NL vs AFG, ICC Intercontinental Cup, The Hague – Preview
The Netherlands will strive to make the most of home advantage when it runs into Afghanistan in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup clash beginning at The Hague on Friday (July 29).
The Netherlands is currently second on the points table with 46 points, 14 points behind table-topper Ireland and five points ahead of Afghanistan, which occupies the third place with 41 points, after each of the eight teams has played three matches apiece.
Afghanistan has a brilliant record in this competition since its debut in 2009-10, when it surprised everyone by winning the tournament. It has played 18 matches in this first-class competition, winning 13, losing only one and drawing the other four four.
The match is vital for both sides as the winner will move up to top of the table. With the winner of this edition of the tournament getting a chance to play four Test matches against the bottom-ranked Test nation (two home and two away matches) in the 2018 ICC Test Challenge, there is plenty at stake as far as this tournament is concerned. Should the Intercontinental Cup winner also win the Test Challenge, it will secure Test status until the next Test Challenge, which will be held in 2022.
Afghanistan has won both its previous four-day encounters in the competition against the Netherlands, squeaking home by one wicket in 2009 and by three wickets in 2012. In this year’s competition, the Netherlands defeated Scotland by 44 runs in its last game while Afghanistan thumped Namibia by an innings and 36 runs in its previous encounter in Greater Noida, Afghanistan’s home ground.
Afghanistan has included Ihsanullah Janat, the captain at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup earlier this year, in its squad for this game. Ihsanullah scored 119 runs in six games at an average of 19.83 at the Under-19 World Cup where Afghanistan finished third in Group B, its only victory coming against Canada.
The Netherlands will head into this match with an edge as it is playing at home, but Afghanistan is not a side which can be taken lightly.