A fine innings from teenager Alex Kervezee and a crucial all-round performance from Mudassar Bukhari gave the Netherlands a positive start on day one of its ICC Intercontinental Cup match against Canada in Toronto on Thursday.
The Dutch were put into bat by Canada captain Ashish Bagai and made a solid start with Kervezee and Tom de Grooth putting on 96 for the first wicket. A century stand was looking likely until, just before the lunch interval, De Grooth was caught by Asif Mulla off Umar Bhatti's bowling for 38.
The middle order faltered somewhat as the home team came back into the game and the Netherlands stuttered. But at the other end the 17-year-old Kervezee looked to be moving smoothly towards what would have been a maiden first-class century.
But on 98 he gave a catch to Bagai off Henry Osinde and he was on his way with the score on 174-5. The Canada players might have reasonably thought they had broken the back of the Netherlands' resistance with Osinde and his new-ball partner Umar Bhatti in good form, but a violent wag by the tail, led by first-class debutant Mudassar Bukhari, brought the visitors up to a respectable 298 all out.
Bukhari ended unbeaten on 66 having put on 63 runs for the 10th wicket with Mark Jonkman, who made an invaluable 21. Osinde ended with figures of 4-47, Bhatti took 3-64 and Kevin Sandher picked up 2-53.
Then Bukhari further impressed Dutch selectors as he took the wickets of Geoff Barnett and Trevin Bastiampillai in his very first over and Canada was in deep trouble at 5-2. But captain Bagai joined opening batsman Shezhad Khan in the middle and made sure no further wickets were lost before the close. Canada resumes on Friday morning on 65-2 with Khan unbeaten on 37 and Bagai 24 not out.
They will be trying to get another 233 to secure a first innings win in what is shaping up to be a fascinating game at Maple Leaf CC, King City.
The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception three years ago and now the ICC's premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members' cricket schedule.
Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event has evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams who do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.
Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in both events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider and Canada earlier this year in the 2006-07event.
The final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-08 will take place in November 2008 at a venue yet to be decided.
For more information go to: www.icc-cricket.com/events_and_awards/intercontinental_cup/index.php