Six teams neck-and-neck five furlongs from home
After a double weekend full of action and controversy – and a certain amount of rain-induced inaction as well – the SMT Shipping Topklasse table sees six teams separated by a single point, and the stage is set for the most exciting run-in to the semi-finals since the play-off system was introduced in 2007.
Having passed up an opportunity for one of them to go two points clear at the top ACC and VRA Amsterdam lead the way on points average, having played one game fewer than all their rivals. With rain falling steadily at Het Loopveld West their match was abandoned shortly after eleven o’clock on Sunday, but further south the prospect of an earlier break in the weather kept the other six sides involved, and they were rewarded with three thoroughly absorbing contests.
Saturday’s matches had enabled VRA to draw level with ACC, as the leaders suffered a six-wicket defeat at the hands of Dosti Amsterdam and the defending champions posted a fairly comfortable win against VOC Rotterdam.
VOC’s player-coach Wade Townsend having returned to Australia early for pre-season training with his Queensland state squad, the Rotterdam club welcomed his replacement, South African Cameron Delport, but he had a nightmare Topklasse debut, failing to score a run or take a wicket. The limelight was stolen, however, by 14-year-old spinner Daniel Doram, who is one of two players VOC have recruited from the Dutch dependency of Sint Maarten.
The Caribbean island is technically an autonomous country within the Dutch state and Doram, and his 16-year-old colleague Shaquille O’Neil Martina, are therefore as eligible to play in and for the Netherlands as any other Dutch citizen, and Doram celebrated his arrival with four for 29 as VRA chased down VOC’s total of 167.
Wesley Barresi hammered a brisk 51 to become the Topklasse’s leading run-scorer at this stage of the season, while Bas Zuiderent made 69 in a losing cause. Another teenage spinner, VRA’s Victor Lubbers, had his best Topklasse return with four for 14 and Sohail Bhatti took three for 28.
Behind these two sides HCC and Hermes-DVS Schiedam made the most of the opportunity to gain ground on their rivals, and by Sunday evening had joined them on ten points. HCC, indeed, were the only side to win both their games in the weekend, with a six-wicket victory over Hermes on Saturday in which the batting highlight was a 110-run second-wicket partnership between Rassie van der Dussen (68) and Cameron Borgas (65 not out).
Earlier, Van der Dussen had taken three for 14, but HCC’s leading wicket-taker (and now the leading wicket-taker nationally) was left-arm seamer Reinier Bijloos, who claimed five for 34 as Hermes were all out for 156. Thanks to Van der Dussen and Borgas and despite some fine bowling from Sebastiaan Braat, HCC reached their target with nearly ten overs to spare.
Borgas was again among the runs on Sunday, making 42 not out as HCC ran up 163 for three in 24 overs against the hapless VOC. Logan van Beek made a quick 44 at the start, and with contributions from Tom de Grooth and Van der Dussen the Hagenaars set their opponents a tough target.
Delport then showed signs of settling in with 56 for VOC in reply, and with Zuiderent making 37 the Rotterdam side made a good fist of the chase, falling just 12 runs short. But it still left them without a win at the foot of the table, and now four points adrift of their closest rivals, Quick Haag.
It might have been more had Quick managed to beat Hermes-DVS at Nieuw Hanenburg on Sunday, but despite fine double performances from Edgar Schiferli (45 and three for 31) and Jeroen Brand (43 not out and three for 26) the home side had to concede defeat off the penultimate ball of the match as Sebastiaan Braat hit the boundary which gave Hermes the points.
A stand of 68 between Greg Todd (40) and Nick Statham (38) was the foundation of the Hermes reply after Quick made 158 for nine in an innings which started at 45 overs, and was progressively reduced to 43, 38 and eventually 36.
For Quick it was the second nail-biting conclusion of the weekend, since their match against Excelsior ’20 on Saturday had also gone right down to the wire.
On that occasion, however, it was Quick who held on for a narrow victory. They had taken the initiative by posting an imposing 246 for eight, thanks to an opening stand of 107 between Edgar Schiferli (71) and Tim Gruijters (45), and with Amol Muzumdar contributing 43 they managed to set the only target of the day in excess of 200.
Stephan Myburgh blasted 57 from 47 deliveries with seven fours and four sixes to give his side a great start when they replied, and as skipper Daan van Bunge anchored the rest of the innings the Schiedammers seemed to be heading for victory at 202 for four with ten overs left.
But wickets fell in the closing overs, not all of them uncontroversially, and when Tim Gruijters began the final over seven runs were still needed with Van Bunge and last man Haider Khan at the crease. Off the second delivery Van Bunge, who had already hit five sixes in his score of 88, tried to add a sixth to level the scores, and instead skied a catch to the bowler.
If that was frustrating for Excelsior more was to follow on Sunday, when they took on Dosti at Thurlede. Dosti had maintained their unbeaten home record on Saturday by beating ACC, with Mehmood Sadiq making 66 not out after David Wiese and Mohammad Hafeez had claimed three wickets apiece as ACC were dismissed for 178.
ACC’s Bas van der Heijde celebrated his return from a two-match suspension with 52, but their total never seemed likely to be enough, and Dosti secured a comfortable six-wicket victory.
They had beaten Excelsior at home back in May, but the conditions on Sunday were very different, with the start delayed until mid-afternoon and the match reduced to 30 overs a side.
Excelsior reached 170 for nine, with 38 from Fred Klokker and an unbeaten 35 from Tom Heggelman, and then further rain during the innings break cut a further three overs from Dosti’s reply. Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis deemed that that meant a revised target of 161.
Mohammad Wasim gave them a steady start with a 44-ball 31, but it was Mohammad Hafeez’s 46 from 28 deliveries, with five fours and two sixes, which kept his side in the game. When Klokker ran him out 12 were still needed for victory with 16 balls remaining, but Dosti’s final pair, skipper Shafiek Panchu and Mahesh Hans, were at the crease.
Heggelman began the final over with nine still required, and Panchu and Hans managed four of them from the first five deliveries. Then Panchu hit the final ball to the boundary, and the sides had to settle for a point apiece.