With four-point margins having opened up at both the top and bottom ends of the table, it’s beginning to look as if the important questions have already been answered in the new Topklasse campaign just five matches into the season.

Clear skies and hot, sunny conditions generally favour the batsmen, and bowlers certainly suffered in South Rotterdam and the Amsterdamse Bos on Saturday, but elsewhere the scores were more modest and the bowlers played a more crucial role.

Nieuw Hanenburg has hardly started out as a batting paradise, and leaders Excelsior ’20 battled their way to 198 for eight after winning the toss and electing to bat first against Quick Haag, due mainly to a solid 86 from Lorenzo Ingram, his third half-century of the season.

James Hilditch helped the Jamaican put on 62 for the third wicket, and later he and Joost Kroesen (30) added another 62 for the fifth, while for Quick skipper Jeroen Brand bowled economically with two for 22 from his ten overs.

It was not a massive target, but Excelsior’s attack soon took control, and apart from veteran Henk-Jan Mol with a fighting 90-ball 49 the home side were unable to provide an answer. Brand’s opposite number Tom Heggelman led the way with four for 26, including the key wicket of Wesley Barresi, while Hilditch took three for 32 and Ingram two for 9.

Unbeaten after five matches, Excelsior are now four points clear of their nearest rivals, VRA and HBS, both of whom suffered final-over defeats after posting very substantial totals.

Put in by ACC captain Saqib Zulfiqar, VRA reached 270 for seven from their 50 overs, Peter Borren following up his match-winning 123 not out on Thursday with an unbeaten, 85-ball knock of 95, including nine fours and a six.

Earlier, Ben Cooper had made 69, but his wicket was one of four run-outs in the VRA innings, as ACC bowled and fielded with great discipline in the rising heat. Anis Raza did not take a wicket, but his ten-over spell conceded just 30 runs and kept the VRA top order from getting away to a flier, and it took Borren’s aggression towards the end to get his side up to a score which might just be defensible in the conditions.

ACC had other ideas, however, and an opening stand of 136 by Asad Zulfiqar and his elder brother Rehmat put the visitors firmly in the box seat.

Borren eventually trapped Asad in front for 60, but Rehmat then added another 105 with skipper Saqib, and when he finally departed for a 121-ball 111 which included 14 fours and a six, only 30 were needed.

Saqib fell soon afterwards, two short of what would have been his fourth half-century in five Topklasse innings, but although Zakir Kathrada did not last long, Sikander Zulfiqar and Usman Malik saw their side home by a six-wicket margin with four balls to spare.

That was a remarkable run-fest, but at the appropriately-named Zomercomplex in Rotterdam, HBS Den Haag were again involved in a match in which the side batting first made 300-plus and lost.

On the season’s opening day they had themselves inflicted such a defeat on HCC, but this time they were the victims, as home side Punjab chased down a total of 328 for five, the highlight of which was an almost-unbelievable 77-ball 163 not out from Jaron Morgan, who hit eleven fours and 13 sixes.

Ferdi Vink, opening the innings in the absence of the injured Tobias Visée, contributed 49 and Wessel Coster 34, but once Morgan got going everyone else was cast in the role of supporting actor; of the last 201 runs HBS scored, he made 143.

Punjab, however, were not to be denied, despite the loss of both openers by the time 7 runs were on the board: after Ahsan Masood had contributed a useful 36, his departure brought together Shoaib Minhas and Khurram Shahzad, and they proceeded to share a 192-run stand for the fourth wicket which put their side within sight of victory.

Shahzad eventually fell for 62, caught by Corey Rutgers off Wessel Coster’s bowling, but Minhas was in dominant mood, and although 17 were still needed when the final over began, he ensured he was on strike, and a six off the final delivery gave Punjab the win, Minhas finishing on 169 not out.

At the Hazelaarweg, a depleted VOC side came back from a series of disappointing performances with a creditable 33-run victory over HCC.

Batting first, they started well enough with an aggressive innings from Dirk van Baren (32) and a cautious one from Sebastiaan van Lent (33), but they were in serious trouble at 101 for five, reduced to that situation by a hat-trick from Olivier Klaus.

That they managed to get to 206 for nine was due in part to an eighth-wicket stand of 70 between Ahsan Malik Jamil and Ayaz Durrani (37), and ultimately to a final-over onslaught by Jamil, who hit 24 from six deliveries and finished on 56 not out, his maiden Topklasse half-century.

Klaus took three for 24 and Hidde Overdijk, whose figures suffered significantly from that last over, three for 47.

Jamil took two early wickets when HCC replied, but Jonathan Vandiar and Overdijk put on 56 for the third wicket and the Hagenaars seemed to be in with a chance.

Vandiar was again in a class of his own, but with Pieter Seelaar and Max O’Dowd keeping the other batsmen quiet and making regular inroads into the HCC middle order, the South African player-coach increasingly found himself standing alone.

On 81, and the total on 159 for six, Vandiar drilled a lofted drive off O’Dowd straight to Seelaar at mid-on, and the Dutch international took the catch. It effectively settled the outcome, but at the cost of a badly broken finger for Seelaar, terrible news not only for VOC but also for the national side with important fixtures scheduled in the coming weeks.

Seelaar’s own ten overs had yielded him three for 19, and Jamil and O’Dowd finished with three for 30 and three for 42 respectively as HCC were dismissed in the 45th over for a disappointing 173.

Hermes-DVS’s batting failed again in the fifth game, and they were dismissed for 121 by Dosti United. Nick Statham top-scored with 36, while Corné Dry with four for 24 and Mohammed Hafeez with three for 8 (from eight overs) were the most successful of Dosti’s bowlers.

Two wickets apiece for Olivier Elenbaas and Lokendra Bohra quickly reduced Dosti to 20 for four, but this brought Taruwar Kohli and Dry together, and they knocked off the remaining runs without further loss, Kohli finishing with 53 and Dry 51 in an unbroken stand of 102.