Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 18/05/18
BdJ: The first round of this coming Topklasse double weekend is set to kick off a tad earlier than usual at de Diepput, where HCC and Quick Haag will be getting underway an hour early to leave ample time for HCC’s 140-year Jubilee celebrations in the evening. Quick will be looking to spoil the party, but with the Hanen in a dreadful rut of form it would certainly be an upset. Quick’s batting has looked fragile all season and only their only points so far have come from a surprise win against an undercooked VRA side in the season opener. Overseas signings Jay Bista and Sean Davey have not really taken to Dutch conditions so far, and a Quick side in the midst of rebuilding will need them to come good quickly if they are to stay afloat.
Their hosts meanwhile will be full of confidence, coming off the back of their Ali Ahmed-inspired demolition of HBS last week. HCC’s own new signing, Australian Bryce Street, seems to have adjusted rather more quickly, hitting his maiden Topklasse fifty last week as well as lending some variety to the pace attack. With Ryan Ninan pairing Ahmed in the spin section HCC have the look of a balanced team, though the batting still looks rather brittle without Jonathan Vandiar to underpin it. Nonetheless Quick this season have not looked the side to take advantage.
RL: After a slow start HCC suddenly found another gear against HBS on Sunday, although they have some way to go before they can be seen as one of the stronger teams in the competition. The batting does, indeed, lack real conviction, but there is little evidence that Quick are in a position to cause them major problems. The Nieuw Hanenburg outfit were never in the game against VOC last week, and the bowling looked, if anything, even more dispirited than the batting.
BdJ: Meanwhile defending Champions Excelsior ‘20 will welcome the widely-tipped VOC Rotterdam to Thurlede looking to extend their latest unbeaten run. VOC have recovered from an upset opening defeat away at Dosti to win their next two games convincingly, but have yet to fully live up to the pre-season hype. Of their batch of eye-catching new signings only keeper-bat Scott Edwards has really delivered thus far, and they will be without skipper first-choice spinner Pieter Seelaar when they head to Schiedam due to bereavement, young Seb van Lent returning to the side in his place.
Nonetheless the Rotterdammers pose a serious threat to Excelsior’s nascent streak, with Ahsan Malik and Fred Klaassen as capable of taking advantage of Thurlede’s occasionally two-speed pitch as the host’s own disciplined young seamers. Early wickets will likely be key one way or the other, with limited batting depth the key weakness of both sides. James Hilditch’s especially will be the scalp VOC will be looking for, together with that of the evergreen Lorenzo Ingram, whilst the hosts will want to see Edwards and Corey Rutgers back in the pavilion as soon as possible.
RL: This should be the game of the round, with Excelsior’s established, twice-champion outfit taking on a VOC side which, as m’ colleague points out, has yet to deliver its full potential. But the VOC attack was in complete command against a disappointing Quick side, and even without Pieter Seelaar they have the variety to test Tom Heggelman’s team.
BdJ: Also unbeaten thus far, to the surprise of many, are the perhaps rather underrated Dosti-United, who will meet Amsterdam rivals ACC at het Loopveld on Saturday. The Dosti middle order of Mohammad Hafeez, new overseas Anees Davids and especially Taruwar Kohli have proved the backbone of their success thus far, whilst sometime national team prospect Rahil Ahmed seems to have recaptured some of his old confidence.
ACC meanwhile remain thankful that the unduly less-celebrated Rehmat Zulfiqar was blessed with three younger brothers at once, the four Zulfiqars and their semi-retired father still providing the backbone of the batting order. New overseas keeper Richardt Frenz has yet to make a significant impact for his side, having missed one of their three matches due to illness, but with his return the visitors arguably have the advantage in batting depth. That aside there’s really little to pick between the two Amsterdam sides, though on current form probably Dosti have momentum on their side.
RL: ACC and Dosti have provided some memorable encounters in recent years, and this one should be no exception. In a crowded table matches like this acquire extra significance, and with Kohli in supreme form with the bat – and capable of chipping in with the ball as well – Dosti have fully deserved their excellent start to the campaign. If they are to maintain their challenge to Excelsior, and others’, title hopes, and having lost the chance to take a two-point advantage at the top last week, they will be especially keen to maintain the momentum at Het Loopveld.
BdJ: Fellow Amsterdammers VRA have been rather underwhelming thus far, an intimidating middle order line up of Ben Cooper, Eric Szwarczynski and Peter Borren having misfired in the early rounds, but they remain odds-on to take two points back from Bermweg when they take on Sparta on Saturday.
Nonetheless Sparta have thus far performed creditably on their return to the Topklasse with two wins from three games, and with Tim de Kok in fine form and new overseas Michael Pollard looking sound pick the absence of last season’s stalwarts Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell has not proved too costly. Dost Mohammad has grown into his role as new-ball partner to former Netherlands international Mudassar Bukhari, and at full strength the Capelle side will be no pushovers. VRA will need to shake off the early-season cobwebs if they are to avoid the stumbling start that cost them so dearly last season.
RL: Sparta’s assiduously assembled team has made a good start to the campaign, even without Jeggels and Bell, and were decidedly too strong for Punjab last week. Although Pollard has had less impact with the bat than his first-day knock suggested, he is too good a player to struggle for long, and his contribution will be needed if the Bermweg side is to hold its own against a VRA team which is capable, on its day, of beating anyone in the competition. The same applies in reverse to VRA’s international batting line-up, and on current evidence I would be inclined to tip a narrow Sparta victory here.
BdJ: HBS will look to bounce back from their disastrous outing at de Diepput last week when they take on Punjab Rotterdam at Craeyenhout, thought the vulnerability to the moving ball that Ali Ahmed exposed in their top order will doubtless give their opponents hope of taking two points back to Rotterdam. The big question of course remains whether they will awarded any points regardless of what happens on the field, should they indeed persist with the selection of Belgian nationals Ali Raza and Mamoon Latif, whom the KNCB have deemed ineligible as local players.
Punjab have indicated that the two will continue to play until the dispute is resolved, and the board have made clear that every in which match they appear will be awarded to the opposition. Even with Raza and Latif the Rotterdammers head to the Hague as underdogs, but there’s every chance that with them they will be earning only penalty points on Saturday.
RL: HBS and Punjab were both surprise packets last season, but the Kraaien have been less convincing so far this time round, while the eligibility dispute which hangs over Punjab makes any prediction difficult. Punjab do have a well-balanced side, whatever its legitimacy, and the departure of Corey Rutgers to VOC has removed some solidity from the HBS top order. Barresi and Visée have the ability to take any attack apart, but they have yet to maintain the fireworks for very long. If they, and Jaron Morgan, don’t pile on the runs on Saturday Punjab may prevail, but as m’ colleague points out, any victory may prove to be Pyrrhic.
BdJ’s Round 4 tips: HCC, VOC, Dosti, VRA, HBS
RL’s Round 4 tips: HCC, Excelsior, Dosti, Sparta, HBS