After a weekend which was a constant arm-wrestle between cricket and the elements VOC Rotterdam emerged as clear leaders in the Topklasse, the only side to record two wins in as many days.
The first match of the two scheduled rounds actually took place on Thursday, the sole survivor of a full round of fixtures which were planned for the Ascension Day holiday; the rest were moved to Sunday because of a clash with the Eid al-Fitr festival.
And it brought a big surprise, as an even hundred by Sahil Kothari enabled unfancied ACC to post an imposing 260 for eight against HBS Craeyenhout, with Krishna Hosur contributing 47 in a 71-run second-wicket partnership after Kothari had dominated an opening stand of 84 with Charles McInerney.
HBS fought back well after that, Ferdi Vink claiming three for 43, and when Navjit Singh (58) and Tayo Walbrugh (88 in his first Topklasse innings) put on 88 for the Crows’ third wicket it seemed that they were well set for victory.
But rain was looming, and despite 32 from Julian de Mey, the loss of three wickets shortly before a premature end to the game left HBS, at 225 for six, 10 runs short of the par score at that stage.
Kothari continued his great form on Saturday, when he and skipper Anis Raza shared a 164-run opening stand for ACC against Excelsior ‘20.
His dismissal for 88, however, triggered a dramatic collapse, which saw all ten wickets fall for the addition of just 36 runs, Raza’s 85 the only other contribution in double figures. Tristan Stubbs, who accounted for both openers, took two more into the bargain to finish with four for 28, while Gijs Kroesen took three for 30.
The momentum was now with Excelsior, and after Roel Verhagen chipped in with 34 an unbroken third-wicket stand of 122 between Lorenzo Ingram (80 not out) and Stubbs (71 not out) saw the Schiedammers home by eight wickets with more than ten overs to spare.
That was quite a turnaround, and in fact all four of Saturday’s matches saw notable changes of fortune.
The most extraordinary came at Sportpark Bermweg, where Sparta 1888 had VRA Amsterdam in deep trouble on 67 for five with Eric Szwarczynski, Vikram Singh, Ben Cooper and Peter Borren all back in the hutch, only to see the relatively unknown Marcus Andrew smash a spectacular 44-ball 100 which included five fours and eleven sixes.
He was supported in a sixth-wicket stand of 133 by Irishman Jack Balbirnie, playing his first Topklasse innings, who went on to make 99, bowled by Garnett Tarr just one short of an historic century, and VRA finished with 314 for eight. Tarr took three for 52 for Sparta.
Quirijn Gunning and Ashir Abid then ripped through Sparta’s batting, taking three for 22 and four for 30 respectively, and with Mudassar Bukhari (15) the only man to post double figures they were dismissed for 67 in 19 overs. Balbirnie iced his own cake with two for 11 to wrap up the innings.
On a day when all four toss-winning captains chose to bat first, Pieter Seelaar’s decision for VOC against Punjab in the Rotterdam derby seemed to have backfired when his side could only muster 136, collapsing from 84 for two.
The damage was done by the seam of Mubashar Hussain (three for 39) and the leg spin of Saqib Zulfiqar (four for 13) after Scott Edwards had given his side a decent start with 40.
But then Punjab’s much-fancied batting crumbled against the spin of Arnav Jain (three for 21), Max O’Dowd (two for 15) and Siebe van Wingerden (three for 4), and with only Steph Myburgh (a dashing 26) and Asad Zulfiqar (a dogged 37) reaching double figures, they were all out for 109.
Not quite at the same level as VRA’s, HCC nevertheless staged a notable batting recovery of their own, after Voorburg’s pace attack of Viv Kingma, Logan van Beek and Ali Ahmad Qasim had reduced them to 58 for five.
Damien Crowley (62 not out) and Yash Patel (53) added 116 for the sixth wicket and enabled them to reach a comparatively testing 176 for seven.
Rain between the innings cut the Voorburg reply to 44 overs and the target to 167, but only nine overs were possible before the rain returned to end proceedings, Voorburg reaching 27 without loss in a game that was very evenly poised.
HCC’s jinxed season continued on Sunday, when their match against Dosti Amsterdam was called off without a ball being bowled, the Lions’ third consecutive no result.
Sunday’s other three games all produced an outcome, albeit in very different circumstances.
The initiative was firmly seized by Voorburg, who before there was any action anywhere else had VRA Amsterdam on the ropes once more.
With Kingma and Van Beek in rampant mood VRA rapidly slumped to 28 for eight, prompting historians and statisticians to start consulting their record books, but Peter Borren put up some characteristic resistance with a 37-ball 44, getting the total up to 80.
Kingma’s unbroken 10-over spell yielded five for 26, while Van Beek played his part with two for 10.
Mohit Hingorani (23 not out) and Tom de Grooth (40) took their side to within six runs of victory before Singh produced VRA’s solitary wicket, and the victory was complete in just 15.3 overs.
Almost equally one-sided was VOC’s win over Sparta 1888, although they found themselves taking on the weather as well as the opposition in a severely rain-affected game.
A persistent series of showers meant that the match had been cut to 37 overs before it started, and a further interruption after 5.3 overs reduced it to just 30.
This seems to have switched Edwards and O’Dowd into T20 mode, as they shared an unbroken opening stand of 223 in which Edwards made 91 and O’Dowd 114 from 80 deliveries, hitting seven fours and eight sixes.
To this Sparta had no answer, still less to Van Wingerden’s leg breaks, the youngster claiming six for 23 in six overs as Bukhari’s men collapsed to 99 all out.
Across the city at the Zomercomplex the rain mostly stayed away, and a more resolute performance from Punjab Rotterdam saw them ease to a 6-wicket victory over Excelsior ‘20.
This time it was Sikander Zulfiqar who did most of the damage, taking four for 35 including the vital wicket of Tristan Stubbs, while Mubashar Hussain played his part by removing Lorenzo Ingram.
Opener Roel Verhagen made a solid 82 for Excelsior, but with only Joost Kroesen (32) contributing significantly otherwise, the Schiedammers’ total of 191 for nine was less than they would have hoped for against Punjab’s normally powerful batting.
It was Myburgh who proved the trump card with an 84-ball 82, including nine fours and three sixes, and after he departed, the third of Rens van Troost’s victims at a cost of 42, Teja Nidamanuru steered Punjab home with an unbeaten 50.