Match Preview – Netherlands vs Pakistan, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023/24, 2nd Match

After years of will-they-won’t-they, months of administrative bickering and weeks of visa uncertainties, the moment has finally arrived. Pakistan will take to the field in a World Cup match in India, Hyderabad the somewhat unassuming venue, Netherlands the slightly inauspicious opponents. It’s a gentle start rather than an explosive one, but it’s a start nonetheless, between a side that at times felt like it didn’t really want to come to India, and one that would have done absolutely anything to be here.

An opening Pakistan game at a World Cup is usually a bustling affair, though this one at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium is unlikely to be played to a packed house. With the ticketing rollout little short of shambolic, and almost all Pakistani citizens still waiting on their visas, the crowd may lack some of the atmosphere Pakistan games usually play out to. But it’s a city where they were made to feel extremely welcome, and they enjoyed warm support from the locals in the warm-up match against Australia. Pakistan won’t be in town too often, let’s be honest, so the opportunity to watch the likes of Babar Azam or Shaheen Shah Afridi in the flesh is difficult to scoff at.
Pakistan thought they were in pole position less than a month ago when their three prime fast bowlers were fit and firing, but things have taken a nosedive since. Pakistan finished bottom of the Super 4s at the Asia Cup and Naseem Shah has been ruled out of the tournament since.

Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman’s poor form has become something of a rut, and the warm-ups saw Pakistan lose by six overs to spare after posting 345 against New Zealand, before conceding 351 against Australia. They should be good enough for this Netherlands side not to worry them too much, but taking things for granted in a World Cup is dangerous business.

Netherlands’ major disappointment stems from both their warm-up games being rain-affected – with one completely washed out – which means the last 50-over game of any sort they collectively played came in the final of the World Cup Qualifier three months ago. The gained momentum at that tournament as it went on, and towards the end demonstrated their quality and ability to cope with pressure few sides at the World Cup proper have to deal with. Their batting is the stronger suit, which may prove handy if the pitch is as flat as Hyderabad was for the two warm-up games held here. But with Roelof van der Merwe looking tidy against Australia, and an attack that includes Shariz Ahmed, Paul van Meekeren and Bas de Leede, Netherlands have something to work with.

Netherlands LWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first) Pakistan LLWWW

There is truly only one man in this conversation. No one has the gaze of a quarter of a billion people fixed quite so forensically on them as Shadab Khan in this Pakistan side. The vice-captain’s indifferent form, particularly with the ball, and especially in this format, have seen once-unthinkable calls for his omission from the starting line-up.

A poor Asia Cup saw him concede 218 runs in 35 overs at 109 per wicket in his last four matches, and he was similarly ineffective in the warm-up game against Australia. With little by way of runs to compensate either, Usama Mir’s legspin stock has risen over the past few weeks. While Shadab’s place shouldn’t be in danger against the Netherlands, his performance might well determine if that remains the case as the World Cup goes on.

The defining image of the last Netherlands-Pakistan match in Perth last year featured Haris Rauf asking after Bas de Leede’s health after a bouncer from the bowler had given him a concussion and a nasty cut under the eye. “Go well,” Haris had said then, and de Leede has done just that. A few months earlier, he had sparkled during an ODI between the two sides in Rotterdam, narrowly missing out on a century. But it was in the qualifiers for this World Cup that he really shone, scores of 41, 33, 41, 39 and a stunning 116-ball 123 catapulting his side towards the World Cup. That remains the last ODI he played, and a year out from that unfortunate Perth encounter, he has the opportunity to show how well he’s going.

Mohammad Wasim bowled a fair bit during training on the day before, but Hasan Ali should get the nod over him. Pakistan’s combination is an issue if they want to fit Usama Mir in, which invariably comes at the expense of a batter.

Pakistan (possible XI): 1 Fakhar Zaman 2 Imam-ul-Haq 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 5 Saud Shakeel/Salman Ali Agha 6 Iftikhar Ahmed 7 Shadab Khan 8 Mohammad Nawaz 9 Hasan Ali 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi 11 Haris Rauf

Netherlands (possible XI): 1 Vikramjit Singh 2 Max O’Dowd 3 Wesley Barresi 4 Bas de Leede 5 Colin Ackermann 6 Scott Edwards (capt &wk) 7 Ryan Klein 8 Logan van Beek 9 Roelof van der Merwe, 10 Shariz Ahmed 11 Paul van Meekeren

There was rain in Hyderabad during a warm-up game the previous week, but none is expected on Friday, with the weather expected to be hot and dry. Expect another high-scoring contest.

Babar Azam is 26 runs away from becoming the first active Pakistan batter to make 500 ODI World Cup runs.
Pakistan have lost the first World Cup match at the last two tournaments, and four of the last five.
Netherlands have won just two of their 15 World Cup matches, their last success coming in 2007 against Scotland.

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