Sparta’s lead short-lived as the seamers run riot

Rod Lyall 25/06/18

There cannot have been many more extraordinary afternoons in the recent history of Dutch top division cricket than Sunday’s – in particular there was an hour in which wickets were tumbling all around the country as top orders fell apart and seam bowlers had a field day.

Nowhere was the mayhem more spectacular than at De Diepput, where after coming back well to restrict hosts HCC to a relatively modest 189, Sparta 1888 saw their hopes of consolidating their position at the top of the table torn apart by a concentrated burst of well-directed hostility from Ali Ahmed Qasim.

He took six for 18 in the space of just 38 deliveries as Sparta slumped to 21 for six, and although they managed to prolong the innings long enough to reach 65 they never seemed remotely likely to mount an effective challenge.

Earlier, Sparta’s bowlers had done well to get their side back into the game after HCC had reached 132 for three, stand-in captain Tonny Staal making 49 and Bryce Street 56, with support from Boris Gorlee (25).

HCC squandered that good start, however, the last five wickets producing just 27 runs as Mudassar Bukhari, who had begun by removing both openers, came back to clean up the tail and finish with season’s best figures of five for 32.

It all proved in vain as 40 minutes of lively pace from Qasim, who had similarly demolished HBS earlier in the season, tore the heart out of Sparta’s response.

The chief beneficiaries of the Sparta collapse were new leaders VOC Rotterdam, who themselves needed to recover from 41 for four batting first against Dosti United Amsterdam at Hazelaarweg and eventually reached 177 before bowling their opponents out for 128.

They owed their total to a useful partnership of 44 between Pieter Seelaar and Scott Edwards, but even more to the contribution of Bobby Hanif, whose unbeaten 36 held the tail together and frustrated the Dosti bowlers, for whom Anees Davids and Mohammad Hafeez had led the way with three for 22 and three for 31 respectively.

Then Pierce Fletcher quickly removed the in-form Vinoo Tewarie and the talismanic Taruwar Kohli, who again failed to score, and Dosti never really recovered from these twin setbacks, despite a dogged 30 from Hafeez and some late aggression from Asief Hoseinbaks and Wahid Masood.

Hanif followed up his heroics with the bat with two for 9, while Fletcher finished with two for 14 and skipper Pieter Seelaar took two for 38.

The closest encounter of the day was, a little surprisingly, at Thurlede, where relegation-threatened Punjab Rotterdam made a decent fist of chasing Excelsior ‘20’s 219 for seven, eventually falling just 19 runs short.

Although Lorenzo Ingram went cheaply, significant contributions from opener Tim Etman (37), Roel Verhagen (38 on his return from injury), Sandeep Shankar (36) and David Woutersen (36) enabled the defending champions to reach a competitive total, sufficient at least to give their attack something to work with.

Stef Myburgh gave his side a rapid start with a 47-ball 48 when Punjab replied, but wickets were falling at the other end, and despite 34 from Mamoon Latif it was again left to Ahsan Bamunusinghe to hold the middle and lower order together.

43 were still needed when the ninth wicket fell, but in company with last man Mubashar Hussain Bamunusinghe gradually worked his way to a well-deserved half-century and reduced the target in the process.

But it was Ingram who had the last word, eventually bowling Hussain to seal the victory for Excelsior and keep them well in the hunt for a third successive title.

Just behind the three leaders, HBS Den Haag also maintained their challenge with a comprehensive victory over ACC, another team to implode during Sunday’s Hour of Death.

Given a great platform by a second-wicket stand of 136 between Wessel Coster (64) and the remarkably consistent Sharn Gomes (66), HBS assembled a challenging total of 235, helped by a 41-ball knock of 48 from Wesley Barresi.

Sikander Zulfiqar, deputising as captain for his injured brother Saqib, kept his side in the game by removing both Coster and Gomes and finishing with three for 51, while Dewald Botha claimed three for 41.

ACC’s batting has fared much better in recent weeks, but form deserted them this time, as they were bundled out for just 62, Berend Westdijk taking five for 35 after Coster had removed both Richardt Frenz and Rehmat Zulfiqar by the time 28 runs were on the board.

Across Amstelveen in the Amsterdamse Bos, VRA Amsterdam took full advantage of playing on the own ground against Quick Haag, running up the highest total of the day with 238 for seven and then dismissing their opponents for 127.

VRA were given a solid start by Vikram Singh (27), Dan ter Braak (49) and Ben Cooper (45) as this trio took them to 129 for three, and Peter Borren built on this with 42, supported by Leon Turmaine, who in turn shared a useful partnership with Mitch Lees.

Quirijn Gunning then joined the national seamers’ bonanza by ripping through the Quick top and middle order, his career-best five for 36 reducing the notional home side on 52 for six and 73 for eight.

Only some enterprising resistance from Daan Vierling and Imran Khan, each of whom made 30, got Quick past the hundred mark, but when Dan ter Braak finished things off by removing both of them the score was still 101 short.

Not the least remarkable feature of a remarkable day was the fact that of the five winning sides four had started the season by losing to the same opponents, only Excelsior making it a double by again prevailing over Punjab – and even that proved to be hard work. Such are the glorious uncertainties of this season’s Topklasse.

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