Rod Lyall 13/08/18
VOC Rotterdam claimed the championship which many had predicted for them before a ball had been bowled in this year’ Topklasse competition with a comfortable 61-run victory over HBS at Craeyenhout on Sunday.
Having assembled a squad which included five internationals and two additional recruits from HBS in Corey Rutgers and Pierce Fletcher, the Hazelaarweg club were always likely to be among the strongest contenders, and after a slightly shaky start to the campaign they have won eleven games on the trot to prove that they are worthy champions.
The decisive contribution on Sunday, however, came from former skipper Bobby Hanif, who effectively ended the home side’s challenge by removing first Sharn Gomes and then Wesley Barresi, going on to finish with figures for four for 27.
The HBS chase had already got off to a poor start with Fred Klaassen removing Wessel Coster in the first over and Fletcher dismissing Tobias Visée soon afterwards, but with Gomes and Barresi gone as well the powerful Craeyenhout top order was left reeling.
They were lifted by a superb innings from Jaron Morgan, whose 74 came from 56 balls and included nine fours and three sixes, but once he, having looked capable of winning the match on his own, fell to a catch off VOC skipper Pieter Seelaar, the outcome was never in doubt.
That HBS was chasing a VOC total of 194 for eight was due in large measure to an unbroken 52-run ninth-wicket partnership between Klaassen and Fletcher, generally seen as a lethal new-ball pairing rather than lusty hitters of the ball.
Had modest total of 150 or so and a score which in the end proved a good deal too much for the HBS batsmen.
The Craeyenhout side had done well to fight their way into the match after VOC got off to a lively start, Ferdi Vink’s ten-over spell for figures of three for 15 having helped to reduce the prospective champions to 142 for eight.
Then came the Klaassen-Fletcher show, and in the end they gave themselves a thoroughly defendable total.
Everyone at Craeyenhout had been keeping a weather eye on events elsewhere in Den Haag, since at De Diepput VOC’s principal challengers for the title, VRA Amsterdam, were taking on HCC.
Defeat for VRA would put them out of the running, and in a match of fluctuating fortunes it was HCC that eventually prevailed just as VOC were closing in on their own victory.
Not for the first time this season, a theoretically-strong VRA batting line-up failed to deliver, and the challengers were dismissed for a modest 153.
That they reached even that was due to some late heroics from Adeel Raja and Haseeb Gul Mia, for at 110 for eight it seemed likely that VRA would have to settle for a much lower total.
Skipper Emile van den Burg top-scored with 31, while for HCC there were a brace of wickets apiece for Ryan Ninan, Ali Ahmed Qasim and Reinier Bijloos.
But VRA have also proved able to defend low totals, and when Quirijn Gunning, who claimed three for 29, Peter Borren and Raja had reduced HCC to 67 for six it looked as if their title hopes might still not disappear entirely.
This merely paved the way, however, for an extraordinary innings from Douwe Walhain, who struck five sixes and as many fours on his way to a match-winning 55-ball 63 not out, sharing an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 87 with Hidde Overdijk and taking his side to the win with seven and a half overs to spare.
At Het Zomercomplex, Punjab Rotterdam kept their slim hopes of avoiding relegation alive with a remarkable two-wicket victory over Dosti United.
Set to make 267 for victory, Punjab were soon 16 for three, and when Ali Raza and Rohan Qadri departed by the time the score was 61 defeat seemed imminent.
But Mamoon Latief and Asif Khan had other ideas, and instead of batting their way towards respectability they went all-out for the win, adding 163 for the sixth wicket and turning the match around completely.
Latief eventually fell to Asief Hoseinbaks when he had made exactly 100, but Khan continued in company with Reyhan Faiz, and the scores were level when Mohammad Hafeez removed him for 76.
Mohsin Bajwa went next ball, but then Faiz hit the winning boundary and Punjab lived to fight another day.
Earlier, Vinoo Tewarie had set Dosti on the way to a substantial total with 60, and then Hafeez marshalled the middle and lower order, making a 98-ball 102 and seeing the side to their total of 266 for eight.
Ahsan Bamunusinghe was again the most successful of the Punjab bowlers with three for 35.
Punjab’s cause was aided by defeats for both the other sides which remain at risk of relegation.
In another tight finish, this time at Het Loopveld West, Excelsior ’20 Schiedam just held on to close out ACC, whose place in the top flight is still not entirely secure.
The defending champions had battled their way to 191 for nine, with Lorenzo Ingram once again the key figure with a knock of 74, in the course of which he shared stands of 84 with Joost Kroesen (28) and 55 with James Hilditch (29).
Sikander Zulfiqar was ACC’s main wicket-taker with three for 33, and when he then made 49 with the bat, supported by Shirase Rasool (37) in a fifth-wicket partnership of 86, he seemed to have set up a win for the home side.
But Rens van Troost returned to remove both batsmen, and it was left to Ahmed Zulfiqar and Anees Raza to try to knock off the remaining runs.
Gijs Kroesen and Sohail Bhatti bowled so tightly in the closing overs, however, that the batsmen were left needing 13 off Kroesen’s final over, and when they could only manage five Excelsior were able to claim victory by 7 runs.
And at Sportpark Bermweg Quick Haag, marginally below ACC in the table, suffered a five-wicket defeat at the hands of Sparta 1888.
Jay Bista was again the pick of the Quick batsmen after Martijn Snoep invited the visitor to bat first, but his 78 provided the lion’s share of the total of 133, and with Mudassar Bukhari taking three for 30, Usman Saleem three for 28 and Salman Yaqub three for 18 it took only 37.3 overs for Sparta to bundle their opponents out.
Michael Pollard then steered his side to victory with an unbeaten 43, Sparta completing the win with more than 15 overs to spare.