[By Joost Bakker]
DAY 1: Rain does NOT stop play
The odds were there. KNMI predicted some % chance that rain would not stop play. They weren’t many, but not a full 100. Thus, two teams from ACC and VRA braved the fall weather and stepped out onto the pitch to play another edition of the annual season ending Test match. For reasons only clear to the Amsterdam council, VRA pitches were not available, so the match is played where it belongs, right here at ACC.
ACC captain Wolfe started with winning the toss, and came up with a battle plan, advised by his vice-skip Gurlab. The latter, positioned at number 2, immediately jinxed it, stepped up to the wicket for delivery #1 of a long, long match..... and got bowled by Pulver. As if it was meant to be, a giant poorout had him accompanied off by the VRA team. What a start: 0/1/0.1 (Pulver later admitted his total bowler stats could have been better had he stopped right there).
Partnership two resumed the match a few minutes later, joining Brendin & Baljot Singh, who would last a little bit longer. After some relatively incident-free overs, picking up 12 runs, Brendin scooped a ball from Piotr Pesinowski to short midwicket, where Prazuuk Jain took a great catch. Next in Neerav. History repeats itself, 2nd ball bowled, again by Pesinowski. Bat #4, Bradley, did a bit better, scoring two runs, before unwisely touch a swinging ball and being caught behind by VRA skipper Berend Steenhof.
This had to stop. Now captain Wolfe stepped in, and joined Baljot, who until now had scored an impeccable 14 runs. The gods, however, had seen enough. No, today was not going to be epic. They opened the flood gates, and decided that the test match would resume tomorrow morning. But they changed their minds, closing the tap about an hour later, and with only one last rain break, the match was played only 3 overs short of the 50 target.
Captain Wolfe played a few cricket shots, then decided he felt as if in Zomi class again, and produced ‘that shit shot’. In then the nightswatchman, Tazzy. With Tazzy in to keep the boat afloat, Baljot kept collecting runs to reach a laudable 39, before lack of light stopped play at 85/5/47. History was made: the first session of an ACC-VRA test completed without a team all out.
The evening was spent with a nice dinner, and it was rumored that one or two beers were consumed.
DAY 2: The return of summer?
Day two started with the happy news of the birth of Emma Pesinowski, daughter to Thomas. This had this dangerous VRA player off the pitch. Baljot and Tazzy proved to be a safe pair of hands, happily leaving everything at off, playing the straight shots on on-target balls, and punishing the bad ones. There emerged a cricket partnership that promise more for the test seasons to come. Finally, Tazzy was clean bowled by Prazuk Jain for 32 after batting 36 overs, whereas Baljot managed a resounding 58, there supported by Teun Kuilboer (2, c), Nagesh Danturti (7, b. Sharma) finally dismissed by Martijn Bezier with a catch from Sharma. A few balls later, it was done, when Jovan Singh was trapped lbw.
ACC 141 ao after 75 (?? check)
Pasierowski 4-38 (19)
Waheed 2-19 (10)
Sharma 2-22 (11.1)
Innings 2 kicked off with Thomas Spits and Bezier, facing ACC’s Shashank and Jovan, who were quite succesfully: Spits was dismissed by a Baljot catch off Shashank for 6, and Bezier was caught behind off Jovan for 14. Next up Oppu and Heerkens. Heerkens quite intimately got acquainted with Jovan’s powerful bowling, and, not wearing a thigh pad, developed a beautiful replica of the M87* black hole. Tough cookie as she is, she declined the offer for extra protection, promptly having her caught behind. Oppu continued batting and collected 35 before a captain’s catch from Tazzy. Gustafson and Freddie ten Kate were in shortly, both rapidly eliminated by slower-than-life bowler Neerav. Pasierowski and Sharma stuck around somewhat longer, before both giving way to Baljot (one bowled, the other with a fantastic Nagesh catch, casually taking it at waist height beside him while running full speed). This looked good. ACC were confident that the hard battled 141 would remain competitive. But the last part was not as easy as that. Skipper, Berend ‘the Blocker’ Steenhof, having decided to stick around, did so and, together with Prasut Jain added 40 to the total. Berend fell to Baljot, while Prasut was caught for 26. Phew. But in the end, the score had kept creeping up, and ACC were a full 50 runs behind. There thus was work to be done.
VRA 191 ao
ACC innings two started off with, of course, Gurlab (he is a starter, after all) and Brendin. Unspectacularly, Gurlab was bowled for 8, and a quick rotation followed: Nagesh, Brendin, Bradley and Gimp were rapidly eliminated to make place for Neerav and the 1st innings hero Baljot. These two would survive, and drag ACC through.
Day 3: Ressurrection
Day three is the pinnacle of the current series. Now it comes to the captains to play the tactical game. Do I have enough to declare? Will I have enough time to bowl them out? Such deliberations can keep cricketers awake at night, or wake them up screaming. Captain Wolfe had no such demons. Starting at a negative 14, with 5 wickets down, he had only one concern: getting a good night’s sleep and a solid start, preferably with a Wolfe century.
Neither materialized, but he should not have worried, for there was Baljot. Initially supported by Neerav and Captain Wolfe (both 9 runs) he was finally joined by his brother in arms Tazzy. Things would be fine, now. VRA had started the day smiling, until now. In a repeat on steroids of the Saturday, Tazzy and Baljot excelled at test cricket with an excellent 100+ partnership, re-igniting discussions among the sidelined ACC players and afficionados on the exact science of declaration. Tazzy and Baljot did not care, and kept on scoring, until Tazzy was finally heartbroken by being denied a well-earned maiden 50 at 47 (one of the three catches by Waheed). Baljot kept his focus, and a few deliveries later registered his first 100, good for a traditional ACC commemorative pin. WIth the ACC cabal now getting positively bonkers about when and at how much to declare, Baljot hit home some more runs, until Captain Wolfe could wave his troops in at 16h25.
ACC 236/9 decl
Baljot 114 no
With tea still on, VRA fielded Thomas Spits and D. Dreyer. While Spits was quickly c&b by slower-than-life slowbowler Neerav, Dreyer rapidly raced through a score of several tens, together with an even bigger scoring A. Oppu. Both batsmen seemed not impressed by ACC’s pace bowlers Shanky, substitute Tamilselvan, and Jovan. At tea, VRA, requiring 186 runs for a win, were in the 50s. Not quite ready to claim victory, with only about 90 minutes on the clock, but there was certainly a game.
After Tea, light rapidly faded, to become a factor in the game. Significantly earlier than foreseen, the umpires asked ACC to refrain from pace bowling. The dynamics of the game changed immediately, with Oppu taking full advantage of the slower bowling, showcasing almost every trick in the modern batsman’s book. In only a short time, VRA had reached the 150s, before the umpires called a conference to discuss the rapidly diminishing light conditions. With VRA avid to continue the innings, and ACC not wanting to be a spoilsport, the conference eventually resulted in the game to be continued, with all the gloves off: the fast bowlers were back.
A nerve-wrecking final 20 minutes followed, with as many errors produced by bad light and bad physical condition, and occasionally, by bad form. When time was called ACC stood, with 5 runs on the board.
The final outcome was maybe not the most rewarding, with one team grumbling about stalling tactics, and the other about being disfavored by an early retiring of the pacebowlers and the ensuing damage incurred, it was certainly compelling. Should there have been a winner? Maybe, but that was to do some individual achievements no justice, with Tazzy’s and Baljot’s batting in two innings keeping ACC afloat. What we can certainly conclude is that there is no season, be there COVID or not, that can’t be properly closed by the modern classic ACC-VRA. The current series stands at DVDDDVRD (D=Draw, V=win for VRA, A=win for ACC, R=No result) and there is plenty of more to be had in the coming years.
Maiden century van Baljot