Top four pull away as VRA grasp a straw

Rod Lyall 01/07/19

Like a ship struck amidships the Topklasse table broke into two on Saturday, as the gap between the top four and the rest extended to six points with only seven rounds still to play.

There is still plenty to play for at both ends of the table, however, with the leading four sides all winning to stay in contention for the championship and VRA’s defeat of VOC lifting them to within one win of potential relegation candidates Sparta 1888 and Quick Haag.

There were dominating performances by the co-leaders, ACC and Excelsior ’20 and by their closest rivals HCC, all of whom posted comfortable home victories.

ACC restricted Quick Haag to 164 for nine at Het Loopveld, a total which they had little difficulty in passing for the loss of five wickets.

Brady Barends was again the spearhead for ACC, trapping Jay Bista in front when he had made just four and cleaning up the tail to finish with five for 27, while Saqib Zulfiqar took three for 28, including the scalp of Bobby van Gigch, who had made 45 and shared a 50-run partnership for the third wicket with Geert Maarten Mol.

That left Mol to try to hold the rest of the innings together: his unbeaten 70 enabled Quick to get as far as they did but, Jeroen Brand apart, he received little support from the rest of the side.

Rehmat Zulfiqar then hit a splendid 84 not out to steer his side to victory, dominating a 97-run stand for the second wicket to which his partner, Shirase Rasool, contributed just 28.

Once Rasool was dismissed by Van Gigch the ACC chase faltered slightly, but Rehmat and his brother Sikander took them to within five runs of their target, and it was all over with more than 13 overs left.

Excelsior’s 90-run victory over Voorburg at Thurlede was almost equally convincing, although Voorburg did well initially to dismiss the Schiedam side for 192.

It would, indeed, have been a good deal less had Voorburg held their catches or even been less prodigal with their wides, but nevertheless there were excellent bowling performances from the new-ball pairing of Viv Kingma, who took three for 27, and Brandon Glover, and from Stef Mulder, who turned in a splendid eight-over spell without being rewarded with a wicket.

The Excelsior innings was disrupted early by the retirement of Tim Etman with back problems, although he returned later to be last man out for 37.

All the top order got a start, but the top score of 38 came from Joost Kroesen and no-one else looked likely to get on top of the bowling.

Voorburg found conditions even more difficult when they replied, and once Tom Heggelman and Brenton Parchment had reduced them to 27 for four the outcome was virtually settled.

Nic Smit stayed almost to the end, recording the only half-century of the match with a dogged 52, but otherwise only Philippe Boissevain managed to reach double figures as Heggelman and Rens van Troost cut a swathe through the batting, and the side were eventually dismissed for 102.

It was a similar story at De Diepput, where HCC, defending a total of 201, dismissed Dosti United for 157 to win by 44 runs.

Bryce Street was once more the mainstay of the HCC top order, making a 76-ball 64 to take his side to 155 for four, with skipper Tonny Staal contributing 35.

Thereafter Kuldeep Diwan cut through the middle order to finish with four for 22, and with two wickets each for Anees Davids and Taruwar Kohli Dosti seemed to be fairly well placed at the innings break.

Abhinav Bali led the way with 48 when Dosti replied, but with Kohli and Amitoze Singh again going for relatively modest scores the game was swinging the home side’s way, with Rahil Ahmed the only significant contributor thereafter.

Bharat Itagi ran through the lower order and when he dismissed Ahmed as well, bowled after making a defiant 42, the result was settled. Itagi ended with five for 22, his best figures for HCC.

HBS Craeyenhout had to endure some nervous moments before overcoming Sparta 1888, despite having once again posted the highest total of the day with 298 for seven.

The HBS top four again set a cracking pace, led by Tobias Visée’s 18-ball 37 and consolidated by Zac Elkin (70), Sharn Gomes (42) and Wesley Barresi (68).

But then Mudassar Bukhari put the brakes on somewhat in the closing stages, taking four for 50, and HBS closed just short of the 300 they had at one point seemed certain to pass.

Berend Westdijk set Sparta back on their heels by removing both openers in the first over of the reply, but first Garnett Tarr and Andrew Fletcher, with a third-wicket stand of 72, and then Tarr and Bukhari, who added 113 for the fourth, responded powerfully to the challenge.

Westdijk eventually removed Tarr for 83 with the total on 187, but Bukhari continued in tandem with Atse Buurman to bring the score to within 70 of the target.

Bukhari’s dismissal by Wessel Coster, the last of four catches behind the stumps for Visée, when the former international allrounder had made a 75-ball 87, marked the effective end of the chase, and although Buurman remained not out on 32 the innings closed 35 runs short.

Westdijk was the most successful of the HBS bowlers with four for 54.

There was another spirited chase in a high-scoring match at Hazelaarweg, where VOC Rotterdam failed by just 11 runs to match VRA Amsterdam’s 290 for five.

The foundation of VRA’s largest total of the summer was a fine 121 from Emile van den Burg, his second top-flight century, who after partnerships of 77 with Vikram Singh (31) and 46 with Ben Cooper, shared a stand of 140 for the third wicket with Peter Borren, who made a 67-ball 82.

For the second week in a row the VOC attack wilted in the heat, Pieter Seelaar trying ten bowlers, he himself the most successful with two for 40.

VOC were in trouble at 63 for three with Max O’Dowd one of those back in the pavilion, but then Seelaar and Scott Edwards mounted a fightback, their fourth-wicket stand of 180 equalling the best of the season and taking their side to within at least a distant sight of victory.

Ben Cooper, who had taken a total of only 11 wickets in four seasons before this year, now seized his moment, removing Seelaar for 93 with 48 needed and then, even more crucially, Edwards for 91 with VOC still 27 short.

The tail got them to within 16 as Cooper’s final over started, but he allowed only four runs and claimed another wicket to leave VOC on 279 for nine and finish with four for 57.

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