Engelbrecht downplays superhero save after setting social media on fire

Sybrand Engelbrecht pulled off a stunning save at the boundary ICC via Getty Images

It was not enough to keep Netherlands in the T20 World Cup, but it might just have persuaded Sybrand Engelbrecht that nothing was going to top it.

Speaking moments after Netherlands' 83-run loss to Sri Lanka in St Lucia, Engelbrecht played down his superhero-style six-save on the midwicket boundary as "a little bit lucky", even though his track record suggests that it was simply another moment of stunning athleticism and skill in the outfield. A few hours later, he announced his retirement from international cricket, just 24 matches and eight months after it had begun.

Engelbrecht was stationed at deep midwicket when Tim Pringle bowled a thigh-high full toss to Angelo Matthews, who swung the ball into the leg side. He briefly moved in off the boundary before realising that it would soar in the cross-wind. He then flung himself at full stretch to catch the ball over his right shoulder, and in a single motion flicked it back into play as he landed over the boundary cushions.

By the time Engelbrecht was asked about the save after Netherlands' World Cup exit, it had been viewed more than a million times on Instagram reels alone. "Initially, when he hit it, I kind of moved in," he explained. "I knew there was a wind, but I didn't think he hit it that well. So I had to kind of back-track a little and kind of stuck the hand out. I suppose it's a little bit lucky."

He was still frustrated with himself after putting down a tough catch off Matthews in the previous over, covering significant ground and diving at full stretch before the ball popped out of his hands as he hit the turf. "He actually batted really well, but I had an opportunity to catch him… unfortunately, that cost us quite dearly. But yeah, I'm happy with the effort and I'm happy that it stuck."

Engelbrecht has developed a reputation as one of the leading fielders in the world game since making his Netherlands debut last year at the age of 35. As a teenager, he took a Jonty Rhodes-style diving catch at backward point playing for South Africa at the Under-19 World Cup and he sets high standards for himself.

"It's something that I suppose I pride myself on and as a unit, I think we are up there with the best teams in the world when it comes to fielding," he said. "We spend a lot of time and effort with the fielding and we do believe that it's a competitive advantage. To be a part of that is special. It's something that I've always thoroughly enjoyed and will look back on fondly."

Engelbrecht's effort was not enough to take Netherlands through to the Super Eight. With Bangladesh struggling against Nepal and Sri Lanka steadily accumulating, it had briefly looked as though Netherlands would qualify with a quick run chase. Those hopes faded when they conceded 67 runs in the final four overs and Nepal were bowled out for 85.

Netherlands had "some idea" what was going on in the other game throughout their bowling innings, Engelbrecht said. "But we really tried to focus on our processes… While we were batting, we had a good idea of what the stand and the situation was in the other game. We realised as that game progressed that the likelihood of Bangladesh winning was quite high, so we just wanted to play good cricket and it just got away from us."

Scott Edwards, Netherlands' captain, was left to rue a missed opportunity to reach the Super Eight after his side let strong positions unravel against South Africa and Bangladesh. "We had good patches throughout the tournament where we gave ourselves a chance to win at least three of those games, but just in those [big] moments, the batting or the bowling or the fielding was just slightly off and against good-quality sides, you just can't afford that," he said.

Engelbrecht finished his first - and last - T20 World Cup as Netherlands' leading run-scorer. "Travelling to the different islands has been a world-class experience," he said. "The hospitality has been second to none, the people are super friendly. It's been fantastic.

"It's a massive privilege to be on the world stage competing against the best in the world, but I think we've tried to prepare as well as we can. We really thought that if we play our brand and style of cricket that we can and wanted to put up a bigger fight. I think there'll be a little bit of disappointment in the changing room in general.

"It's always a massive privilege and we are always very excited to be a part of this. But we didn't just come here to fill up the numbers: we really came here to compete, and I do believe that there's enough talent and skill in our changing room to do that. [There are] a lot of learnings that we'll take from this and hopefully, it'll stand us in good stead going forward."

This article was updated on June 17, at 1.20pm BST, following Engelbrecht's retirement from international cricket