The first round of the double-weekend's Topklasse clashes saw big wins for ACC, Quick and Dosti, over Hermes, VOC and VRA respectively, whilst Excelsior held their nerve to see out a 1-wicket win over HCC at Thurlede.
Asad Zulfiqar was the stand-out preformed for ACC as they completed an emphatic 119-run win over Hermes at het Loopveld, laying the foundations for ACC's eventual total of 247 with a dogged 60 at the top of the order before taking three outfield catches and the final wicket as Hermes were all out for 128.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, Zulfiqar constructed a solid foundation for the innings building partnerships with father Ahmed and brother Saqib to take the hosts to 63-2, before putting on a 104-run stand for the third wicket with captain Usman Malik before being bowled by Davi van Slobbe. Malik pressed on with the middle order, also making 60 before being caught off Omer Bacchus with the score on 209. Some late hitting from the returning Sikander Zulfiqar took the hosts to a total of 247-6 by the break.
The early departure of danger-man Stephan Myburgh, caught by Asad Zulfiqar off the bowling of Malik for 6, more or less broke the chase before it started. Regular wickets continued to punctuate the Hermes innings, and despite some resistance from seniors Nick Statham (25) and Bart Schilperoord (32), the visitors were never up with the required rate. Sikander Zulfiqar's second spell saw him claim four consecutive wickets as the Hermes tail subsided, with Asad having Henrico Venter caught behind to seal the win in exactly 37 overs.
Quick Haag completed a still more categorical victory over VOC away at Hazelaarweg, Tim Gruijter's 121-ball 123 forming the backbone of Quick's imposing 305 run first innings total, and only Tim Ruyters and Pieter Seelaar offering real resistance as the hosts were bowled out for 165.
Quick suffered an early setback after winning the toss and electing to bat first, last week's centurion Bob van Gigch caught off Bobby Hanif for a three-ball duck, but Lesley Stokkers and Gruijters set things right with a 95-run stand for the second wicket, before Stokkers fell to Riley May six short of fifty. Gruijters only accelerated however, adding another 149 with Rogier Rooda for the second wicket. By the time Gruijters was bowled by Umar Baker for a personal-best 123 - scored at better than a run-a-ball - Quick the score was 244 and Rooda had notched up a half century of his own.
Having come in for some heavy punishment earlier, Jelte Schoonheim had the consolation of four consecutive wickets at the death but the 305-8 on the board meant VOC would need something special to avoid another home defeat. Rooda and Stephen Kriel ensured it would not happen, each finding the stumps twice as the VOC top order were picked off in succession, Tim Ruyter's making 37 as his partners were removed before himself becoming Rooda's second victim.
Skipper Pieter Seelaar did his best to hold the tail together, making 42 as wickets continued to fall at the other end, before becoming the 8th consecutive VOC batman to be out bowled courtesy Jeroen Brand. Brand would add the wickets of Hanif and Baker to his tally to finish with figures of 3-9, mopping up the tail to seal a mammoth 140-run win for Quick.
With Dosti-VRA postponed to the Sunday, it was left to Excelsior and HCC to provide the day's excitement by means of a hard-fought thriller at Thurlede. With hosts Excelsior winning the toss and inviting their guests to bat, skipper Tom Heggelman found the early breakthrough with the wicket of Tonny Staal, and a mini-collapse followed as new-signing Sohail Bhatti ran out HCC talisman Tom de Grooth before Gijs Kroesen clean bowled Hidde Overdijk and HCC player-coach Jonathan Vandiar in succession to leave the visitors on 161-4.
Second overseas Werner Coetsee would slowly steady the innings however, building partnerships woth HCC skipper Mark Jonkman and Joost van Kessel to take them pat the 200-mark. Coetsee would become the second of three batsmen caught off Rens van Troost however, having contributed 82 to HCC eventual total of 227-9.
Roel Verhagen got the hosts off to a solid start, hitting his secong half-century of the season despite the loss of Tim Etman and Lorenzo Ingram at the other end, and Excelsior's second overseas Matt-Kai Mcgillivray took the hosts as far as 173-5 in partnership with Heggelman and Joost Kroesen before being caught off Ali Ahmed for 87.
It was left to Kroesen and the tail to see the chase home, but HCC weren't about to make it easy for him. Mark Jonkman had David Woutersen caught behind for 11 before Coetsee brought his personal tally to 3 wickets with the scalps of Adam Woutersen and Bhatti, leaving Kroesen with 9 runs to make for the last wicket with brother Gijs for company. The pair managed it with 5 balls to spare in the end, Gijs' 6 off 6 enough to secure the win, though also likely denying his brother a well-earned a well-deserved half-century, left unbeaten on 47 as Excelsior sealed a 1-wicket win.
The round's final match, between Dosti-United and VRA at Drieburg, had been rescheduled for the following day, and following a brief delay due to a slippery run-up, Dosti set-about cementing their status as runaway favourites for this season's Topklasse. Having lost the toss and been asked to field, VRA started promisingly, with newcomer Sadiq Mahmood and Quirijn Gunning dismissing openers Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed to reduce the hosts to 40-2, but that only brought the South-African pair Colin Ackermann and Stiaan van Zyl to the middle.
Having delayed departure to join South Africa's spin camp in India, van Zyl rode his luck early, surviving a big appeal for LBW off the bowling of Turmaine before being offered a reprieve as he was dropped shortly after, but once settled didn't offer VRA another look-in. Van Zyl added 117 for the third wicket together with Ackermann before the latter fell afoul of a spectacular catch at midwicket by Gunning off the bowling of Raja with the score on 157. Together with Mudassar Bukhari he put on another 29 for the 4th before Gunning and Mahmood again struck in quick time. With the 190 on the board and ten overs to go, VRA might have hoped to contain Dosti to something manageable. Van Zyl and fellow overseas Robbie Frylinck had other ideas however, their unbroken 6th-wicket partnership adding another 95 runs, van Zyl recording his maiden Topklasse century as the pair finished on 113 and 39 respectively.
With 286 to get the visitors needed a positive start to keep their hopes alive, but three quick wickets for Frylinck put them immediately on the back foot, and when VRA skipper Peter Borren holed out off Mahesh Hans with just 40 runs on the board the game looked as good as over. Eric Szwarczynski pressed on regardless, and with support from Quirijin Gunning doubled the score for the next wicket before Gunning chopped Hafeez onto his stumps for 13. Even as the required rate climbed toward the improbable, Szwarczynski and Mitch Lees continue to hold out, a defiant century partnership for the 6th wicket saving some face for the visitors at least. Lees would eventually fall to Mudassar Bukhari for 37, but Szwarczynski's hard-fought century at least took the total to 199 before he was last man out for 106.
The 86-run margin of their defeat, substantial as it sounds, is in fact the best anyone have managed against Dosti thus far this season. And about as well as anyone looks likely to.
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