Topklasse away to a damp start

Rod Lyall 06/07/20


Global pandemics may come and go, but the Dutch climate is eternal. So it did not come as a surprise that the weather at the weekend rained on the KNCB’s parade, causing one Topklasse match to be abandoned without a ball being bowled, another to be reduced to 33 overs a side, and two more to start an hour late.

Ironically, or perhaps logically, the only game to escape unscathed was the one at Hazelaarweg, which had already been cut to 40 overs a side by agreement between the captains because VOC Rotterdam were unable to raise a team for an 11 o’clock start.

The Rotterdam club, national champions two years ago and reigning Twenty20 Cup-winners, have already had to pull their second team out of the competition because of declining player numbers, and were one of a small minority of clubs who preferred a T20 format to 50-over cricket. Even so, it was a further sign that all is not well with one of Dutch cricket’s proudest clubs.

The first day of top-division cricket saw several newcomers thrive, not least 14-year-old Luke Hartsink, whose three wickets for 19 runs from seven overs helped VRA Amsterdam reduce a makeshift Dosti side to 55 all out.

His partner in crime was former international Adeel Raja, 25 years his senior and a veteran of 250 matches, who returned the remarkable figures of 6 – 3 – 6 – 4.  Only two Dosti batsmen reached double figures, and despite losing a wicket off the opening delivery of their reply VRA needed just seven overs to complete an eight-wicket victory, Shirase Rasool making 27 not out on his first outing with his new club.

Also in a hurry to claim the points were newly-promoted Punjab Rotterdam, who needed only 21.1 overs to overhaul HBS Craeyenhout’s disappointing total of 126.

It could have been a good deal worse but for a knock of 49 from South African Tim Drummond, who in his first Topklasse match helped his side recover from 45 for six in partnerships with Ferdi and Steven Vink before he became the third HBS batsman to succumb to a run out.

Skipper Sulaiman Tariq took three for 24 for Punjab, and when his side began their chase Stef Myburgh raced to a 36-ball 51 and shared a brisk 74-run opening stand with Rehmat Zulfiqar, the eldest of the four brothers who are now reunited in the Rotterdammers’ gold and green.

Navjit Singh and Ferdi Vink picked up two wickets apiece as Punjab briefly faltered, but Sikander Zulfiqar ensured that they marked their return to the top flight with a comfortable win.

Newcomers made significant contributions on both sides of the encounter between ACC and HCC at Het Loopveld, which resulted in a six-wicket victory for the visiting Leeuwen.

Fielding only five players who turned out for the Amsterdam club last season, ACC got off to a promising start after being put in to bat, their new opening pairing of New Zealander Cameron Burnett and Charles McInerney sharing in a stand of 89 before Italian international Damien Crowley, on his first Topklasse appearance, had Burnett caught behind for 53.

Clayton Floyd, a transfer over the winter from Voorburg, then accounted for McInerney for 35 with the total on 109, and the remaining ACC batsmen were able to muster only another 57, seasoned campaigner Olivier Klaus collecting four for 37 and Floyd three for 30 as the home side collapsed to 166 all out.

HCC’s reply was built on a promising knock of 42 from opener Musa Ahmed, who has joined the Diepput club from Hoofdklasse side Groen en Wit, and an unbeaten run-a-ball 74 from Crowley, whose experience ensured that there would be no corresponding collapse by the Hagenaars.

The closest match of the round was that delayed, reduced-overs encounter between VOC Rotterdam and Voorburg, with Voorburg skipper Tom de Grooth posting the highest score of the day with a splendidly controlled 87 not out as his side chased down VOC’s 152 all out.

The VOC total owed much to 56 by Ayaz Durrani, promoted to open the innings, whose maiden Topklasse fifty was a combination of patient defence and some powerful aggression against the spinners, international Philippe Boissevain going for three lusty straight sixes.

But he received little support apart from a solid innings from Arnav Jain and a spirited one towards the end from Corey Rutgers – who arguably would be better placed somewhat higher up the order – while there were three wickets apiece for Voorburg’s international pacemen Viv Kingma and Bas de Leede.

The VOC total never seemed likely to be enough, and although there was a mid-order stumble from Voorburg, who went from 123 for two to 145 for six, as Jain, Pieter Seelaar and Jelte Schoonheim collected a brace of wickets apiece, De Grooth’s composure ensured that they got home with ten deliveries to spare.

The greatest disappointment of the day was for Excelsior ’20 and Sparta 1888, who arrived at Thurlede for the first match of the Schiedam club’s centenary season to discover that the covers had blown off overnight and the square was unplayable. Dutch weather can never be taken lightly.

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