Engelbrecht century takes Voorburg into grand final

Punjab learned of their opponents for the Topklasse Final, with VRA and Voorburg facing off at Westvliet.

Eric Szwarczynski VRA Netherlands

A near-chanceless century from Sybrand Engelbrecht was the difference between the sides at Westvliet on Saturday as Voorburg chased down VRA Amsterdam’s 210 for seven to win by five wickets with two overs to spare.

In a match of fluctuating fortunes altogether worthy of a preliminary final VRA, put in to bat, began at a gallop, reaching 111 for one after twenty overs, thanks to Luke Scully’s 27-ball 39 and a valuable, if somewhat less frenetic stand between Vikram Singh (31) and Ben Cooper (22).

When spinners Philippe Boissevain and Aryan Dutt took over, however, the character of the innings changed, and with three wickets falling for one run in the space of nine deliveries, two of them to Boissevain and the other to Dutt, the Amsterdammers were rocked back on their heels.

On a pitch where scoring was never easy, especially with pace taken off the ball, it took a diligent partnership between Eric Szwarczynski, playing the last Topklasse match of an 18-year career, and Jack Balbirnie, largely comprising singles with an occasional two and punctuated by a regrettable flow of wide, to keep VRA in the game; at one stage 14 overs passed between two Szwarczynski boundaries as the spinners, backed up by Stef Mulder’s mostly accurate seamers and short bursts by Viv Kingma and Logan van Beek, steadily turned the screw.

The stand was worth 51 when Balbirnie became Boissevain’s third victim, but Szwarczynski held firm, and in company with keeper Mitch Lees he was able to achieve a slight improvement in the scoring rate, 31 coming from the last five overs before, having reached 41, he swept Kingma’s final delivery of the innings onto his leg stump.

Boissevain’s three for 25, supported by Dutt’s one for 33, had kept VRA’s total within bounds, though the target would have been a lot more manageable without a total of 40 extras, 30 of them from wides, which also meant that Voorburg had bowled no fewer than four additional overs.

The home side suffered two early setbacks, Quirijn Gunning trapping Mohit Hingorani leg-before and Bas de Leede run out by some smart work from Udit Nashier and Lees after a mid-pitch mix-up, and when Tom de Grooth, on 29, fell to Singh and Dutt went almost immediately to an outstanding one-handed, diving catch by Borren off Nashier, they were on 73 for four and in real trouble.

Van Beek now joined Engelbrecht, and they steadily rebuilt the innings, more than doubling the score over a 20-over stand in which Van Beek was the more enterprising, declaring his intentions by hitting Nashier for the first six of the match.

That apart, Nashier kept things tight, but the required rate never nudged much above six an over; unlike their opponents VRA kept the extras to a minimum, but they were never able to eliminate the boundaries, and gradually the deficit became smaller.

Van Beek hit another six off Turmaine, but when he tried to do it again later in the same over he succeeded only in holing out to Cooper at long on and as he departed for 38 60 were still needed with ten overs remaining.

Engelbrecht was still there, however, now on 70, and it was clear that it was his wicket which was crucial to the outcome.

His shot selection became more adventurous as the target approached, with Karl Nieuwoudt giving him excellent support, and with four overs left he brought up his own century and the side’s 200.

It was, in fact, Nieuwoudt who hit the winning boundary, his 30 not out coming from just 23 deliveries, while Engelbrecht’s unbeaten 103 came from 135 balls with ten fours.

VRA had stuck to the task well, but Engelbrecht, Van Beek and Nieuwoudt made batting on a tricky pitch look deceptively easy, and they will go into Sunday’s grand final against Punjab with renewed confidence.

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