Gloucestershire too strong for disappointing Dutch
After the heroics of their last-ball Twenty20 victory over Bangladesh the day before, the Dutch side was entitled to arrive at the ABN-AMRO International Cricket Center in Amstelveen on Friday full of optimism about their Clydesdale Bank 40 League match against Gloucestershire.
They had , after all, beaten the same opponents at Bristol in the opening game of this season’s campaign, and they have turned in a number of equally notable performances since.
But what promised to be an enthralling encounter began in drama and ended in anticlimax, with the weather playing an important part in a 90-run, Duckworth/Lewis-calculated win for Gloucestershire.
The basis for that victory was laid by the county’s new overseas player, New Zealander Rob Nicol, who hit a punishing 113-ball 133, hitting seven sixes and as many fours in a brilliant display of aggressive batting.
There had been little hint of the mayhem to come, however, when Timm van der Gugten injured his ankle in his very first over, the second of the match, and was forced to limp from the field. That must have disrupted Peter Borren’s plans considerably, and he actually used five different bowlers in the course of the first five overs.
Nicol and his opening partner, fellow-New Zealander Hamish Marshall, soon went onto the attack, and the Dutch bowlers were for a time quite unable to stem the flow of runs. The fifty came up in the ninth over, and the opening stand had been extended to 102 by the time Marshall, who had compiled a run-a-ball 47, pulled Pieter Seelaar into the hands of Ashan Malik Jamil at deep square leg.
Seelaar and Borren combined well to slow Gloucestershire’s progress somewhat, Seelaar striking again to remove Benny Howell, but then Nicol and Dan Housego picked things up again, adding 65 from 48 deliveries, and by the time Nicol was fourth out with four overs still to go, the total had reached 235.
52 runs came from those four overs in a final brutal assault, with James Fuller smashing two sixes in his 24-ball 42 and Ed Young adding twelve in three deliveries to take Gloucestershire on to 290 for six, the highest total the Dutch have conceded in their three-year Clydesdale Bank 40 League history.
There were few positive features in the Dutch performance so far: Mudassar Bukhari claimed his 100th List A wicket when he removed Ian Cockbain in the final over, but his six overs cost 60 runs, and of the rest only Seelaar, with two for 30 from eight overs, had figures he could be pleased with. And four vital chances had been missed into the bargain.
Van der Gugten had been able to return, fit enough to bowl a further five overs, but he too came in for some heavy punishment.
As Leicestershire had done a couple of weeks ago, Gloucestershire’s bowlers found more life in the Amstelveen pitch than the Dutch attack had been able to do, and Wesley Barresi, after hitting two boundaries, edged a lifting delivery from Fuller to keeper Jonathan Batty.
Michael Swart, too, began aggressively, but when Alex Gidman took a sharp catch at short midwicket off Ian Saxelby’s bowling to dismiss him for 12, the Dutch were on 22 for two.
The weather, meanwhile, had been taking a turn for the worse. The match had started in brilliant sunshine, but the humidity was always high, and the sky had been progressively darkening as a band of rain approached.
The Duckworth/Lewis par score therefore became a key factor in everyone’s minds, and Tom Cooper and Cameron Borgas faced the task of getting their side ahead of the required rate by the time the rain intervened.
They did so brilliantly, launching an attack on the Gloucestershire attack as powerful as anything Nicol had turned on earlier in the day. With Cooper taking the leading role they added 52 in nine overs, and when light rain started to fall and the batsmen took their powerplay, they were only six runs behind the par score.
They took 24 from the next three overs, and as the rain grew heavier the Dutch had their noses in front. It was now absolutely vital that they did not lose a wicket, which would again put them in deficit.
But then, having already taken a four off Ed Young’s next over, Borgas gave him the charge and was bowled. It was a moment which completely changed the complexion of the game, and the Gloucestershire side clearly knew it. The partnership had added 81, but its end undid much of the good work.
The par score jumped from 102 to 117, and Cooper and Peter Borren were forced to restart the process of repairing the damage, with the weather deteriorating. Inevitably, perhaps, Cooper’s wicket followed, as he tried to hit Fuller over the top and was caught by Nicol. He had made 51 from 47 balls with seven boundaries.
Four balls later the players were driven from the field and when, after a 65-minute delay, they were able to return, the revised target was 237, with the Dutch needing 123 from 73 deliveries. Had they lost two wickets rather than four at that stage, the target would have been 217, a much more realistic task.
But as it was, with Fuller charging in from one end and Nicol and Young alternating at the other, the Gloucestershire bowlers were wholly on top, and the wickets began to tumble. Fuller collected four of them to finish with six for 35, with Nicol and Young picking up one apiece.
When the previous day’s hero, Jamil, chopped a Fuller delivery into his stumps the Netherlands were all out for 146, and Gloucestershire had completed a comprehensive victory.