Rod Lyall 30/05/22
The glorious – or for some, traumatic – uncertainty of the Topklasse was fully evident in the past week, with all six teams in Group A winning either on Ascension Day or on Saturday, while in Group B Voorburg’s unbeaten run was finally brought to an end by VOC.
HBS Craeyenhout briefly moved to the top of Group A with a five-wicket victory over Kampong Utrecht on Thursday, but then lost that advantage again on Saturday with an 83-run defeat at the hands of Sparta 1888, for whom Samit Gohil made a splendidly-composed 102.
Sharing a third-wicket stand of 107 with Mudassar Bukhari (42), Gohil steered Sparta to a total of 247, and with Khalid Ahmadi and Joost Martijn Snoep taking three wickets apiece HBS could only manage 164 in reply.
Gohil had come close to a maiden Topklasse century two days earlier, but his 93 out of a total of 219 was not enough to beat ACC, for whom Thomas Hobson made 122 as the Amsterdammers closed out a four-wicket victory with just three balls to spare in a thrilling finish.
ACC then had to face Punjab Rotterdam, and were shot out for just 55 in 24.3 overs, a sensational spell from Safiullah Salarazai slicing through the top of the innings and Ashiqullah Said then finishing off the lower order; Salarazai had figures of five for 12 and Ashiqullah four for 9.
Punjab, perhaps intent on improving their net run rate, flirted with disaster in their reply, losing six wickets as they knocked off the runs in 14.3 overs, Robin Smith taking three of them at a cost of 23 runs.
It was, though, an important comeback for Punjab, who had suffered a second successive defeat on Thursday, this time at the hands of HCC; given the way in which the playing conditions operate this was a more serious loss for the defending champions, since the points seem certain to be carried through to the competition second phase.
After their usual rapid-fire start Punjab were pegged back by Henrico Venter’s parsimonious ten-over spell, which conceded just 16 runs, and with Floris de Lange taking three for 37 and Clayton Floyd four for 25, the Rotterdammers were dismissed for 171.
Tonny Staal’s 81-ball 75 was the foundation of HCC’s reply, and although Sikander Zulfiqar claimed four for 30 the Lions cruised to a five-wicket victory with 18 overs to spare.
It was a very different story at De Diepput on Saturday, when Kampong posted their second win of the season by shooting HCC out for 74 after they had themselves made 164.
Star of the show was Kampong’s Kertan Nana, who took five for 21 in eight overs of superb seam bowling, and he was backed up by Alex Roy with three for 29.
Earlier, Roy’s unbeaten 37 had made an important contribution to the Kampong total after Pite van Biljon had made a hard-hitting 37; Tim Pringle took three for 18 for HCC and Hidde Overdijk three for 33.
These topsy-turvy results leave Sparta with the faintest of outside chances of displacing HCC in the top three of the group: for that to happen, they would need to beat Punjab and Kampong in their final group matches, while they must hope that HCC lose to both HBS and ACC, with sufficient margins to reverse a substantial net run rate deficit.
The situation is very different in Group B, where three teams – VRA Amsterdam, VOC Rotterdam and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam– are fighting for two places in the top three who go through to the Championship pool, along with leaders Voorburg.
VOC gave themselves a real chance on Saturday when, having beaten Salland in Deventer on Thursday, they inflicted a first defeat of the season on Voorburg.
Burhan Niaz and Arnav Jain seized the initiative early against Voorburg, reducing the leaders to 39 for four, and although Delano Potgieter fought back with 65, the innings ended on 153.
Max O’Dowd then made an unbeaten 84 to steer VOC to a five-wicket victory, sharing a stand of 54 with Jain after their reply had seemed to falter at 100 for five.
Against Salland on Thursday it had been O’Dowd’s opening partner Scott Edwards who had made the winning contribution with 87 as VOC chased down the home side’s 185 for nine, to which Talha Khan had contributed 53 and Sahir Naqash 60 not out; Niaz was again among the wickets with three for 27 while former Voorburg overseas Matt Smit, making his first appearance in VOC colours, took three for 25.
The only other side to win twice in three days was Excelsior, who overcame a spirited challenge from close rivals VRA before travelling to Deventer for a routine win over Salland.
Peter Borren took three for 23 for VRA and Jack Balbirnie three for 8 as Excelsior posted 201, Brett Hampton carrying the Schiedammers from 122 for five with a hard-hitting 45.
VRA were in early trouble at 42 for four, but a stand of 98 between Aryan Dutt (62) and Johan Smal (58) put them back on track until Tom Heggelman removed both of them, claiming two more to finish with four for 46.
At 173 for nine it seemed to be all over, but Mitch Lees and last man Ashir Abid worked the total up to 195, just seven short, before a controversial run-out decision gave Excelsior a narrow and very important victory.
There was no such tension in Excelsior’s defeat of Salland on Saturday: Heggelman’s four for 29 and Hampton’s three for 16 were instrumental in the home side’s dismissal for just 110, and Excelsior needed only 21.3 overs to complete an eight-wicket win, Tim Etman making 62 not out and Lorenzo Ingram an unbeaten 42.
Dosti Amsterdam remained the only side without a win, going down by nine wickets to Voorburg on Thursday after being dismissed for 117, but they put up a much more spirited fight against VRA on Sunday before losing by four wickets.
Potgieter and Stef Mulder did most of the damage for Voorburg, each taking three for 14, and then Musa Nadeem Ahmad hit a 55-ball 66 not out to ensure victory in 21.4 overs.
Against VRA, however, a 96-run stand for the third wicket between Vinoo Tewarie (66) and Amitoze Singh (57) enabled Dosti to reach 218, Jack Balbirnie taking four for 53, before Peter Borren, slotting in as an opener, belted a 43-ball 63 which included five fours and five sixes.
That put VRA in the box seat, and with Luke Scully contributing 38 and Balbirnie 46, both at a run a ball, they completed the win with 13 overs to spare.