Newly promoted Punjab and HBS both opened their seasons with dramatic upsets against Quick Haag and HCC, whilst defending champions Excelsior closed out a tough win over VRA, favourites VOC saw off Hermes HVS and Dosti comfortably chased down ACC.
Punjab Rotterdam owe their elevation to the top flight to the expansion of the reorganised league to ten teams, so had something of a point to prove when they welcomed Quick Haag to the Zomercomplex for their inaugural game. Their debut got off to a shaky start when veteran Henk Mol and new overseas Juan Bredenkamp reduced them to 29-3, but an 89-run partnership between Soaib Minhas and Ahsan Masood got the innings back on track.
Thijs van Schelven found the breakthrough with the score on 118, having Maqsood caught on the rope at long off, and Bredenkamp bagged two more to reduce the hosts to 132-6. A lower-order fightback led by Yasir Usman - who top-scored with 55 - lifted Punjab to a respectable 205 but he would be last man out, holing out off Jeroen Brand with four balls remaining.
Suleiman Tariq had Lesley Stokkers trapped in front five balls into the Quick reply, but Wesley Barresi and Bob van Gigch looked set to make light of the total as they added 79 in quick time. Minhas' legspin would turn the game, however, removing Barresi and van Gigch in succession and adding the scalps of Bredenkamp and Rogier Rooda in a spell of 4-27-10.
It was left to Geert-Maarten Mol to salvage the game for Quick, but despite his combatative 56 from 90 he found no support from the middle order or tail. When Ali had him stumped with Quick still 7 short the visitors nerve deserted them, Punjab sealing a 4-run victory in the final over.
That would doubtless have qualified as the game of the weekend had it not been for events at Craeyenhout, where HBS pulled off a remarkable 320 chase against HCC. A solid 72-run opening stand between Reinier Kalis and Tonny Staal set the platform for HCC's surprisingly insufficient total, with Jonathan Vandiar striking the 2017 season's first century from number 3. Staal kept him company for some time, striking 75 off 93, but Vandiar's 130 off 99 deliveries provided the bulk of HCC 319-run total.
Even with HBS's traditionally high-scoring artificial outfield HCC must have thought their 2 points all but secure as the sides went to lunch, but after the break their illusions lasted all of about two overs. Toby Visée, already with two smart stumpings to his name, was to put on a show.
One dot ball and two consecutive fours off Mark Jonkman's opening three balls was followed by a single to get of strike. Reinier Bijloos opened the bowling at the other end and regretted it. Visée sent every ball of Bijloos' first over to the rope, barring the fifth, which he sent over it. Two overs later he had his fifty - off just 15 deliveries - comfortably the fastest in the history of the Topklasse.
Visée would last another ten balls before Hidde Overdijk had him caught behind for 68, but he'd gotten his side off to an improbably good start. Corey Rutgers would ensure his good work didn't go to waste, carrying his bat for a comparatively sedate 130-ball 118*. Rutgers found good support from the HBS top order, fellow overseas Jaron Morgan the other stand-out performer. Morgan's 30-ball 52 kept the hosts up well ahead of the rate, whilst Navjit Singh would join Rutgers for a century stand for the fourth wicket before falling to Joost van Kessel, and by then the chase looked comfortable. Denis Coster joined Rutgers to see HBS to a historic win with eight balls to spare.
Meanwhile ACC's new skipper Saqib Zulfiqar had a tough introduction to the responsibilities of captaincy at het Loopveld, where Dosti-United took on ACC in a nominal home fixture owing to field availability issues. Zulfiqar followed father Ahmed back to the pavilion courtesy a Mahesh Hans runout as ACC stumbled out of the gate to 34-4, before a 64-run stand between Usman Malik and Sikander Zulfiqar steadied things somewhat.
ACC's innings never gained any momentum however, Malik falling to Dosti overseas Taruwar Kohli for 31 and Zulfiqar to debutant Daoud Amadzai for 38. An unbeaten 40 from Mohammad Raza got the de facto hosts as far as 170, but regular wickets kept the rate in check throughout the latter part of the innings.
Despite Malik removing Dosti openers Vimal Tewarie and Sherry Butt in his opening spell and Sikander Zulfiqar dismissing Rahil Ahmed for 37, the result never really looked in doubt. Kohli and skipper Vinoo Tewarie saw Dosti home with 11 overs to spare, finishing unbeaten on 50 and 30 respectively.
Down the road Excelsior '20 extended their winning run in the Bos, closing out a hard-fought 5 wicket win over VRA. The hosts had recovered from a shaky start to post a competitive 194, thanks in large part to a 90-run 5th wicket partnership between Peter Borren and Emile van den Burg. The pair came together with 20 overs remaining and just 83 on the board, but an accelerating stand saw the hosts to 173 with 20 balls to go before Borren was trapped by Sohail Bhatti on the sweep for 63. Van den Burg pressed on with the tail, eventually stumped for 61 in the final over off Gijs Kroesen, who finished pick of the bowlers with 3-23.
Opening bowlers Quirijn Gunning and Haseeb Mian both struck early to give the hosts some hope at 26-2, and Excelsior's new signing James Hilditch looked in vain for a run - seeing off some 32 dot balls before finally getting off the mark. Once he had his eye in, however, he took control of the innings, hitting an unbeaten 67 to see the visitors over the line. Finding support in Lorenzo Ingram, who struck an assured 49 before being trapped by debutant Rathore, and then the middle order of Tom Heggelman, Joost Kroesen and David Woutersen, Hilditch exposed the injury-afflicted Amsterdammers lack of bowling options as he saw the defending champions home.
Finally at Sportpark Harga the much fancied VOC survived a brief mid-innings wobble to chase down an underwhelming Hermes-DVS total for the loss of five wickets. Stephan Myburgh and newcomer Bohra were the only Hermes batsman to make it out of double figures, Myburgh top-scoring with a brisk 49, but after he was caught by Pieter Seelaar off Umar Baker the scoring slowed to a crawl. Seelaar would bowl his ten overs for faintly ridiculous figures of 3-3, as well as bagging another catch to boot, whilst Ahsan Malik would bowl almost as economically, taking 3 wickets for the cost of just 10 runs. The upshot was that despite batting for all but one of their 50 overs, Hermes would manage a total of just 126.
The host's attack would chip away at the VOC top order, Reinart de Klerk the best of them taking 2 for 19, but there was never enough on the board to deny the visitors. Former Australia under 19s opener Caleb Jewell opened his Topklasse account with an unspectacular 39 from 93 balls to set the platform, before Malik and Jelte Schoonheim's unbroken 53 run partnership for the 6th wicket saw them over the line.