Orange Lions make it four out of five
The Netherlands confirmed their position as serious contenders for a place in the semi-finals of this season’s Clydesdale Bank 40 League competition at Thurlede on Tuesday, beating Essex by five wickets in their most convincing display yet against county opposition.
There is, of course, still a long way to go, but this was a performance which suggested that Peter Borren’s side has found a maturity which enables them to compete with the counties on equal terms, and if they can maintain this level of consistency they will clearly be in the mix at the end of the season.
It was the first time they had registered two victories at home in consecutive matches: until this week, indeed, only two of their eight CB40 wins had been on Dutch grounds.
The match against Lancashire on Monday had gone right down to the wire, but on Tuesday, after a 45-minute delay in starting as a heavy shower swept across the ground shortly after James Foster had won the toss and elected to bat, the Orange Lions took the initiative in the opening over of the 36-over game and never surrendered it thereafter.
In a remarkable opening, Essex were none for two after three balls, Timm van der Gugten claiming more wickets with those three deliveries than he had taken in the four previous matches. Mark Pettini flashed at the very first one and was caught behind by Wesley Barresi, and then Owais Shah was trapped in front two balls later.
And the Sydney-born pace man added another in his third over, when Alviro Petersen also fell leg-before.
Only Tom Westley looked like adjusting at all successfully to the conditions, as Adam Wheater was bowled by a Mudassar Bukhari delivery which jagged back and hit the top of his off stump, and Foster, after adding 31 in a useful stand with Westley, went back to Pieter Seelaar’s first ball and was bowled.
Seelaar struck again with the first ball of his next over, trapping Gary Smith in front as he, too, failed to get forward, and Essex were 56 for six.
Westley was steadily accumulating the runs, and reached 32 before he became the fourth LBW victim of the innings, falling to Ahsan Malik Jamil. He had faced 62 balls, and hit two boundaries.
Tim Phillips now joined Graham Napier in the most productive partnership of the innings, putting on 45 for the eighth wicket in ten overs and getting their side past three figures, but on 111 Michael Swart claimed yet another leg-before to remove Phillips for 17, and when Napier, on 28, hit out at the very next ball, at the start of a Jamil over, Cameron Borgas was there on the backward square boundary to take the catch.
Bukhari finished it off by bowling Charl Willoughby, and Essex were all out for 112, the lowest total by a county against the Netherlands in an ECB competition.
It had been an impressive display by the whole of the Netherlands’ attack, Van der Gugten leading the way with three for 29, and Bukhari, Jamil and Seelaar claiming two apiece.
Napier struck back quickly when the Dutch innings began, having Stephan Myburgh caught at slip by Shah with his fourth delivery, but Swart and Tom Cooper added 42 for the second wicket from 47 deliveries, Swart showing the same sort of aggression he had displayed against Lancashire the day before.
There were three sixes in his 26-ball 40, while Cooper, batting more sedately, hit three fine boundaries in his innings of 22. Cooper was the first to go, caught at slip off off-spinner Phillips, and when Swart followed four overs later, bowled by the same bowler, the Orange Lions had reached 70 for three.
Borgas edged Smith to keeper Foster with the total on 80, and there might have been a moment of doubt in the minds of some Dutch supporters. Bukhari, promoted to five, was playing an uncharacteristically subdued innings, and it was Wesley Barresi who decided to take on the attack, announcing his arrival at the crease with two splendid boundaries.
Bukhari, too, now began to play his shots, hitting one superb cover drive in the process, and the scores were level when he provided a third slip catch for Shah and became Phillips’ third victim. There was something appropriate about the fact that the next ball, from the other end, was a wide to finish the match.
So the Netherlands will travel to Lord’s and Leicester next weekend as Group A leaders, and they will no doubt recall how close they came to beating Middlesex at the former ground last season. The Londoners had distinctly the better of their encounter in Voorburg earlier this month, but Borren’s men will be keen to expunge that memory by taking the points this time.