Start: 13:25 – rain delay
Venue: VCC 1st pitch
Conditions: mostly cloudy with blue patches
Toss: Wanders, bat first
5) David (wk)
6) Sander (c)
The troops gathered with grimacing faces at VCC on this less than savoury Saturday morning in The Hague. Early morning rain set the start time back to 13:25 with the visitors winning the toss and electing to bat under the clouds. Brave call, thought Shujah and Nick when thrown the new cherry. Our opening pair had their right/left-hand openers hopping around, playing and missing to “oohs” and “aahs” before Nick set about a ZAMI masterplan in the 6th over. Ball one, a leg side wide. Ball two, now an offside wide. Clearly bamboozled, the batsman could not believe it to see the next one scream into his off stump, attempting a big drive down the ground! With the early breakthrough made, the opposition began to counter-attack with the new man confidently striking a few early boundaries. Perhaps sensing danger, the skipper decided for a change of angle with left armer Martin coming into the attack. This didn’t seem to worry the no.3 who came charging down the wicket, only to swing and miss with David smartly removing the bails in comfortable time. We thought. This was not the opinion of the square leg umpire however, firmly declaring it not out. Feeling aggrieved, the bowlers kept working hard, 7, 8 and 9 ball overs a plenty. Replacing the unlucky Martin, Frits kept the batsman guessing with extraordinary flight until his exertions took their toll on his back with the opposition generously providing a substitute fielder who did his best to fill the large boots of the man he was replacing.
Eventually the big wicket came from the other end with Richard now trapping the no. 3 lbw for 22, the umpire this time unable to deny this raucous appeal. Now tasting blood, Richard set his sights on the left handed opener, still poking around with a strike rate of 16. Attempting to dig one in, the batsman pulled nicely for his first four to fine leg. Perhaps feeling over confident, the batsman tried the same shot off the next ball from Richard, but this one had more venom and could only reach the gleeful Shujah at close fine leg for a sharp catch! The ZAMIs would go on to show what a long time a week can be in the catching department with a further four smart grabs during the innings!
Keen to overturn the harsh non-stumping call, Martin managed to maintain the pressure outside off stump, bringing about the first of Marek’s three slip catches. Richard, Having done enough damage at the opposite end, Richard then handed over to Chris who started tightly with the first maiden of the innings. This form continued, or debatably improved in his next over with a triple zaiden! Come his third over though, the Belgian import had had enough of beating the bat and decided to copy the aggression shown by his predecessor, getting one to lift sharply and take the shoulder of the bat providing a simple looping catch to Marek at first slip. With the opposition now 5 down it was time for VCC to go in for the kill, however with the wide count quietly rising, pressure seemed to lift a little for the batting side. Unsurprisingly then, the skipper decided to take matters into his own hands however after 3 wicket-less overs, opted for his opening bowler Shujah. The no.5 batsman had now crept up to 38 before the fielding captain saw a clear weakness in his offside game. Placing a man strategically at fly slip, the bowler hung one outside off stump which was slashed straight to the moved fielder, Chris, who was grateful to hold on! The skipper grinned cheekily amidst celebrations as this masterstroke paid off.
The score was finally restricted to a modest 157/7, with extras providing a valiant top score of 44.
Having been well refuelled by a varied and balanced lunch, the batsman set about their work. Ivo and Marek took on the brave responsibility of opening the innings, hoping to lay a solid foundation to the run chase. From ball one, they demonstrated the true fussiness only an opening batsman will understand, complaining about the colour of the ball and refusing to continue until it was changed for a regulation pink one. With this dealt with, play resumed pleasantly drama free. Both men rotated the strike during the initial overs to frustrate the bowlers. This was until Ivo unfortunately lost his middle peg, “You miss and I’ll hit” proving a dependable philosophy even in the T20 age. Next strode out Mark at the crucial position of no. 3 where he took the opportunity to cement himself at the crease, while Marek at the other end took respon
sibility of keeping the scoreboard ticking with a full range of shots. It didn’t take long for Mark to also join the party, finding the boundary rope with increasing frequency around the ground. The opposition bowlers, perhaps intimidated by this onslaught, also struggled to maintain their discipline with a shower of wides helping the score along, in the meantime Marek passing 50 to cheers from spectators around the ground. With around 30 to win and sitting on 34*, Mark was determined to also reach the milestone, creaming a four down the ground. A little chirp could be heard from the slip fielder at this, perhaps a little friendly advice being offered from the fielding team sensing what was on. The next ball, Mark tried the same shot but was beaten for (lack of) pace, the ball dipping cruelly past his bat and into the stumps, seeing him depart for a well made 38. Was he sledged out in a ZAMI match? Only he can tell you.
Nevertheless, the match needed tying up by VCC and Nick joined Marek to try and see us home. Facing up to the man he dislodged at the start of the match, Nick did well to nudge and nurdle singles, feeding the strike to the flowing bat of Marek when necessary. In the 30th over the boys upped the running intensity, Marek hitting a string of 2s to level the scores by the end of the over. Nick, now with the opportunity to take VCC over the line, stood ready to hit the winning runs. As the ball came down he could only manage a swing and a miss. Then, in true ZAMI fashion, with scores tied, the bowler miscalculated his inswinging yorker and saw it drift centimetres down the leg side. As if in slow motion, all eyes turned to the umpire who reluctantly but correctly followed the letter of the law and extended out his arms, giving VCC the win and denying the batsman the chance of personal glory! With the match won, MoM Marek led the players off with a fantastic unbeaten 73 to follow his earlier 3 catches.
Next week sees the replay match hosted by Wanders in Oss. Rumours have it the visiting team will arrive a night ahead for a full pitch and tactical assessment.