VRA make it three in a row
With an outstanding century by coach Ryan Maron – his third of the season – and a totally committed effort in the field, VRA Amsterdam took their third successive Hoofdklasse title on Saturday, beating Voorburg by 20 runs in a hard-fought final.
Maron’s solo performance with the bat, making 105 out of a total of 199, was rivalled by a fighting innings from Voorburg’s Tim de Leede, who took his side to within 32 runs of their target before, on 67, he hit a return catch to Mangesh Panchal. As long as he was at the wicket Voorburg still had a chance, but with his dismissal the game finally swung back VRA’s way.
Not for the first time this season, the VRA middle order failed to take full advantage of a good start, subsiding from 133 for two as the last seven wickets contributed just 66 runs and Voorburg clawed their way back into the match.
Batting was never easy on a pitch which generated inconsistent bounce, and only Maron and De Leede really mastered the conditions. But De Leede was also extremely effective with the ball, conceding just 23 runs in a ten-over opening spell.
He was unlucky to have Maron dropped at second slip when the VRA batsman was on 12, and only ten scoring shots came from his bowling. Adriaan Kroonenberg also bowled economically, going for only 29 in ten overs and securing the initial breakthrough when he took a return catch to dismiss Wesley Barresi.
Garth Brown was bowled by Ehtisham Chaudry Mohammed when the total was on 72, but Darrin Murray now joined Maron, and they added 61 for the third wicket in twelve overs as the game began to drift away from Voorburg. Maron, on 65, was perhaps fortunate to survive a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket off Chaudry Mohammed just before a sixteen-minute break for rain, but it was Murray who was eventually caught behind off Mohammed Rafi when he had made 22.
That was the signal for a Voorburg comeback, with first Ryan Le Loux and then Safaraz Gondel running through the rest of the batting. Le Loux came in for some heavy punishment, but he beat Peter Borren has he came down the wicket and then had Andy Gilder well caught by Chaudry Mohammed, running back at deep mid-on.
Gondel’s opening spell had been wicketless, but when he came back he collected five in the space of just four overs to finish off the innings. That included Maron, who had brought up his hundred off 149 balls, and who was trapped leg-before soon afterwards to end a knock which had lasted nearly three hours and included twelve fours and two sixes. Gondel finished with five for 35.
So the teams took lunch with the match evenly poised, and Voorburg probably the happier after pulling VRA back from what had begun to look like a total of 230 or so.
But Sohail Bhatti struck twice when Voorburg began their reply, having Gondel caught behind and then seeing Le Loux mistime a lofted drive straight to Joost Leemhuis at mid-on to reduce Voorburg to 19 for two.
Leemhuis produced a spell from the other end which rivalled De Leede’s, conceding 27 in his ten overs as VRA piled on the pressure, but even so skipper John Sist and Rafi built a solid third-wicket stand, running well between the wickets and narrowly beating a series of direct hits.
The total had reached 64 before Adeel Raja again swung the game back towards VRA with two successive balls, Sist skying a drive to Borren at midwicket and Rafi nicking to Barresi off the next delivery.
Atse Buurman joined De Leede in what would obviously be a crucial partnership, and VRA skipper Murray applied the pressure by setting an attacking field for the Voorburg keeper. The tactic worked, for when the score was 84 Buurman stroked the ball straight to Murray at cover, came looking for a single, and was well out of his ground when De Leede sent him back.
It was now obvious that everything hinged on De Leede, and he set about chasing down the VRA total. Scoring at almost a run a ball, he was initially supported by Gijs Bins, but the latter was dismissed by an extraordinary catch by Brown off Raja, dropping back at deep mid-off and eventually plucking the ball one-handed from the air when he seemed to have misjudged its flight.
That put more pressure on De Leede, but despite the loss of Wilfried Diepeveen, bowled by Borren to make it 129 for seven, he and Chaudry Mohammed added 40 in seven overs to keep Voorburg in touch.
Murray kept switching his bowlers, and when Mangesh Panchal came back into the attack it was he who tempted De Leede into hitting that return catch which virtually settled the issue. Chaudry Mohammed kept up the battle, but Bhatti replaced Panchal and hit the stumps twice, finishing with four for 45 as Voorburg were all out for 179.
Raja’s three for 26 in ten overs was a vital contribution, but Borren, Panchal and Jeroen Oskam all bowled well also in a fine team effort.
There could scarcely have been a more exciting final, and a crowd of several hundred spectators were given plenty of entertainment, cheering every dot ball and every run in the closing stages. It was a complete vindication of the decision to introduce play-offs, not least because the match was eventually won by what most observers acknowledge has been the season’s strongest side.