Shahbaz century the highlight of third day
The weather finally relented in Deventer on Wednesday, and a full 104 overs were possible in the Intercontinental Cup match between the Netherlands and the UAE, the game still delicately poised by the close.
If it was the Netherlands' morning, with Shahbaz Bashir becoming the first Dutch batsman to post a century on his first-class debut, the Emiratis struck back strongly in the afternoon session taking four wickets for 19 before a spirited last-wicket stand of 41 between Tom Heggelman and Sebastiaan Braat took the total through to 308.
And batting cautiously against a disciplined Dutch attack, they reached 74 for two by the close, leaving them 235 to make on Thursday to claim the first-innings points, with eight wickets still in hand.
Shahbaz's feat enabled his side to add 130 in the morning session, extended by half an hour after the loss of time on the two previous days, and he scored 98 of them, just missing out on the additional historic achievement of a hundred before lunch.
Shahbaz and Eric Szwarczynski extended their fourth-wicket stand to 106, exactly doubling the Dutch total, before the visitors achieved a breakthrough. Szwarczynski had been the more cautious of the pair, batting for 35 minutes before scoring his first run of the morning, but he lent his partner crucial support, and he reached 44 before he got under a lofted shot and was caught at long on by Haroon Iftikhar off the bowling of Ahmed Raza.
Khurram Khan had used six bowlers in an attempt to break the partnership, but Shahbaz was batting with increasing confidence, and had reached 71 by the time Szwarczynski departed.
Three boundaries off one Mohammad Tauqir over raced him through to 96, and then another, his twelfth in all, brought up his century off 142 balls.
By lunch the Dutch were approaching 250, but they suffered a setback on the stroke of one o'clock as Tom de Grooth played the ball to point and seeing his partner stranded in the middle of the pitch, gallantly sacrificed his wicket in the cause of the team.
Shahbaz added only one after the interval before he was trapped in front by Amjad Javed, and the tall Emirati seamer, bowling very straight, struck again in his following over to remove Tim Gruijters in the same way.
Pieter Seelaar and Timm van der Gugten could only manage four apiece, and at 267 for nine the Dutch were in some trouble. But Heggelman and Braat, the latter playing for the full side for the first time, batted purposefully to get the total past 300, and although Amjad Javed eventually induced a false shot from Braat, finishing with excellent figures of four for 49, the initiative was back with the home side.
Openers Arfan Haider and Haroon Iftikhar successfully negotiated the five overs before the tea interval and, taking no chances whatever, continued on till the 15th over, when Shahbaz, who had conceded a single run in his first four overs, caught the edge of Arfan's bat and Michael Swart took a sharp catch at backward point.
Shahbaz bowled a fine spell, finishing with the remarkable figures of 9 – 7 – 5 – 1 to complete an outstanding day, and Swart was scarcely more generous at the other end, conceding 12 runs in his nine overs of off-spin.
But it was Seelaar who had Haroon well caught by De Grooth at wide mid-off, and it was left to Shaiman Anwar and Khurram Khan to see out the remaining overs. This they did successfully, punishing anything loose in the process, and by the close they had added 25 precious runs.
With a first-innings lead the best either side can hope for – and even that dependent on another day of decent weather – the pre-lunch session on Thursday may well prove crucial. If the Dutch can pick up two or three quick wickets they will be well on the way to that target, but the Emiratis will know that a steady 80 a session will see them home. It promises to be another absorbing day.