Thrilling last-ball win for the Dutch in Bristol
A pale sun shone on Bristol on Sunday, and if it did little to dispel the chill those Gloucestershire fans who turned up to the County Ground were treated to a match which was exciting enough to lift the spirits of any cricket-lover, even if they eventually saw their team lose off the final delivery.
Chasing a Dutch total of 239, Gloucestershire needed three to win off Mudassar Bukhari’s last ball, but it was straight and full, and Benny Howell, who had brought his side to the brink of victory with a superb 50-ball 72, could only pad it away for a leg-bye which left the Orange Lions the winners by a single run.
It had been an afternoon of fluctuating fortunes, in which the spinners on both sides had largely managed to contain the scoring of two powerful batting line-ups.
239 for six was a decent total by the Netherlands, but it was 20 or 30 short of what they needed to really take command of the game, and certainly less than they seemed like making after Stephan Myburgh and Michael Swart got them off to a flying start with a record-breaking, run-a-ball opening stand of 84.
Myburgh set the tone by smacking Will Gidman back over his head for six off the second ball of the game after elder brother Alex had won the toss and given the Dutch first use of the wicket, and the left-hander proceeded to unleash a succession of boundaries which took him to his second CB40 half-century in as many innings, in just 42 deliveries with eight fours and two sixes.
Swart supported him at a more measured pace, and both had a degree of luck: keeper Jonathan Batty missed a stumping off Ed Young with Swart stranded down the pitch, and Myburgh was dropped at long on soon after reaching his fifty.
Young eventually got his man, bowling Swart for 24 and Peter Borren, promoting himself up the order to try to maintain the momentum, fell to Chris Dent after making 15 from eleven balls.
Young and Dent managed to stem the flow of boundaries, and although Myburgh and Cameron Borgas – the latter in his first appearance as the Orange Lions’ overseas player – kept the scoreboard moving, the innings lost some of its initially frenetic tempo.
Myburgh eventually holed out to Ian Cockbain at long on, the same fielder who had earlier put him down, off Dent’s bowling when he had made 77 off 72 balls with 11 fours and two sixes, and when Borgas, on 38, was trapped in front by Young the Dutch were on 167 for four with ten overs left.
Tom Cooper was brilliantly caught by Paul Muchall at deep square leg three overs later, but this brought together Wesley Barresi and Mudassar Bukhari for a final flurry. They added 58 off 39 balls as the quicker men returned, Barresi losing his middle stump to Ian Saxelby off the first ball of the final over after making an invaluable 31-ball 30, and Bukhari remaining not out on 32, made from just 21 balls with two fours and a six.
Young with two for 31 and Dent with two for 42 from their eight-over stints were the pick of the Gloucestershire bowlers, Kyle Williamson backing them up with one for 17.
Timm van der Gugten and Bukhari bowled steadily when the home side replied, 33 runs coming from the first eight overs with the Gidman brothers at the crease, but it was Borren who achieved the breakthrough with his second delivery when he had the left-handed Will caught at the wicket by Barresi.
Alex Gidman and Dent put on 59 for the second wicket, but it took them 13 overs and Gloucestershire were steadily falling behind the required rate.
Still, they had wickets in hand, and while Pieter Seelaar swung things back the Lions’ way by removing both batsmen for 41 and 36 respectively, this brought in a middle-order which was capable of significantly upping the tempo.
Williamson, fresh from a Championship century against Derbyshire, did not stay long before holing out to Tim Gruijters at long on off Cooper’s bowling but Howell, at first in company with Hamish Marshall, now set about turning the innings around.
He and Marshall added 37 from 29 deliveries, but the serious damage began after he was joined by Ian Cockbain. With Gloucestershire needing close to ten an over, 17 came from one Van der Gugten over, including two big sixes over long on, and suddenly the home side were back in with a chance.
By the time Cockbain ran himself out only 20 were needed, 75 having been added from just 50 deliveries, but now there were only two overs left. Seelaar returned to remove Young and Muchall in the space of three deliveries, and 19 were required from nine balls.
A four for Howell which just eluded Cooper on the long off boundary left 13 needed off the final over, and with Howell taking five off Bukhari’s first three deliveries it was 8 off three. Batty, who had come in at No. 10, smacked a four to reduce the target to four off two, but Bukhari kept his cool, confining Batty to a single off the penultimate delivery and then conceding just that leg-bye to give the Dutch the narrowest of victories.
Seelaar’s figures of four for 42 were his best in List A matches, and his best for the Netherlands since he took five for 57 against Kenya back in 2008. And Michael Swart also contributed some vital overs, even restricting the dangerous Howell when he seemed set to secure the points for Gloucestershire.
But it was the Netherlands who began their CB40 season with a win, as they did at Headingley last season. And now it’s on to Kidderminster to see whether they can also repeat their 2010 achievement of two victories from their first visit to England.