Honours even in Rotterdam before rain intervenes
Rain brought an early finish to the first day’s play in the Intercontinental Cup match between The Netherlands and Ireland in Rotterdam on Wednesday, with the game interestingly poised.
Ireland had fought back well after a three-wicket opening spell from Mudassar Bukhari had fully vindicated Jeroen Smits’s decision to put the visitors in, a 159-run stand for the fourth wicket between André Botha and Kevin O’Brien enabling them to get back on terms after they found themselves on 25 for three three-quarters of an hour into the match. Bukhari bowled with pace and aggression, and all the batsmen had difficulty dealing with a succession of well-directed short-pitched balls: Reinhardt Strydom edged him to Peter Borren at second slip, and then Paul Stirling nicked a straightforward catch to keeper Smits. Then Alex Cusack was trapped in front by a fuller pitched ball, and Ireland were on the verge of complete collapse.
That brought O’Brien in to join Botha, however, and the two most experienced specialist batsmen in the side set about a reconstruction project. They went after Bukhari as he tired, bringing Geert Maarten Mol into the attack, and then O’Brien pulled a short ball from Schiferli over the midwicket boundary. Both batsmen were hard on anything loose, to the extent that 58 of the 83 they had put on by lunch came in boundaries, and by the time they brought up the century stand, four overs after the interval, that tally had risen to 74.
Schiferli and Bukhari made brief reappearances after lunch, but it was Borren, Mol and Pieter Seelaar who did the bulk of the work as the partnership continued to prosper. Botha brought up his half-century in 86 minutes, off 68 balls, with 9 boundaries, and seven overs later O’Brien followed suit, having faced 88 balls and batted for 102 minutes, with 8 fours and a six. The rain was never far away, however, and with the total on 184 it became heavy enough for the players to begin to leave the field. They never actually reached the boundary as the shower passed, but the break may have contributed to O’Brien’s dismissal four balls later, as he clipped Seelaar firmly to Maurits Jonkman at mid-on, who took a fine low catch. His 79 had come off 112 balls, and included 12 fours and two sixes.
Botha had moved steadily towards his fourth first-class century, but he lived dangerously in the nineties, edging one ball from Borren between Smits and Nick Statham at slip, and popping another from Seelaar up to land just short of Tom de Grooth at short forward square leg. But in the end he got there, bringing up the hundred off 132 balls after batting for six minutes short of three hours and hitting fifteen boundaries.
Two overs later the rain began again in earnest, and the players departed for an early tea. It was no passing shower, however, and after a long wait play was abandoned for the day at 17:15. Much will depend on whether the Dutch bowlers can again secure an early breakthrough when play resumes tomorrow. Ireland will be hoping that Botha and Poynter, with Wilson and McCallan to follow, can build up a substantial total, while The Netherlands will be looking to keep the total below 300. Weather permitting, play will commence at 10:30, half an hour earlier than scheduled.
Day 1 Scorecard
To bat: GC Wilson+, WK McCallan*, MJ Fourie, GE Kidd, P Connell
TN de Grooth, NA Statham, ES Szawrczynski, DLS van Bunge, PW Borren, GM Mol, Mudassar Bukhari, J Smits*+, M Jonkman, E Schiferli, P Seelaar