Tight mid-table as Punjab stay top

Rod Lyall 14/06/21

The intense competitiveness which is a hallmark of the Topklasse was fully in evidence almost everywhere on Saturday, the sole exception being at the Zomercomplex, where Punjab Rotterdam cruised to victory over ACC.

But the upshot of a dramatic day is that seven teams are in with a shot of a top-four spot as we reach the halfway mark – even seventh-placed HCC, if they can quickly reverse their losing streak of three on the trot.

Leaders Punjab Rotterdam were relatively untroubled in maintaining their position at the top of the table, dismissing ACC for 104 and needing less than 16 overs to knock off the runs for the loss of one wicket.

After a bright opening in which Sahil Kothari hit five fours in his 22 the ACC batters laboured mightily against a persistent Punjab attack, Shreyas Potdar and Aryan Kumar needing 16 and a half overs to add 39 for the fifth wicket, the mot productive partnership of the innings.

There were two wickets apiece for Sohail Bhatti, Mubashar Hussain, Teja Nidamanuru and Irfan ul Haq, with Asad Zulfiqar taking four catches behind the stumps in an all-round team performance.

Punjab soon lost Rehmat Zulfiqar when they replied, but with Stephan Myburgh clubbing 52 not out from 38 deliveries with 11 boundaries and Asad Zulfiqar contributing a slightly more circumspect 40 not out, the match was over almost before the second innings had started elsewhere.

A perfectly-judged knock by opener Max O’Dowd saw VOC Rotterdam to a three-wicket win over HCC at the Hazelaarweg, although the home side needed to survive a late collapse and bat into the final over to complete it.

They had apparently been cruising at 185 for two in pursuit of HCC’s total of 237 for eight, before Clayton Floyd struck back, ending a 137-run partnership between O’Dowd and Pieter Seelaar (82) and taking four more wickets to end with five for 35.

But O’Dowd stood firm as wickets tumbled at the other end, and the only disappointment was that he finished stranded on 97 not out.

It was all a lot closer than it had seemed likely to be in the first half-hour, when Pierce Fletcher was causing mayhem among the HCC top order, and the visitors were quickly reduced to 11 for four.

But Damian Crowley (82) and Hidde Overdijk (77) turned things round with a fifth-wicket stand of 168, and with Floyd contributing a rapid 39 they managed to set a reasonably challenging target.

If O’Dowd was unfortunate to miss out on his third century of the season, how much more so was Peter Borren, who ended on 99 not out as VRA Amsterdam posted 244 for five against Excelsior ‘20 in the Amsterdamse Bos?

He had come to the crease with his side on 66 for two, and after Eric Szwarczynski, having just passed fifty in the top flight for the 59th time, departed, Borren again found himself holding the innings together until he was joined by Mitch Lees with the score at 141 for five.

Captain and keeper then proceeded to add 103 in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand, of which Lees’s share was 31; in contrast to Borren’s century against HBS the previous week, this unbeaten 99 included just five fours.

Excelsior responded in kind, two partnerships of 88 between Roel Verhagen (44) and Lorenzo Ingram for the second wicket and then between Ingram and Tristan Stubbs taking the Schiedammers to 203 for two with seven overs remaining.

Then, however, Borren intervened to remove Stubbs for 39, and the complexion of this match too changed dramatically.

Two wickets fell in Leon Turmaine’s next over, and although Ingram had in the meantime reached his seventh Topklasse century, 34 were now needed from just five overs.

Then Ingram, too, went, caught off Luke Hartsink for 106, and although Rens van Troost kept fighting to the end, spinners Hartsink and Jack Balbirnie were able to restrict the scoring so effectively that Excelsior closed on 238 for seven, losing by just six runs.

Two remarkable batting collapses were the story of the match at Westvliet, where Voorburg and HBS Craeyenhout ended in a 31-run victory for the visitors.

After Ferdi Vink had won the toss and elected to bat, HBS were well placed at 144 for two, Tayo Walbrugh (82) and Navjit Singh (42) having put on 115 for the third wicket, but then Voorburg, who were missing both Viv Kingma (injured) and Logan van Beek (plying his trade with Derbyshire in the ECB’s Vitality Blast), fought back through Philippe Boissevain and Aryan Dutt, taking the last seven wickets for 39 runs.

Boissevain finished with three for 49 and Dutt with three for 27.

The HBS total of 183 seemed unlikely to be enough, especially when first Mohit Hingorani and Bas de Leede, and then Hingorani and Sybrandt Engelbrecht gave them a decent start, but once De Leede and Hingorani had both departed it was left to Engelbrecht to lead the chase.

But wickets kept falling at the other end, seamer Stephan Vink taking three for 29 and spinners Adil Ahmed, Navjit Singh and Julian de Mey all playing their part and when Engelbrecht, having made 68, was the last to go, the last five wickets had added a mere 24 and the total was only 152.

The bottom-of-the-table clash between Sparta 1888 and Dosti United Amsterdam at Sportpark Bermweg turned out to be another thriller, with Dosti producing their best batting effort of the season and falling just three runs short of Sparta’s total of 217.

Garnett Tarr (45) and Mudassar Bukhari (61) again provided the bulk of Sparta’s runs, although once they had gone it was Sawan Sardha, who made an unbeaten 33 and shared a stand of 29 for the final wicket with debutant Pradeep Kumar, who enabled them to get past 200 for the first time this year.

Sami Naseri was again the pick of the Dosti bowlers with four for 41.

Rahil Ahmed (44) and Mahesh Hans (27) got the Amsterdammers off to a good start with an opening stand of 75, but then Max Hoornweg ripped through the middle order, taking four wickets in twelve deliveries to reduce them to 80 for five.

They were rescued by Arief Hoseinbaks, whose career-best 51 saw them through to 165 for seven, and after his dismissal his brother Asief continued in partnership first with Waheed Masood and then with last man Nizar Sayed.

Hoornweg returned to remove Masood with 32 still needed, finishing with five for 37, but Hoseinbaks and Sayed edged the total towards the target until, inevitably perhaps, Bukhari trapped Sayed in front and Sparta had squeezed home.

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