Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/09/21
The KNCB’s scriptwriters were back in top form last weekend, as after all the hassle of the previous two weeks actual cricket became the headline once more, and Punjab hauled themselves out of a seemingly hopeless situation to claim the first grand final spot and home advantage for the season’s climax this Sunday. First, though, Voorburg and VRA Amsterdam will have to play off on Saturday to decide who their opponents will be.
RL: Having come so close to victory last Sunday, only to see it torn from their grasp by an innings of rare character and accomplishment, Voorburg will need to discover resources of character of their own as they try to achieve a rematch with Punjab. That they have resources of ability, especially in the bowling department, is beyond question, although the sharpness of the attack was effectively blunted towards the latter stages of last week’s encounter. Still and all, Viv Kingma and Logan van Beek, backed up by Bas de Leede and Aryan Dutt, did well against the might of Punjab’s top order, and VRA’s rather more fragile batting will need to be at its very best to cope with that threat. If we assume that the Amsterdammers will be at full strength for this one – and if not now, when? – then a top six of Vikram Singh; Zamaan Khan, Shirase Rasool or Luke Scully; Ben Cooper; Eric Szwarczynski; Peter Borren; and Jack Balbirnie is, on paper at least, the equal of any in the competitition. Lack of consistency has, of course, been one of the hallmarks of their season, but they are no strangers to the big occasion, and there are few in Dutch domestic cricket bigger than this. Setting a decent tempo has been the bugbear of Voorburg’s batting this year, but they showed last week, mainly through the efforts of De Leede, Sybrand Engelbrecht and Van Beek, that even a slowish start need not be terminal if the side has wickets in hand. Engelbrecht is Voorburg’s leading run-scorer and only centurion, and getting him early might well be crucial for VRA’s chances. New-ball pairing Quirijn Gunning and Ashir Abid may lack the menace of Van Beek and Kingma but they have claimed early wickets often enough, and with seamers Singh and Borren and spinners Leon Turmaine, Udit Nashier and Balbirnie available to take over VRA’s bowling resources are far from negligible.
BdJ: It’s fair to say that VCC’s attack is better suited to their own conditions than the Zomercomplex, where pace on the ball is ever a risky strategy. Against Punjab the wet conditions didn’t help either as lateral movement didn’t last and the visitors weren’t willing to risk deploying Boissevain’s legspin given how tough it was to keep the ball dry. In retrospect that may have been a mistake, and one suspects it’s not one that will be repeated. Voorburg’s traditionally slow starts with the bat are arguably a sign of a lack of faith in their lower middle order, preferring to build a platform for the likes of Engelbrecht, Dutt and van Beek to launch from rather than going hard from the start, and it’s a strategy that has largely worked for them, thanks in part to the strength of their bowling. Against a line-up with the potential hitting power of VRA it’s perhaps not the soundest approach however, and risks the hosts underexploiting VRA’s bowling woes. Though the visitors’ persistent availability issues are unlikely to be a factor for a semi-final, the improbably numerous injuries that have plagued them through the season persist. With Quirijn Gunning, Udit Nashier and Luke Hartsink all less than fully fit, even if VRA can field their first-choice attack it will be somewhat under-strength. What VRA do have, however, is momentum. A six-game winning streak heading into this fixture will lend the visitors a degree of confidence that their hosts, having seen a place in the final slip away last week, may struggle to match.
RL: And then the winners will proceed to the Zomercomplex on Sunday to take on Punjab. Leaders after the round-robin phase, the Rotterdammers have shown in recent weeks both that they are far from invincible and that they fight all the way to the final delivery. They will undoubtedly miss injured allrounder Teja Nidamanuru whoever their opponents may be, and in view of the way Irfan ul Haq stepped up last week when Nidamanuru was forced to leave the field and the faltering of the top order it may be that his absence will be felt especially keenly when the side bats. The depth of Punjab’s resources has been tested less than any other side in the competition: they’ve used only 13 players all season. But with Steph Myburgh and the four Zulfiqars in the line-up they remain a powerful unit, and the bowlers, if a little short of cutting edge, make up for that with discipline and an evident loathing of giving runs away. It has all the makings of a really cracking denouement.
BdJ: After such a dominant early season, Punjab’s entry into the final lacked a certain pomp for sure, though it indeed illustrated a degree of resilience that they’ve not had to call upon much. As much as the Zulfiqar-heavy middle order, the obduracy of the Punjab tail has been a somewhat un-remarked strength of the table-topping Rotterdammers. That may again come into play regardless of who they face in the final, especially if VRA’s rickety bowling attack is called upon to play two days in succession. That said, should the Amsterdammers get through to the final they arguably have a better shot at spoiling Punjab’s party. The ability to bring in pinch-hitters such as Marcus Andrew and Shirase Rasool whose style of play is well-suited to Punjab’s artificial wicket and short boundaries makes them better able to at least partially negate the hosts’ home advatage. It’s worth noting that since Sieb van Wingerden’s six-for saw VOC roll Punjab in their own back yard back in May, VRA are the only visiting side to have taken points home from the Zomercomplex. Conversely, VCC have now lost there twice. It’s hard to argue that either would be favourites over a Punjab side that, despite their late wobbles, has consistently looked the strongest in the competition, but one suspects that the Rotterdammers themselves will be rooting for Voorburg tomorrow.
RL’s picks: Voorburg, Punjab.
BdJ’s picks: VRA, VRA.
|Toss won by||Punjab I|
|Umpires||ML Hancock – WPM van Liemt|
|Home Side||Voorburg I|
|Points Awarded||Voorburg I 0, Punjab I 4|
|M Hingorani+||b Mubashar Hussain||18||44||1||0|
|TN de Grooth||b Mubashar Hussain||22||47||3||0|
|BFW de Leede*||c AA Zulfiqar||b I Ul Haq||38||75||2||1|
|SA Engelbrecht||c&b SM Zulfiqar||59||82||4||0|
|A Dutt||c sub||b SM Zulfiqar||15||16||1||1|
|LV van Beek||c Y Usman||b I Ul Haq||40||23||1||4|
|FJ de Lange||run out Y Usman/AA Zulfiqar||10||13||1||0|
|PRP Boissevain||not out||0||0||0||0|
|extras||(b1 lb0 w6 nb0)||7|
|TOTAL||7 wickets for||209|
|1-39(TN de Grooth) 2-48(M Hingorani) 3-126(BFW de Leede) 4-147(A Dutt) 5-164(SA Engelbrecht) 6-208(LV van Beek) 7-209(FJ de Lange)|
|I Ul Haq||9.5||0||51||2||–||–|
|SJ Myburgh||c M Hingorani||b VJ Kingma||11||8||2||0|
|RU Zulfiqar||b LV van Beek||10||35||2||0|
|AA Zulfiqar+||lbw||b VJ Kingma||8||18||2||0|
|SM Zulfiqar||lbw||b A Dutt||4||21||0||0|
|SA Zulfiqar||not out||114||116||6||5|
|I Ul Haq||c M Hingorani||b BFW de Leede||1||11||0||0|
|Y Usman||b BFW de Leede||0||3||0||0|
|S Tariq*||c TN de Grooth||b LV van Beek||18||42||2||0|
|S Bhatti||not out||31||38||1||0|
|extras||(b0 lb2 w10 nb2)||14|
|TOTAL||7 wickets for||211|
|1-15(SJ Myburgh) 2-29(AA Zulfiqar) 3-31(RU Zulfiqar) 4-44(SM Zulfiqar) 5-51(I Ul Haq) 6-52(Y Usman) 7-93(S Tariq)|
|LV van Beek||10||1||38||2||3||–|
|BFW de Leede||9.2||0||54||2||6||1|
Rod Lyall 30/08/21
In one of the most extraordinary turnarounds of this or any other season Punjab Rotterdam, thanks to a magnificent unbeaten 114 from Sikander Zulfiqar, recovered from an apparently hopeless 52 for six to beat Voorburg by three wickets on Sunday and progress to next week’s grand final.
In a rain-punctuated reply chasing Voorburg’s 209 for seven, Punjab appeared to be heading for defeat for much of their innings, but dogged knocks from skipper Suleiman Tariq and from Sohail Bhatti gave Zulfiqar the support he needed as he batted his side into a winning position.
Earlier, Tariq had led from the front with an unbroken ten-over spell in which he conceded only 24 runs, while fellow-seamer Mubashar Hussain was even more economical, removing Voorburg openers Tom de Grooth and Mohit Hingorani into the bargain to finish with two for 16 from his unrelieved ten.
Punjab’s effort was all the more remarkable because key allrounder Teja Nidamanuru was able to bowl only seven deliveries before he was forced to leave the field with a hand injury sustained as he tried to stop a straight drive off his own bowling.
But Irfan ul Haq stepped into the breach, and for much of his spell he, too, was able to contain Voorburg’s batters.
Bas de Leede and Sybrand Engelbrecht batted solidly as they put on 78, but with boundaries few and far between it took them 21 overs to do it, and almost as soon as the runs began to flow a little De Leede was caught behind reaching for a delivery from Irfan.
Aryan Dutt made a cameo appearance for his 15, and Engelbrecht, having reached a hard-working half-century, decided that the time had come for more sustained aggression and, after hitting Saqib Zulfiqar for successive boundaries, fell to a return catch at the end of the same over and departed for 59.
There were now five overs left and Logan van Beek, who had already shown his intentions, made full use of them; they produced 45 runs, 34 of them from the bat of Van Beek, who made 40 from 23 deliveries, hitting four sixes, before he was caught on the long on boundary off the penultimate ball of the innings trying to add a fifth.
That final flurry had given Voorburg a solid total in the conditions, and when Viv Kingma had removed Steph Myburgh and Asad Zulfiqar and Van Beek had bowled Rehmat Zulfiqar, it began to look like a winning one, particularly with Nidamanuru unable to bat.
Rain held up proceedings for half an hour at 44 for three after 17 overs, and immediately after the resumption Saqib Zulfiqar fell to Dutt without addition to the score.
Dutt, if not unplayable, was certainly unhittable, and having opened the innings with two overs for six runs he now bowled his remaining eight at a cost of 10 more; when his spell came to an end Punjab were on 77 for six with just 20 overs left and 133 still needed.
By now Tariq had joined Sikander, combining rock-like defence with the occasional meaty blow. But it was one of the latter off Van Beek which flew to De Grooth on the point boundary and ended the skipper’s resistance.
Still Punjab needed 117, now from just 16 overs with only two effective wickets left, and Voorburg must have believed that they had one foot in the grand final.
Bhatti continued, however, where Tariq had left off, and Sikander, himself batting with an injured hand sustained in Saturday’s T20 semi-final, reached fifty with a six off De Leede.
Now Sikander moved quickly through the gears, needing only 25 deliveries to go from fifty to his hundred and hitting four more sixes in the process, and by the time the rain intervened with only five overs remaining, Punjab were on 185, requiring 25 more and just ahead on DLS.
Bhatti played his part, pushing singles to give Sikander the strike, and as the target neared he took a hand himself, slicing Philippe Boissevain away for four off the first ball of the only over he bowled.
Voorburg continued to fight all the way, knowing that dismissing Sikander would turn the game back their way, but Punjab could now be content with ones and twos, and they gradually edged their way towards victory.
The end had something of the Keystone Cops about it as, with four needed, Bhatti pushed to point for a quick single to get Sikander back on strike, the return hit the stumps, and with the fielders’ attention on a sustained appeal for the run out, the ball continued on to the boundary for four overthrows.
Sikander Zulfiqar’s unbeaten 114 came from 116 deliveries and included six fours and five sixes, while Bhatti finished with 31 not out from 38.
Voorburg will look back on this match as an opportunity lost as they prepare to face VRA Amsterdam next Saturday, but the truth is that they were denied by a superb and courageous innings, one which will be remembered for a very long time.
After two weeks of controversy, HCC and VOC Rotterdam have both elected to withdraw from the playoff phase of the Topklasse, citing the greater interests of Dutch cricket. The decision leaves Punjab Rotterdam and Voorburg CC to contest the preliminary final this Sunday, with the winner of that match going on to host the final a week later. Meanwhile VRA have been granted a bye to the semi-final on Saturday September 4th where they will take on the loser of that encounter with the winner taking the second spot in the final the following day.
HCC and VOC were originally slated to contest their final league phase match at de Diepput on the 15th of August, but that match was eventually abandoned with HCC refusing to continue after a heated exchange in the middle apparently included a racially-charged comment directed at the HCC keeper. After the KNCB initially awarded the game to VOC, the Commissie van Beroep overturned the decision, mandating that the match be replayed the following week, consequently delaying the start of the palyoff phase.
In the event, VOC declined to play the rescheduled match citing concerns over escalating tensions and throwing the competition into further confusion, compounded by an unrelated controversy over the conflicting rules over precedence of tie-breakers for teams finishing on equal points which cast doubt on which of VCC or HCC would finish in second should HCC be awarded the game.
HCC would then find themselves embroiled in a controversy of their own this week when a photo surfaced of the whiteboard on which the team had written their pre-game objectives ahead of their Round 17 match against Punjab, which featured a slogan which reffered to their opponents using a derogatory Urdu term.
As the ongoing mess threatened to overshadow the final phase of the Topklasse entirely, both clubs, in consultation with the KNCB, mutually agreed it would be best to withdraw.
In a statement on the club website VOC explained: VOC and HCC jointly discussed the situation surrounding the abandoned match. This was both desirable and necessary as it became clear this that the replay … had not been established in accordance with the regulations. Following consultations – and taking into account the interests of cricket in the Netherlands – VOC and HCC jointly decided to withdraw from potential participation in the playoffs.
HCC likewise issued a statement, saying, As a club we have certain norms and values. The unrest generated by the match against VOC is sufficient cause for us to withdraw from further participation in the play-offs. With this we hope that peace will return to cricket. We would like to emphasize that we consider it of great importance that we continue to maintain friendly and sporting ties with all clubs and hope by means of taking this step to demonstrate those intentions.
Sunday August 29th: Preliminary Final – Punjab Rotterdam vs Voorburg CC
Saturday September 4th: Semi Final – Loser Preliminary Final vs VRA
Sunday September 5th: Grand Final – Winner Prelim Final vs Winner Semi Final
Bertus de Jong 24/08/21
HCC have come under fire after the emergence a photograph, obtained by TK cricket, of the Hague club’s match-planning white board in the side’s dressing room ahead of their 17th round Topklasse match against Punjab Rotterdam. The whiteboard was discovered by Punjab players following the conclusion of the match on Sunday August 8th. Together with the team selection and a series of tactical goals for the match in question, the slogan “Let’s back each other, stick together and Beat the Behenchods! [sic]” appears, the latter being an obscenity in Urdu and Hindi loosely translating as one who has sex with his sister.
A little over a week ago HCC controversially left the field and refused to continue their match against VOC Rotterdam after VOC batsman Dirk van Baren allegedly directed a racial slur at the HCC wicketkeeper Yash Patel. HCC then successfully appealed after the KNCB awarded the game to VOC, the Commissie van Beroep determining that the match must instead be replayed. VOC declined to contest the rescheduled game last Sunday, citing concerns over the risk of further escalating tensions.
The emergence of the photograph leaves HCC open to charges of hypocrisy, and calls into question the sincerity of their stand in regards the VOC match. The teams match against Punjab was itself not without controversy at the time, as HCC’s improbably slow over rate in the final phase of the rain-affected match prompted suggestions that they were attempting to avoid likely defeat by forcing an abandonment. In the event Punjab went on to win the game regardless, leaving HCC needing a single point to ensure progression to the playoffs.
The awarding of the VOC fixture to HCC meant that as things stand HCC are set to progress to the playoffs, either in second or in third place – the exact final standings being the subject of another unrelated controversy regarding the precedence of tie-breakers in the competition. Should they be awarded second place it would set up a rematch with Punjab Rotterdam in the preliminary final on Sunday.
HCC Chairman Jan Nuijten told TKcricket “HCC takes this matter very seriously, and issue has been discussed with the team who are preparing their apologies to offer to Punjab. It is regrettable that this matter has emerged publicly before these could be made, though the chairman has already offered his apologies in a personal capacity. While the white board was intended only for internal use and was not intended to be seen by or directed at the opposition, nonetheless the use of such language is unacceptable and not in the Spirit of Cricket.”
The KNCB declined to comment on the situation at this time.
Bertus de Jong & Bertus de Jong 21/08/21
nb. the first half of this preview was written prior to the announcement of VOC’s withdrawal from the match in question.
Well the circumstances leading to this orphaned match are not uncontroversial, but the Commissie van Beroep have in their ineffable wisdom decreed that last weeks aborted game between HCC and VOC Rotterdam must be replayed before we can get to the business of the playoffs, so having scrapped our preview for those games we’re left with this final league phase encounter at de Diepput as the day’s only game.
BdJ: Realistically, given the forecast and the difficulty of getting de Diepput to dry out in reasonable time, the expected rain is likely to be the decisive factor tomorrow. A washout would give HCC the single point they’ve been after for the last couple of weeks to make the top four and leave VOC rueing missed opportunities. Should we get a game in however, the hosts are well placed to claim their playoffs spot by traditional means. VOC will of course be without Dirk van Baren, who despite an inconsistent summer has put in some crucial performances under pressure this season, and likely without skipper Pieter Seelaar, whose fitness stuggles have reportedly returned. Their absences leave the VOC batting card looking a little thin, though in a shortened game (which is likely the most we can hope for) they still have the top-order hitting power in Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards to take advantage, while the returning Corey Rutgers has been in superlative form since shedding the responsibility of marshalling our neighbours to the South and VOC’s remaining middle order bats are arguably better suited to shorter contests. That said, HCC’s home advantage will likely prove a significant factor even in an abbreviated match. Their attack remains the league’s most balanced, and while the HCC batting lacks the hitting power of their opponents they make up for it in depth. The most probable outcome tomorrow remains a wash-out, which would see VOC eliminated and HCC claiming fourth place behind VRA by virtue of the latter’s total league phase win-count (or, equally likely, third place by virtue of the KNCB’s entirely arbitrary attitude toward the priority of tie-breakers). The Board’s limited understanding of the rules of their own competition likewise make it difficult to predict what an HCC victory would imply; according to the rules that have been in force all season they would finish in third place behind VCC – again on the basis of the latter’s superior win-count – but it’s equally possible they will be adjudged to have finished in second on the basis of a superior net run rate, head to head record against VCC, tasseomancy or the dictates of a monkey with a Ouija board. A convincing VOC win meanwhile would put them unambiguously in third ahead of VRA on most traditional metrics, while a close win ought to leave them in fourth but at this point who knows?
BdJ (2 hours later): VOC have just announced they’re not going to play the game that likely would have been washed out anyway, and are conceding the points to HCC. As a moral stand it is marginally less convincing than that of their intended opponents last week, but barring another bizarre and baseless decision from the game’s administrators it is likely to prove decisive. What this means is that we now have a weekend without any Topklasse cricket at all for absolutely no good reason, and HCC are through to the playoffs, in third position according to the actual rules but quite possibly in second place because “reasons”. So the farcical close to the league phase continues, having left us with four playoff contenders but relatively little idea of what order they might be in or why. Next weekend will see Punjab and VRA take on VCC or HCC in the preliminary final and de facto quarter final respectively, but the two will likely have to wait on a decision from the board as to which tiebreaker they intend to apply this week before finding out who their opponents will be. We’ll bring you news of that decision as soon as we get it. In the meantime we imagine that you, dear readers, like all of us at TK, will be on edge of your seats.
BdJ’s pick: Rain.
BdJ (2 hours later)’s pick: Nonsense.
|Toss won by||VOC I|
|Umpires||RJ Akram – Z Hussain|
|Home Side||HCC I|
|Points Awarded||VOC I 4, HCC I 0|
|MP O’Dowd||c&b HC Overdijk||10||23||1||0|
|ZDA van Baren||not out||22||53||2||0|
|SA Edwards+||not out||7||23||1||0|
|TIM de Kok||dnb|
|SB van Wingerden||dnb|
|extras||(b0 lb2 w4 nb0)||6|
|TOTAL||1 wickets for||45|
|extras||(b0 lb0 w0 nb0)||0|
|TOTAL||0 wickets for||0|
*result to be confirmed