Top three all win as the Topklasse nears its climax

Rod Lyall 06/08/18

Three rounds to go, and each victory by leaders VOC Rotterdam, however it is obtained, makes the task significantly more difficult for their rivals: both VRA Amsterdam and HBS Craeyenhout still have a chance of pipping them at the post (VRA’s a good deal more realistic than that of HBS), but they are gradually being squeezed out by VOC’s resilience and the mathematics.

VOC stayed in front at Hazelaarweg on Sunday by successfully defending the very modest total of 169 for eight and bowling Sparta 1888 out for a disappointing 105.

That they reached even that score was very substantially due to a dogged knock from a partially-fit Max O’Dowd, whose 53 from 147 deliveries was the backbone of the VOC innings. Jelte Schoonheim had contributed 34 at the start and Pieter Seelaar made 27, but with Mudassar Bukhari and Warren Bell taking three wickets apiece, at a cost of 15 and 34 respectively, the home side were always forced to struggle for their runs.

But conditions proved even less savoury for the visitors, who were quickly reduced to 41 for seven in reply.

After Fred Klaassen and Pierce Fletcher removed the openers Seelaar and Bobby Hanif worked their way through the rest of the top and middle order, and only a defiant 37 not out from Craig Ambrose, who marshalled the tail admirably, enabled Sparta to get past the hundred mark.

Seelaar finished with three for 19 and Hanif three for 18.

VRA again recovered from an uncertain start to post an imposing 283 against Punjab Rotterdam in the Amsterdamse Bos, an innings dominated by Peter Borren’s 126-ball 153, his highest score in the top flight and one which included 14 fours and a six. It also took him into the select ranks of those who have scored 7000 runs in the highest division of the competition.

He came to the crease with his side on 7 for two, and they were on 51 for four, with Dan ter Braak, Eric Szwarczynski, Ben Cooper and Emile van den Burg all gone, by the time he was joined by Mitch Lees.

These two added 70 for the fifth wicket, and then with Borren in top gear he and Adeel Raja put on 126 for the eighth – a club record – of which Raja’s share was 36.

Mubashar Hussain was Punjab’s principal wicket-taker with four for 50.

283 always seemed likely to be too much for Punjab, and their cause suffered a crucial setback when Stef Myburgh was run out for 27.

Ali Raza made a solid 57, but the asking rate continued to rise and when he was stumped by Lees off the bowling of Ter Braak, who finished with three for 17, the only remaining question was whether the Rotterdam side would bat out their overs. This they managed to do, finishing on 207 for nine.

In a game of fluctuating fortunes at Sportpark Drieburg HBS Craeyenhout held on to beat Dosti United by 19 runs and give themselves an outside chance of nipping through to pinch the title.

With Tobias Visée and Berend Westdijk both missing from their line-up Wessel Coster and Sharn Gomes gave the side a good start with an opening stand of 71, but once Gomes had gone for 20 the wickets started to fall, including Coster’s for a determined 44, and it took an unbeaten 29 from Wesley Barresi to get the total up to a meagre 141.

Anees Davids took three for 22 for Dosti and Mohammad Hafeez – the leading wicket-taker in the competition – three for 13.

With Dosti on 86 for eight, in which Hafeez’s 28 was the main contribution, HBS seemed to be heading for a comfortable victory, but then Waheed Masood and Arief Hoseinbaks added 36 for the ninth wicket and the home side’s hopes began to recover.

Ferdi Vink dismissed Masood, however, and when Coster bowled Hoseinbaks without addition to the score HBS had made sure of the points. Farshad Khan and Barresi were again the main wicket-takers, with three for 30 and three for 29 respectively.

Remarkable as Borren’s innings was, it was surpassed by Rehmat Zulfiqar’s 188 out of an ACC total of 311 for seven against Quick Haag on the second ground at De Diepput.

Admittedly on a relatively small field the ACC opener equaled Darron Reekers’ record of 16 sixes in a single innings, hitting 11 fours into the bargain and facing 156 deliveries before he was caught off the final ball of the innings.

He shared an opening stand of 104 with Richard Frenz (36), and later he and Anees Raza (34) added 73 for the sixth. In between, a fine ten-over spell from Jeroen Brand, who took three for 15, had brought some much-needed sanity to the proceedings, but in the closing stages Rehmat again took charge, ensuring his side set the highest total of the day.

Quick’s reply was built around two contributions: Jay Bista’s lively 80-ball 85 and then Geert Maarten Mol’s maiden century in the top flight, 101 from 94 deliveries which included six fours and six sixes.

Mol’s heroics kept his side in the hunt, but when he finally skied a return catch to Saqib Zulfiqar 77 were still needed from 39 deliveries, and although the lower order kept battling they eventually fell 19 runs short of their target. Saqib’s three wickets cost 72 runs, but his dismissal of Mol was enough to turn the game ACC’s way.

On a day of radically contrasting games, much of the excitement came in the closing minutes at Thurlede, where HCC were chasing Excelsior ‘20’s total of 200 for seven.

Bryce Street’s 68 had got them into contention, but when he was trapped in front by Lorenzo Ingram 33 were still needed at exactly a run a ball and five wickets in hand.

Dan Trijzelaar and Douwe Walhain brought their side to the brink of victory, and Sohail Bhatti’s final over began with just five runs needed and four wickets remaining.

Walhain was bowled for 21, Laurens Jan Lagas was run out off a wide, and although Trijzelaar and Tyrone Peters managed to level the scores, another run out – Trijzelaar this time – ensured that Excelsior escaped with a tie.

Earlier, James Hilditch, back from injury, top-scored with 39 as Excelsior achieved their 200 total, an innings in which most of the batsmen got a start but no-one was able to produce a truly decisive knock.

In the end, though, it proved to be just enough for the sides to share the points in the first tied match of the season.

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