ECC Media Release
All great traditions have to start somewhere. So who knows how significant it may prove to be when a European XI takes the field for the first time, against MCC in Rotterdam tomorrow? Perhaps those fortunate players will one day be able to boast that they were the first of many to turn out in European colours.
The ECC selectors have not been without problems: they have not been able to include those with county contracts, who would otherwise have been serious contenders for a place, and several other leading players, such as Bas Zuiderent (The Netherlands) and Paul Hoffmann (Scotland), were also unavailable.
Even since the team was originally announced, withdrawals have led to changes. Captain Craig Wright (Scotland) has been forced out with a rib injury, while a severely damaged knee has not only put Edgar Schiferli (The Netherlands) out of this game, but will keep him on the sidelines for several months.
Nevertheless, the selectors have a squad which can confidently be expected to give the experienced MCC side a tough match.
The batting resources look remarkably strong, with Australian-born Irishman Jeremy Bray and Denmark's Freddie Klokker (both left-handers) possible openers. If anyone has a claim to be a true European it is Bray, despite his Antipodean origins: he had a very successful season as a pro in Dutch domestic cricket in 1997 before settling in Ireland. Klokker impressed when he was with MCC Young Cricketers, and this season he has made his first-class debut as stand-in wicketkeeper for Warwickshire.
Two key batsmen will be Ryan Watson (Scotland) and Daan van Bunge (The Netherlands). Watson is unquestionably one of the finest batsmen in Europe, as his unbeaten 108 against Derbyshire in the C&G Trophy and his 80 from 85 balls against Pakistan yesterday confirmed. He captained the Scots against Pakistan in Wright's absence, and will fulfil that role again for the European side in Rotterdam tomorrow.
Van Bunge's form has been a little patchy this season, but his class was demonstrated by his record-breaking aggregate of 3,400 runs for the MCC Young Cricketers between 2003 and 2005. This match is an opportunity for him
One name which will have been a surprise to many is that of Lee Savident, a 29-year-old Guernsey allrounder and the only representative of an Affiliate country in the squad. But Savident was on Hampshire's books in the late 1990s before injury forced his early retirement from county cricket; these days he plays for BAT Sports in the Southern Premier League and opens the batting for his country, which will take part in the European Division 2 championship in August. He is an alternative candidate for an opening berth, but would also be valuable in the middle-order.
The seam attack will comprise Irish captain Trent Johnston, Danish left-armer Thomas Hansen (called in for Schiferli), the South-African born Scot Dewald Nel, and medium-pacer Paul Mooney (Ireland), who replaces Wright in the side. A lively fast-medium bowler and powerful batsman. Johnston took six for 23 when Ireland bowled Namibia out for 95 in the first innings of their recent Intercontinental Cup match, and led the side to victory in last year's tournament. Like Bray, he played for New South Wales in Australian domestic cricket before moving to Ireland.
The spin department will comprise Scottish slow left-armer Ross Lyons and Ireland's off-spinner Kyle McCallan, with possible support from Daan van Bunge's leg-breaks.
The European XI's opponents tomorrow, the MCC side touring The Netherlands, has warmed up with two comfortable victories against the Dutch Under-23 and A sides. They are a well-balanced, experienced outfit, probably stronger in batting than in bowling. Former county players Toby Bailey (Northamptonshire) and James Hamblin (Hampshire) made big scores on Monday, while the MCC's trump card may well be former New Zealand Test allrounder Chris Cairns, who has already demonstrated his prodigious batting power in both games.
Afghan seamer Hamid Hassan took four for 40 against the A side yesterday, and MCC also have an extremely promising young left-arm spinner in Lancashire's Michael Baer.With the weather set fair, everything is in place for an historic match in Rotterdam.