Michael Bracewell too good for promising Dutch

The Netherlands squad pose for a photo ahead of their series against New Zealand XI

Rain and bad light brought a premature end to proceedings in the initial warm-up match at McLean Park, Napier on Wednesday, but not before the day had been enlivened by a composed, unbeaten 127 for the New Zealand XI from skipper Michael Bracewell and by promising innings for the Dutch tourists from opener Vikram Singh and Bas de Leede.

Bracewell followed up his outstanding knock by claiming two for 14 with the ball, and by the time the rain set in the Netherlands had reached 117 for four in reply to their hosts’ 280 for eight, a deficit of 42 runs under the DLS method.

The first and probably the biggest surprise of the day was the appearance, after Pieter Seelaar had won the toss and elected to bowl, of Vikram Singh in pads and wicketkeeping gloves: he had never previously kept in senior or, as far as anyone could remember, youth cricket, but he fully rewarded coach Ryan Campbell’s confidence with an accomplished display behind the stumps.

If he caused some palpitations before he completed his first catch to remove opener Matthew Boyle, taking the ball at the second attempt after the batter had top-edged a De Leede bouncer, there was no such hesitation about his second, diving low to his left to dismiss the aggressive Dane Cleaver, strangled down the leg side by Brandon Glover.

In between, Logan van Beek had leapt in from the gully to snaffle a catch from Mitchell Hay, surprised by Fred Klaassen’s pace, and now the young New Zealand side were 56 for three.

Bracewell, batting at four, was now joined by Josh Clarkson, who belted five boundaries in a 27-ball 26 as his captain, by far the most experienced player in his side, proceeded serenely, intent on anchoring the innings.

Clarkson eventually hit a sharp return catch to Philippe Boissevain, and Jesse Tashkoff contributed 19 before he edged Klaassen into his leg stump.

Soon afterwards, Bracewell brought up his fifty, from 64 deliveries with just five boundaries, and with Angus McKenzie helping him in a 62-run stand for the sixth wicket, the Dutch bowlers had done pretty well to restrict the home side to 182 for five with ten overs left.

But Bracewell was well set, and although McKenzie fell for 26 with the total on 209, the skipper now went through the gears so effectively that 98 came from those final ten, reinforcing the damage which an established batter can do at the back end.

Left-armer Klaassen was as disciplined as ever, taking three for 54, and he was given good support by De Leede, who shared the new ball, and by Ryan Klein, but Brandon Glover again bowled too many wides; he looked at his most effective when bowling a fourth/fifth stump line to the left-handers, but came in for some inevitable punishment towards the end, finishing with two for 61.

With Van Beek and Seelaar himself not bowling the attack looked a little threadbare as Bracewell upped the ante, and after eight excellent if wicketless overs Aryan Dutt too suffered as the score mounted.

Bracewell’s 127 came from just 108 deliveries with 14 fours and two sixes, the latter off the final balls of Glover’s 50th over to take the total to 280.

A shower delayed the start of the Dutch innings, but Singh then wielded the bat with the same aplomb he had shown behind the stumps, dominating his opening stand with Max O’Dowd and hitting a succession of boundaries off the New Zealand pace attack.

McKenzie secured the breakthrough, O’Dowd pulling him to Hay at square leg when he had made 6, and Boris Gorlee soon followed, caught and bowled without scoring in Bracewell’s second over.

Batting in some discomfort after receiving a blow on the knee, Singh was the next to go, sharply caught by keeper Cleaver off Bracewell for a 64-ball 45 which included eight fours, and when Seelaar inside-edged Tim Pringle into his stumps the Dutch were in some difficulty at 95 for four.

The light was deteriorating and rain threatened, but De Leede was looking confident and, in company with Van Beek, he had reached an unbeaten 56-ball 47 when the rain arrived.

The home side therefore had a fairly comfortable victory, but Campbell and Seelaar will be encouraged by this effort, and will be looking for further progress when the second 50-over game is played on Saturday.

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