It is September 29, a Friday afternoon. Rain has just washed down in Amsterdam, but at VRA 22 individuals have taken off from work. For what? For three days of blood, sweat, and, it is rumoured, sometimes tears. For a game that to the innocent bystander can be summarized by 11 players in white against 11 other players in white, and in the end, the white team wins. Sometimes, not even for that. Match drawn. For what, really?
Last weekend, for the 13th year without intermission, ACC and VRA concluded the Netherlands summer season by playing the only test match played on Dutch shores. Three days of action where the tides vary from fatigue and boredom to frantic episodes of action. To name a few: a sensational runout of ACC captain Ezzat Muhseni by Roelof Balk's straight drive into his wicket, lightly touched by bowler Martijn Besier, scores of 50+ runs by experienced batsmen like Charles MacInerney, Thomas Pasierowski and by fresh talents Sidhart -Sid- Goudal, Prasuk Jain and Mark Wolfe. (The latter only qualified to play the test match for being a junior player, with the rules excluding the selection of first team players.), Ezzat emphatically trying to talk himself out of lbw twice during the match (a pattern starts to emerge...), Prasuk stopping play for extended periods with cramps, only to be surpassed in the last moment for the Drama Queen award by ACC keeper Joost Bakker taking a ball in the face (another pattern).
ACC lost the toss on Friday and were asked to bat. The opening pair assumed their task at 14h13, stood for 10-12 overs for a relatively low score, to be replaced by quicker scoring middle order. Friday stumps was reached with ACC at 214 for 6 with Charles at a comfortable 57 and nightswatchman Guy 'Blocque' Pathak. Piotr Pasierowski and Sharanka Liyanage each took two wickets, Harpreet Singh one and the already mentioned run-out by Martijn Besier.
Saturday morning, the dynamics changed. ACC hopes of asking VRA to follow on were quickly off the table when Prasuk struck three times and a catch by Pavan Shetty off Saranga. VRA subsequently played a controlled morning session ending at 47/3 with three bowler's wickets without field intervention, two for Sid and one for good old Nagesh Danturti, filling in for the awol Berend Edelenbos.
The afternoon session was certainly VRA's. Thomas reached a total of 74, despite having to face Lotte's slower-than-slow loopies, and being dropped several times (yes, we are looking at you! You know you should have held on!). Saranga's 35 no was the 2nd top score, with 3 wickets for Richard Wolfe, one for Mark and one more for Sid; Lotte did not get her man (Girish Chauhan enticing Thomas' hook shot caught in the deep by Mark), but surprised Martijn with a clean bowled. This meant that, close to stumps, VRA had reached 230 runs giving ACC a slim 27 run lead.
The last hour proved fruitful for VRA taking the scalps of Berend (1) and Richard (0), who emphatically proved his solid reputation of nightswatchman clearly does not extend to the field. Lotte on the other hand is a safe pair of hands, and the day was closed at a score of 10/2. The refreshments were taken with a mild concern after giving away two wickets cheaply.
Sunday turned out to be an even sunnier day. After hiding ACC's dressing room key (psychological warfare is never far away on day 3) VRA took the field hoping for a short 3rd innings. They did not get it. Charles continued to take big shots, assisted by Lotte. After Lotte's misjudging Prazukh's arm and her own running, Charles (32) fell to Pavan's stylish c&b. Replacing them were Mark and Sid (Ezzat stayed a short while before given a widely judged non-debatable lbw). Mark brought some panache to the pitch and, despite an almost catch at 11 (Thomas catching, but tumbling over the rope before finding firmer ground), posted a well-earned 81 before being run put by Harpreet. After Mark's wicket, just after lunch, murmur on a rapid declaration rose. The declaration had to wait a bit, for the lead was deemed too slim, but was eventually made after the ball giving Sid his maiden ACC 50 in 45 balls. Leading VRA fielder on Sunday was Harpreet with two wickets and the run-out.
So, there it was. VRA were set to chase 223 in a little over 50 overs. Not undoable, but the initial approach was cautious. Maybe too cautious. ACC on the other hand felt this was the day to finally post the first win in 13 years. But ACC struggled to get the first breakthrough. Openers Louis Collignon and Saranga appeared unsure, but stayed until the 12th over, before being bowled and a silly mix-up in the running led to their demise. The winds changed with the entry of Pavan, Martijn and Prasuk and suddenly it appeared if VRA eventually did decide to go for it. This proved to be short-lived, and the psychological warfare continued when gobby Thomas decided blocking it out while mocking ACC for a supposedly too late declaration. His and a few more wickets fell, but nearing the 6 o'clock deadline, the match dwindled to a slow end. Time was reached with VRA short 60-odd runs at 161/6 with two wickets for Girish
Was the declaration indeed too late? Perhaps so, but the final lead of 61 appears not insurmountable with a slightly more daring batting approach. Then again, ACC could have fielded more sharply taking wickets more quickly. On the whole, a draw seems fair, although it can be counted upon that the discussions will not end. What is not up for discussion, is that the two teams proved once again that the test form is to be cherished. This was a game that enticed the audience and teams until the last hour. Amsterdam cricket aficionados are advised to mark September 2024 in their calendars, when the next edition will be played.
Tekst: Joost Bakker
Foto's: Lotte Heerkens