Svanholm find the going tough in Amsterdam
If cricket were boxing, it might have been billed as The Championship of the Continent. In America, it might even be a World Championship.
But Saturday's game in Amstelveen between the national champions of Denmark and The Netherlands turned out to be a fairly gentle early season warm-up match, with both Svanholm and VRA fielding below-strength elevens.
The Danes were harder hit by absences, with at least five internationals from their full side unable to play: left-arm seamer Thomas Hansen was particularly missed, but so were brothers Bobby and Rocky Chawla, Zishan Shah and Rohit Mahendra. For VRA, opening bowler Victor Grandia and South African coach Ryan Maron were the most conspicuous absentees.
Confronted by a fairly friendly attack and fielding which at times suggested that the Danish side had not yet fully emerged from hibernation, VRA ran up a massive 367 for six in 45 overs, with four batsmen making half-centuries.
Openers Eric Szwarczynski and Tjade Groot gave their side a great start with a stand of 115 in twenty overs, although Szwarczynski, just back from the World Cup and struggling to adjust to conditions on the artificial wicket, was fortunate to be dropped before he had scored.
He went on to make 59, while Groot, characteristically aggressive, hit 75 from just 71 balls, with eleven fours. Darrin Murray hit 81 from 41 balls as the innings gathered momentum, taking 28 off one Jan Overgaard over in a Herschelle-Gibbsian display before retiring. Garth Brown (52 in 28 balls) and Adeel Raja (33) put on 80 in seven overs for the fifth wicket as Svanholm wilted in the heat.
Their batsmen were never able to mount a serious challenge to such a total, although ex-international Mickey Lund made a solid 65, adding 64 for the second wicket with Thomas Vestergaard (29), and in the closing stages skipper Max Overgaard brought some respectability to the innings with a 45-ball 55, with four fours and three sixes.
But at 180 for six by the close Svanholm just failed to reach halfway in their run chase. Their new Australian coach, Shaun Gannon, didn't really get a chance to get going, being on the wrong end of what seemed like a somewhat harsh leg-before decision when he had made just 5.
If this one-sided game perhaps exaggerated the gap between Dutch Hoofdklasse and Danish Elitedivision, Sunday's match against newly-promoted ACC did little to correct the impression.
Winning the toss and electing to bat, Svanholm began well enough, Lund (30) and Gannon (40) putting on 80 for the first wicket. When they both retired, however, the innings began to fall apart, and the Danish side were all out for 151. For ACC, spinners Zulfiqar Ahmed and Maninder Kamboj - the latter young enough to be the former's son - picked up two wickets each, as did veteran seamer Jan Balk.
ACC then knocked off the runs for the loss of three wickets, although that included retirements by Zulfiqar (59) and Rehan Younis (34). The only real wicket that Svanholm was able to capture was that of Steven de Bruin, who made 21.