Punjab battle their way to top spot

Rod Lyall 07/06/21

It was a tight, low-scoring battle at De Diepput on Saturday, but in the end Punjab Rotterdam prevailed over HCC to edge to the top of the Topklasse table, a single point ahead of Rotterdam rivals VOC.

On a pitch that was never easy for the batters, two stood out: HCC’s Boris Gorlee, who made 68 out of his side’s total of 173, and Punjab’s Asad Zulfiqar, who, in the absence of internationals Stef Myburgh and Saqib Zulfiqar, steadied a faltering ship and saw his team through to a four-wicket victory.

HCC were also without international opener Musa Nadeem Ahmad, but the batting problems which have started to show after a storming start to the season are not solely due to his absence, and they were fully exploited by the Punjab attack, which makes up in guile what it lacks in pace.

Suleiman Tariq removed both openers and then Teja Nidamanuru spun out the middle order, including the wicket of Gorlee, before Tariq’s new-ball partner Sohail Bhatti returned to clean up the tail, although Yash Patel again provided valuable late-order resistance with 34 before he was last man out.

Nidamanuru and Bhatti ended with the same figures, three for 36.

Reinier Bijloos and Hidde Overdijk, a couple of yards faster than Punjab’s seamers, soon had the visitors’ batting under pressure, and with Rehmat and Sikander Zulfiqar and Nidamanuru all gone by the time 30 was on the board that total of 173 looked a lot better than it had half an hour earlier.

But Asad was rock solid at the other end, and in partnership first with Yasir Usman, and then with Tariq and Mudassar Hussain, he steadily worked his way towards the target.

When Hussain went 33 were still needed, and HCC threw everything into a push for the four remaining wickets.

In Irfan ul Haq, however, Asad found the ideal partner in such pressured circumstances, and it was his boundary which sealed the issue with more than four overs to spare.

At Thurlede, VOC Rotterdam were also without their international stars, and were no match for an Excelsior ‘20 attack which had the previous week dismissed HCC for 91.

The match was a personal landmark for Excelsior captain Tom Heggelman, who captured his 300th top flight wicket when he trapped Arnav Jain in front.

VOC’s main resistance came from Dirk van Baren, promoted to open in the absence of Max O’Dowd, and his 46 held the innings together until he was fifth out with the score on 70.

Ramdas Upadhyaya and captain-for the-day Pierce Fletcher managed to get the total into three figures, but with all seven Excelsior bowlers amongst the wickets the total of 102 was well short of what was needed.

Tim Etman chose this moment to hit his way into form, making 44 with four fours and a six, and although VOC took four wickets along the way Excelsior needed only 25.1 overs to complete their ix-wicket victory.

By contrast with these low-scoring encounters, the clash between HBS and VRA Amsterdam at Craeyenhout produced two outstanding centuries before the home side secured a 34-run win.

Tayo Walbrugh’s unbeaten 171, made from 139 deliveries with 16 fours and nine sixes, was a masterly display of hitting, as he treated VRA’s mostly young and inexperienced attack with controlled brutality.

He dominated stands of 93 with Navjit Singh for the third wicket, of 75 with Ryan Klein, and of 72 with Manjinder Singh, and HBS closed on 272 for five after young Ashir Abid had initially reduced them to 32 for two.

VRA then slumped to 51 for five in another top-order batting collapse, Ryan Klein again impressive with pace and accuracy.

But Peter Borren was still there, and when he was joined by Mitch Lees the pair set about reversing the course of the game; together they added 131 for the sixth wicket, and in the process Borren achieved the day’s other major landmark, scoring his 8000th top flight run for VRA when he passed 28.

Benno Boddendijk, who already had three wickets, returned to break the stand by removing Lees for 67, but Borren was not done yet, and although wickets continued to fall at the other end and the asking rate was approaching ten an over, he continued to take the fight to the HBS attack.

He and Abid added 55 for the ninth wicket of which Abid’s contribution was 6, and it was only when Borren, on 104, holed out at deep midwicket trying for another six off Boddendijk, that HBS could regard themselves as safe.

Boddendijk claimed the last to finish with six for 67, while Klein had four for 23.

At Het Loopveld, ACC’s total of 242 for seven against Sparta 1888 was due to contrasting knocks from Ammar Zaidi, whose not out 87 came from 118 deliveries and included just two fours, and Stephan Hannema, who came in with the innings effectively becalmed on 153 for six and smashed a 28-ball 50, including a four and four sixes.

Max Hoornweg had been instrumental in causing the home side early problems and after taking some punishment from Hannema finished with three for 42.

Sparta were in with a chance while Garnett Tarr (63) and Mudassar Bukhari (71) were putting together a fourth-wicket stand of 123, but once Anis Raza had removed them both the middle and lower order again struggled.

With Raza claiming three for 35 and Sahil Kothari three for 33 the innings petered out, and closed on 193 for nine, giving ACC a 49-run victory.

Voorburg, without four internationals, made short work of Dosti United at Sportpark Drieburg on Sunday, bowling them out for just 64 and knocking off the runs in 14.5 overs to win by nine wickets.

Karl Nieuwoudt, given the new ball in the absence of Viv Kingma and Logan van Beek, celebrated by claiming three wickets in his first three overs, and Dosti never recovered from this onslaught.

Satish Ravichandran was the only man to reach double figures, his 22 contributing a third of his side’s runs, while Nieuwoudt finished with four for 22 and Ali Ahmed Qasim three for 13.

Aryan Dutt made sure of the points with a rapid 38 not out, hitting seven fours and a six, as Voorburg moved level with VOC on points and into second place on net run rate.

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