Dutch CB40 campaign heads westward
The coming weekend sees the start of the Orange Lions’ third, and arguably most important, campaign in the ECB’s Clydesdale Bank 40 League.
It is a campaign which will take place in the shadow of David Morgan’s proposals for the restructuring of English domestic cricket, a document which manages to recommend the exclusion of the Netherlands from the one-day competition without even mentioning Dutch participation at all.
Whether and in what form the Morgan report will eventually be adopted is a matter of speculation, but we know that the counties gave it a pretty hostile reception back in January, and this week’s publication of the results of a survey by the Professional Cricketers’ Association reveals that the players are also strongly opposed to most of its core recommendations.
That opposition is unlikely to take much account of the Netherlands’ interests, however, and the argument for the Dutch continuing to play in English domestic competitions will have to be won elsewhere. One of those places is undoubtedly on the field.
After an indifferent first season in 2010, when an increasingly weary Lions’ only victory was against Derbyshire at Derby, things went much better last year, with victories against Yorkshire (twice), Derbyshire, Kent and Worcestershire, a tie in the return match against Derbyshire, and a very close match against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Coach Peter Drinnen will be hoping that his side can improve on that impressive performance in the coming season, when the opposition will again include Middlesex and Worcestershire, along with Essex, Gloucestershire, Lancashire and Leicestershire.
The competition’s initial double weekend will see the Orange Lions return to Bristol, where they lost to Gloucestershire in their first season, and then move on to Kidderminster to take on Worcestershire, the match having been moved from New Road because that ground is flooded once again after the recent heavy rain in the south of England.
These matches will also mark a return to English domestic cricket for Australian batsman Cameron Borgas, who was Scotland’s overseas player in the Friends’ Provident Trophy in 2009 and who will be fulfilling that role for the Netherlands this season.
A right-handed batsman and a State colleague of Tom Cooper’s with South Australia, Borgas averaged 57.80 for Scotland, hitting three half-centuries in his six innings, and he will be a considerable asset for the side if he is able to produce comparable form for Peter Borren’s men.
Otherwise the 13-man squad is largely the same as that which took on Afghanistan in Sharjah last month, with Alexei Kervezee unavailable and Tom de Grooth missing out to make room for Borgas. Tom Heggelman and Tim Gruijters are both included, as is Eric Szwarczynski, who hit a memorable century against Sussex at Hove in last season’s competition.
Dismissed for 191 on their last visit to Bristol two years ago, the Orange Lions were beaten by an unbroken second-wicket stand of 192 between Alex Gidman and James Franklin; Franklin is no longer with the county, but he has been replaced by another gifted New Zealander in Kane Williamson.
Skipper Gidman is missing the current County Championship match against Derbyshire after suffering a back spasm shortly before the game started on Wednesday, but the county hopes he will be able to resume his place on Sunday.
With Williamson’s fellow-New Zealand international Hamish Marshall, Gidman’s deputy, and such stalwarts of the county circuit as Ian Cockbain, Ian Saxelby and perhaps Jonathan Batty in the side, Gloucestershire will be determined to get their own campaign off to a winning start, especially after having finished near the bottom of their group last year.
Alex Gidman’s brother Will is the county’s leading wicket-taker in the County Championship this season, and he and Saxelby are likely to take the new ball, with another New Zealander in James Fuller and Paul Muchall forming the rest of the seam attack. Ed Young’s left-arm spin provides the principal variation.
Worcestershire fared even worse than Gloucestershire last season, coming bottom of their group and seven points adrift of the Netherlands, and Alexei Kervezee and his team-mates will be particularly keen to avenge their defeat at New Road.
A side which is largely without big names, they have made a poor start to their Championship season with a defeat and two draws, and they spent a frustrating Thursday at Lord’s waiting for their current match against Middlesex to get under way.
Their overseas player is batsman Michael Klinger, who has since he moved from Victoria four seasons ago been a team-mate of Cooper and Borgas with South Australia, so there will no doubt be some additional edge when they meet in the middle.
Former England international Vikram Solanki, captain Daryl Mitchell – their only centurion so far this season – and Moeen Ali will form the core of the batting along with Klinger and Kervezee, while the bowling is likely to be spearheaded by Alan Richardson and Richard Jones, although Jack Shantry may come into consideration, having grabbed two early wickets against the Dutch last year.
With the improved contractual situation enabling Drinnen to work more regularly with his squad the gap between the counties’ full-time professional cricketers and the Orange Lions should in theory be narrowing, but there are no easy games for the Dutch in the CB40 League, and they face two hard afternoons’ work in the west of England.