Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 20/05/18
BdJ: A quick turnaround after yesterday’s games and we’ve another full five game set of Topklasse matches to look forward to tomorrow. The heavily front-loaded schedule this season has been particularly unforgiving to slow-starters, and if the under-performing VRA hope to claw their way into contention they will need to take two points off HBS when they meet at the Amsterdamse Bos. A match that promised to be a highlight at the start of the season now sees the visitors start as strong favourites, with the Crows’ top order big guns Toby Visee, Wesley Barresi, Jaron Morgan and Sharn Gomes finally firing against Punjab yesterday.
The hosts will need early wickets if they are to contain them, though in Vivian Kingma and Quirijn Gunning they have the bowlers to deliver and it’s worth noting that HBS have yet to pass 160 away from home. But if HBS have been inconsistent, VRA have found altogether the wrong sort of consistency, with each of their top six having been dismissed for single figures at least as often as not thus far.
RL: It’s less obvious than the failures at the top of the batting order, but Gunning and Kingma have only taken nine wickets between them so far, and have not been as devastating as they might be expected to be. The turf of the Bos is not, of course, the artificial surface at Craeyenhout, and a repeat of Saturday’s 300-plus total by HBS would come as a surprise, but if the Crows’ top order has until now flattered to deceive, VRA’s has simply been miserably disappointing. The return to form of the HBS top four, however, proves that things can change very quickly, and Peter Borren’s 60 on Saturday illustrates the dormant power of the home side’s batting. Home advantage may in the end prove decisive here.
BdJ: Likewise hoping to turn around a poor start to the season will be Quick Haag at Nieuw Hanenburg tomorrow but with their opponents Excelsior ‘20 embarking on yet another winning streak it’s fair to say they will be underdogs even in their own back yard. So far in the season Quick have amassed just 460 runs for the loss of 38 wickets, and though Jay Bista’s 90 against HCC yesterday looked like a promise of a lot more runs to come, the rest of the batting card’s form inspires little confidence.
Though the defending champion’s four-wicket win over VOC chasing just 100 was far from emphatic, the fact that the lower middle order got them over the line after Fred Klaassen had removed both Ingram and Hilditch and reduced them to 5-37 will doubtless redouble the self-belief of the as-yet undefeated defending champions.
RL: Winning ugly can be the key to long-term championship success, and if Excelsior have been less than wholly convincing so far, the fact remains that they go on winning. The Schiedammers’ bowling has been the decisive factor, and with the five-man seam attack of Hilditch, Van Troost, Heggelman, Bhatti and Gijs Kroesen backed up by the spin of Ingram, they should be sharp enough to dismiss Quick’s brittle batting regardless of who bats first. Quick put up more of a fight against HCC than they managed against VOC a week ago, but it would be a major shock if Excelsior failed to return to Thurlede with the points.
BdJ: Likewise undefeated thus far are Dosti-United, in no small part thanks to the stellar form of Taruwar Kohli, now on three centuries from four innings, who seems to have rather got the hang of Dutch conditions in his second Topklasse season. With support from a rotating cast of partners including Rahil Ahmed, Vinoo Tewarie or the veteran Hafeez, Dosti have been able to put opponents under scoreboard pressure and have had the discipline to capitalise.
It remains to be seen of course how well the Dosti line-up will cope should Kohli fall early, and with Sparta 1888’s Mudassar Bukhari relishing his top-flight return they have the firepower up front to put their hosts on the back foot, and they showed against HBS and VRA that they have the ability to knock over more highly-rated top orders than that of Dosti.
RL: It’s the all-round team effort of Dosti United under Vinoo Tewarie’s leadership which has impressed so far, almost as much as the disciplined technique and awesome consistency of Taruwar Kohli. Nor should we forget the menace of Anees Davids, who adds a real cutting edge to the attack and considerable power to the middle order. ACC were profoundly disappointing on Saturday, but Dosti maintained the pressure extremely well, and while Sparta have potential match-winners in Bukhari and Michael Pollard, and a supporting cast of solid performers, they probably lack the quality in depth to mount a really sustained challenge.
BdJ: Meanwhile Dosti’s Amsterdam rivals ACC will head down to Hazelaarweg to take on VOC Rotterdam. Though neither side have had the start to the season they might have hoped for, the Rotterdammers will back themselves to bounce back after their disappointment at Thurlede, especially with Max O’Dowd slated to return from injury and skipper Pieter Seelaar back at the helm. O’Dowd and Seelaar’s return not only adds some depth to a batting order full of talent but low on form, but also adds extra options with the ball, meaning it’s hard to see who ACC might look to target.
With ACC overseas players Richardt Frenz and Devon Botha yet to make much of an impact this season the Amsterdammers have been even more reliant than usual on the Zulfiqar clan, and when some or all of the brothers fail heavy defeats usually follow.
RL: If ACC’s attack failed to impress on Saturday the batting was much worse, and with three of the four Zulfiqar brothers going cheaply it was left to Sikander to try, rather forlornly, to marshal the inexperienced tail. VOC came back hard at Excelsior after their own batting collapse, and with Fred Klaassen and Pierce Fletcher leading a menacing attack it will take a much more concentrated effort from the Amsterdammers’ top order if they are to take anything from the weekend. VOC need a win to stay in touch with the leaders, and it’s hard to see who is likely to deny them.
BdJ: The round’s final match will see HCC travel to the Zomercomplex to take on Punjab Rotterdam, though as with all of Punjab’s games so far this season the validity of the match is contingent on the outcome of the Rotterdam club’s ongoing dispute with the KNCB regarding the status of Ali Raza and Mamoon Latif, who will likely play again come Monday. The pair were not enough to help Punjab bag two provisional points yesterday however, when a rampant HBS top-order ran up the season’s first 300+ score against them, and Navjit Singh ensured they would fall well short. Stephan Myburgh’s fluctuating form is a particular worry, though he and Raza showed the danger the Punjab opening pair can pose last week against ACC should they get going, but given that that onslaught has delivered their only points thus far one feels early wickets could put them out of the game early.
HCC meanwhile celebrated their 140-year jubilee with a 3-wicket win over Quick and head into the game with momentum on their side, and an enviable new ball attck. Bryce Street has shown his value with both bat and ball, and though Jonathan Vandiar remains irreplaceable, HCC will be very pleased with his stand-in thus far. Much continues to depend on HCC’s own young batsmen stepping up this season, though with Tonny Staal at least rising to the occasion the Haagse may yet be revising their ambitions upwards from the mid-table finish they were targetting at the start of the summer.
RL: Even with their enhanced line-up Punjab have not shown much sign so far of repeating last season’s successes, and it’s clear that they are missing the contribution of Shoaib Minhaas, Khurram Shazad and Yasir Ali. Three defeats out of four on the field may be overshadowed by the eligibility dispute, but it would in itself be sufficient to suggest that the Rotterdammers might be early candidates for relegation. That said, HCC too have struggled to find their best form. They, though, have won two on the trot, and will be very keen to make it three and reinforce their mid-table position.
BdJ’s Round 5 tips: HBS, Excelsior, Dosti, VOC, HCC
RL’s Round 5 tips: VRA, Excelsior, Dosti, VOC, HCC