|European Division 1: Dublin, July 2008|
Denmark scrape past Italy in thriller
On Friday Italy had shocked the tournament, upsetting the Netherlands by 8 runs at Balrothery, and today at Merrion they nearly felled the Danes, who scraped home by only one wicket off the penultimate ball of the match in, surely, the most thrilling match of the Championship so far.
In pursuit of the Italians’ total of 212, Denmark had been 104 for 6 with only sixteen overs remaining, but two crucial partnerships, one between Lars Hardegaard and Bobby Chawla (worth 58), and then the unbeaten last wicket stand of 22 between Bashir Shah and Thomas Hansen pulled it out of the fire for Freddie Klokker’s men.
Indeed, those last runs had been needed from just fourteen balls - a tough ask under any circumstances - but a huge six from Shah over mid-wicket and onto the roof of the Merrion pavilion had brought that target within reach, and it left the Danes requiring nine from the last over, bowled by Vinny Pennazza.
Off its first ball a four was skewered over backward point, and a single scampered off each of the next three balls: two was needed from two. But, agonizingly for the Italians, Hansen got just enough bat on a pin-point yorker and squeezed it down to fine leg for the winning boundary. Although beyond cruel for the defeated, such a match deserved such a tense and entertaining finish.
At the toss, perhaps thinking that the very green Anglesea Road pitch would only deteriorate (in the end it played fine throughout), the Italians had chosen to bat and this was a decision seemingly vindicated by the flying start to which their innings got off: 66 was on the board before the first power play ended, in no small way thanks to some over-pitched and wayward bowling from the Danish seamers.
Yet, in spite of this great start from the openers, all eyes were still going to be on former Lancashire all-rounder and Italian captain Joe Scuderi. However, there was no repeat of his standalone epic against the Dutch, trapped as he was for 8 by leg-spinner Bobby Chawla, who picked up 4 for 48, bowling something of a mixed bag.
Thus it was left to Peter Petricola to be the rock upon which the Italians built their innings. The left-hander came in at two-down and was still there on 62 when last man Din Alaud was bowled in the forty-ninth over by Morten Hedegaard, who ruthlessly cleaned up the tail to end with 4 for 30.
There had been handy contributions down the order from Hemantha Jayasena (29 from only 17 balls) and Kelum Perera (16), but it was Petricola’s knock (which lasted 93 balls and included seven boundaries) to which the Italians owed their more than competitive total of 212.
Of the other Danish bowlers, credit must be given to Lars Hedegaard, whose medium-paced avarice was the perfect antidote to the Danish openers’ profligacy, and also to Chawla’s two partners-in-spin, Shah and Michael Pedersen, both of whom did much to slow down the Italians on a pitch offering a good bit to the slow men.
In response, the Danes struggled up front. Both the Italian openers, Din Alaud and Pennazza, found unremittingly good lengths and exploited whatever movement there was with the new ball. The big wicket of Klokker fell early, leg before to Pennazza with the score on 23, while neither of the Pedersen brothers went on after promising starts, Carsten unluckily being bowled off his pads to leave the Danes at 77 for 3.
And though there was no crisis at this stage, Soren Vestergaard then fell to a stunning catch from Nick Northcote (who, all day, was exceptional behind the stumps), Max Overgaard lofted Kelum Perera straight to mid-off, while that same bowler induced a very loose shot and found Morten Hedegaard’s outside edge during his next over.
At 104 for 6, Denmark was in dire straits, but Chawla – badly dropped on 13 at slip – and the hard-hitting Lars Hedegaard crafted a comeback, getting well past 150 before the former was cleaned up by the returning Din Alaud’s slower ball.
Nevertheless, as long as Hedegaard (who should have been run out when still in single figures) was at the crease, the Danes remained at worst even money: a mammoth six into the trees on the hill and several fierce pull shots threatened to finish the match with overs to spare.But this was a match destined to go down to the wire, and a needless mix-up saw Hardegaard run out for an excellent 47, thus swinging the balance of the match back towards the Italians. Henrik Hansen would soon be run out as well, by another excellent piece of fielding from Andy Northcote at cover, leaving the Italians on the brink of another remarkable victory. But the final twist had yet to come.