless, the Netherlands’ celebration was short-lived as Omarzai counterattacked upon his entry, and Shahidi held the fort. Shahidi reached his 19th ODI fifty along the way, and the victory was sealed in the 32nd over with the pair remaining unbeaten on a stand of 52. Notably, no sixes were hit in the game.
For the Netherlands, securing a spot in the 2025 Champions Trophy now appears increasingly challenging, with a top-eight finish at risk as they have games against England and India ahead. Afghanistan, now in fifth place, is set to face Australia and South Africa, remaining contenders for a semi-final berth.