Pluvius stays away, but Hermes rains on Excelsior's parade
On a day when the four Topklasse sides currently in the top four played the rest, it was the latter which completed a remarkable clean sweep, tightening up the battle for play-off positions to no small degree.
It was a day on which leaders Excelsior ’20 suffered their first defeat of the season – and ended a winning run of fourteen matches – at the hands of Schiedam rivals Hermes-DVS, and on the occasion of the gala opening of their new turf square into the bargain. And it was a day on which Quick Haag finally registered their first win, at the expense of second-placed HCC.
With VRA Amsterdam beating VOC Rotterdam and ACC accounting for Rood en Wit Haarlem there are now four teams bunched on nine points, with Hermes-DVS jumping into third place on net run rate.
Their victory was built on three excellent innings, from opener Harro Seelaar (57), player-coach Shanan Stewart (46) and Derek de Boorder (68), the latter playing his farewell match before departing to join the New Zealand Emerging Players squad in Australia. He will be followed next week by Stewart.
Batting was far from easy on the Thurlede pitch, but the Hermes batsmen played positively against a steady Excelsior attack which Usman Malik and Tom Heggelman again led well, and then, assisted by some indifferent bowling and poor fielding, cashed in in the closing overs to reach a reasonably imposing 240 for eight.
No attack in the competition is better qualified to apply a policy of slow strangulation than that of Hermes, and despite an enterprising 37 from Heggelman they applied that policy to perfection. Luuk van Troost and Daan van Bunge threatened briefly to repeat their match-winning effort of Saturday, although there was a moment of controversy when the Hermes players were convinced that De Boorder (who was booked in the aftermath) had taken a catch at the wicket to dismiss Van Troost.
In the end it was Pieter Seelaar, captaining the side in the absence of the injured Nick Statham, who trapped Van Bunge in front, and when Van Troost hit out at Ernst van Giezen and was caught by Harro Seelaar at long on the writing was on the wall.
The Hermes bowlers largely cut off the flow of runs, and as the Excelsior batsmen battled to improve the scoring rate wickets continued to fall. A pair of run-outs contributed to the home side’s plight, and they were eventually all out for 188 almost three overs from the end and 53 runs short of their target.
Another batting collapse by HCC set the stage for their defeat at the hands of Quick Haag, Jono Boult removing the openers and Jeroen Brand then claiming two wickets to leave the home side on 24 for four. Imran Nackerdien prospered for a while, top-scoring with 29, but two more victims for Brand, who finished with four for 25, and two for Farshad Khan meant that HCC were desperately placed on 88 for nine.
A battling last-wicket stand between Jeroen Smits and debutant Daniel Voskamp added another 35 precious runs before Khan removed Smits to finish with three for 14, and the total of 123 seemed as if it might be enough when Quick in their turn lost quick wickets.
The four-man HCC pace attack of Mark and Maurits Jonkman, Bernie Loots and Philip van den Brandeler steadily worked their way through the fragile Quick batting line-up, and despite a battling 22 from captain Henk-Jan Mol the chase threatened to fall apart at 73 for six.
James Gruijters helped Brand get the total up to 95 before the fall of the seventh wicket, but then Brand and Bobby van Gigch took matters in hand and knocked off the remaining runs to give their side a desperately-needed first win.
So often disappointing this season, VRA’s batting line-up showed signs of improved form against VOC in Amstelveen, despite the early loss of Eric Szwarczynski for his second duck of the weekend. Tim Muir (46) and Tom Cooper put on 95 for the second wicket, and then Cooper and Wesley Barresi added another 94 for the third.
Cooper eventually fell to Andrew Hoogstraten, playing his first Topklasse match, for 87, and Barresi (46) fell to Michael Dighton two runs later. Hoogstraten collected two more wickets to finish with three for 45, but the VRA middle order managed to keep the momentum going and the innings closed on 247 for seven.
VOC were on the back foot from the moment Sohail Bhatti had Dighton caught by Peter Borren with the score on 15, and despite 35 from Jelte Schoonheim and 41 from Maarten van Ierschot they were unable to mount a convincing challenge.
Cooper took three for 33, while Adeel Raja contributed another miserly spell, taking two for 20 in his ten overs. VOC were ultimately dismissed for 147, exactly 100 runs behind.
A determined 61 from coach Ryan Maron and 55 from exchange player Michael Rippon enabled ACC to reach 188 for nine in Haarlem, with brothers Mudassar and Farukh Bukhari the only other players to reach double figures. For Rood en Wit Andrew Bailey was the main destroyer, taking five for 42.
It was a modest total, but the Bukhari brothers and Mohsin Ghaznavi hit back for ACC, and when Jason Atkinson was run out the home side were in real trouble at 44 for five. Bailey did his best to marshal the lower order, but when he was ninth out for 22 that was effectively the end of it, and the innings ended on 99. Zishan Akram, with three for 15, was the most successful of the ACC attack, but it was the Bukharis and Ghaznavi who had done the real damage.