A tie takes Excelsior to the top

Rod Lyall 08/07/19

The Topklasse produced one of those days on Sunday on which all the glorious – some might say perilous – uncertainty of cricket was displayed to the full.

It was a day when the side leading the table was skittled for 75; when the bottom side pulled off a win against one of the top four; when the highest-scoring match yielded more than three times as many runs as the lowest; and when teams from opposite ends of the table managed to tie.

On a day of surprises the biggest shock came at Westvliet where Voorburg, having collapsed to 122 all out, dismissed leaders ACC for 75 and won by 47 runs.

It had all begun conventionally enough after Saqib Zulfiqar invited the home side to bat first: Tom de Grooth and Matt Smit put on 34 for the first wicket, and even at 73 for two with Noah Croes and Nic Smit at the crease everything seemed normal.

But then the middle order crumbled, four wickets fell for five runs, and it took some notable resistance from Viv Kingma and Brandon Glover to get the total up past the hundred.

Saqib Zulfiqar engineered the collapse with three for 31, while Anis Raza and Devanshu Arya picked up two each.

What should have been a routine chase soon turned into a rout: Rehmat Zulfiqar kicked off with 22 and brother Saqib made 16, but no-one else managed double figures as the Amsterdammers slumped from 62 for three to 75 all out, Viv Kingma running through the middle order to finish with three for 17 and Phillipe Boissevain cleaning up for three for 7.

Excelsior ‘20 were unable to take full advantage of events at Westvliet, but the one point they took from their tied match against Sparta 1888 at Sportpark Bermweg was enough to lift them clear at the top of the table.

Batting first, Sparta battled their way to 181 for eight, thanks to a dogged 72 not out from Andrew Fletcher – his most significant Topklasse innings to date – and an eighth-wicket stand of 59 between him and Sawan Sardha after Excelsior’s bowlers had reduced the hosts to 113 for seven at one stage.

Tom Heggelman removed both openers in a six-over spell, but it was Rens van Troost who dismissed both Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman to put his side in the driving seat.

But Fletcher stood firm, seeing it through to the end, and at bowler-friendly Bermweg 181 seemed like a defensible total.

Tim Etman and Roel Verhagen started the chase promisingly with an opening stand of 50 and Verhagen went on to make 51, but Sparta’s attack whittled away at the batting, and when Heggelman was eighth out with the total on 139 it looked as if Excelsior, too, were destined to lose.

Van Troost and Umar Baker added 26 precious runs for the ninth wicket, however, and after Baker was out LBW to Fletcher Sohail Bhatti joined Van Troost in a last-wicket stand which brought their side to the brink of victory.

Eight runs were needed off the final two overs, six off the next meant that only two were required; a wide from Fletcher levelled the scores, but a succession of dots meant that one was still required off the final delivery – the batsmen ran, Fletcher gathered and threw, and Van Troost was run out.

If the bowlers were generally in charge in these two games, elsewhere it was the batsmen who prospered.

Nowhere was this more true than at Nieuw Hanenburg, where VOC ran up a massive 338 for six – the highest total of the season – against Quick Haag, and where Jay Bista then produced a superb century in a losing cause.

Bista’s effort was more than matched by Max O’Dowd, who continued his Bradmanesque run of form with a 124-ball 127 for VOC, hitting nine fours and six sixes and sharing in a fourth-wicket stand of 162 with Scott Edwards, who made 79.

Once O’Dowd and Edwards had departed, both victims of Prathamesh Dake who took three for 62, Jelte Schoonheim, Ashiqullah Said and Pierce Fletcher piled on the misery for Quick, Fletcher rubbing it in by hitting four consecutive sixes off Geert Maarten Mol’s final over of the innings.

Undaunted by the size of the task they faced, Bista and Bob van Gigch put on 111 in less than 16 overs as Quick replied, Van Gigch making 43 before he was bowled by Pieter Seelaar.

With wickets now falling steadily at the other end Bista continued in devastating style, his half-century coming from 42 deliveries and his hundred from 72; in all he hit nine fours and four sixes before falling to a catch on the long on boundary off Schoonheim when he had made 109.

The result was no longer in doubt, but Daan Vierling (36) and Thijs van Schelven (18) kept the fight going, and the total had reached 276 by the time Dake became Ashiqullah’s third scalp at a cost of 46 and VOC won by 62 runs.

In the Amsterdamse Bos VRA’s resurgence continued at the expense of HCC, who thus failed to take advantage of the two leaders’ lapses.

VRA’s win, though, meant that they rose from the foot of the table, overtaking Quick Haag and moving within sight of the other stragglers.

The architects of their 35-run victory were once again Eric Szwarczynski (71) and Peter Borren (66), whose 135-run partnership for the fourth wicket enabled them to reach a solid 230 for six after having been 60 for three at one stage.

With Adam Wiffen leading the charge HCC started strongly in response, but with wickets falling at the other end it took a stand between Wiffen and Boris Gorlee to give them a realistic chance of achieving their target.

The turning point came when Quirijn Gunning returned to the attack and removed Wiffen for 83; although Gorlee stood firm, wickets continued to fall and the required rate crept upwards, with Debrup Dasgupta taking three for 36 and Leon Turmaine three for 39 as HCC were eventually dismissed for 195, Gorlee the last to go for 66 – his highest Topklase score.

The biggest partnership of the day came at Sportpark Drieburg, where Zac Elkin and Sharn Gomes added 211 for the second wicket for HBS Craeyenhout against Dosti United.

Tobias Visée had gone early, falling to Dosti’s tactic of opening with spinner Kuldeep Diwan, but then Elkin and Gomes took over, batting together for 42 overs and pushing the total well past 200.

Gomes was the first to reach his century, with his partner following soon afterwards, and after Elkin was caught by Waheed Masood off Taruwar Kohli’s bowling for a 141-ball 104 which included seven fours and two sixes, Gomes pressed home the advantage with Wesley Barresi, whose first run took him past 7000 in the top flight.

Gomes finished on 123, made from 137 deliveries with ten fours, and Barresi on 25, which took him just ten balls, as the innings closed on 273 for two.

That proved too much for Dosti, despite another heroic effort from Kohli – he made 84 as wickets fell around him, and apart from an 80-run stand with Anees Davids for the fifth wicket he was unable to find partners who stayed with him for any length of time.

Gradually the required rate climbed out of reach, and eventually he was caught on the boundary by Julian de Mey off Berend Westdijk with 61 still needed and just one wicket remaining.

The innings ended soon afterwards on 213 and HBS won by 60 runs, the wickets shared among Westdijk, Wessel Coster, Zak Gibson and De Mey.

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