Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 25/05/18
RL: Having gone clear at the top of the table thanks to a comfortable victory over Quick on Monday, Excelsior ’20 will travel to De Diepput in good heart. But HCC were equally impressive in their demolition of Punjab, and with Tonny Staal in great form with the bat they will take on the champions with no lack of confidence. The Hagenaars started slowly, but three wins on the trot will have given them plenty of heart, and Ali Ahmed Qasim is, like Staal, a potential matchwinner. Nor should we forget HCC were the last team to beat the Schiedammers, at Thurlede on 13 August last year. That said, there’s more to Excelsior than their two seasoned overseas players, as the bowlers’ demolition of VOC on Saturday demonstrated, and they will start as favourites in what promises to be a tough old battle.
BdJ: It’s fair to say the HCC are hitting their stride this season, with Bryce Street and Hidde Overdijk also impressing in the Pro-Series this week. With a home crowd behind them they look set to provide Excelsior with probably their sternest challenge yet, and if the defending champion’s latest winning run is to be broken one feels tomorrow is the time. Still it’s hard to argue with Excelsior’s momentum, the bowling unit has been a model of discipline and if their batting line up remains somewhat top-heavy the lower middle order has shown they can get the job done if called upon. And then there’s the rumour that Ed Cowan’s in town…
RL: Without Pieter Seelaar and Max O’Dowd, VOC were all at sea against Excelsior, but they came storming back with a decisive win over ACC on Monday. They have yet to fire on all cylinders, and they will need to be at their best against a Sparta 1888 side which moved confidently into second place on Monday by virtue of their hard-fought victory over Dosti United. Michael Pollard confirmed his quality with a superb hundred in that game, and the attack then held its collective nerve as Kohli and Hafeez led the chase. The clash between VOC’s star-studded side and the more workmanlike Sparta outfit should be absorbing, and it would not be altogether surprising if it were the home side which came out on top.
BdJ: Sparta have had a solid start in their return season, and if the side lacks the start power of VOC they have certainly proved themselves more than the sum of their parts. It’s tough to call them underdogs at Bermweg, especially with Mudassar Bukhari fit and in form. Nonetheless they will need him or Dost Muhammad to take the top off VOC early. Though the Rotterdammer’s batting, as with HBS, has been something of a disappointment so far, and Bermweg isn’t the easiest track at the best of times, the quality is still there and they’ve more than a few batsmen due a score.
RL: Dosti United will be keen to put that defeat at the hands of Sparta behind them, and to reinforce their title aspirations with a win over HBS at Craeyenhout. But Monday confirmed just how reliant they are on Taruwar Kohli, and his 52 wasn’t enough to get them home, despite a fine 77 from Mohammad Hafeez. Anees Davids’s contributions are a lot less consistent, but he remains a danger to any opponents, while the artificial outfield at Craeyenhout has proved to the liking of Dosti’s batsmen in the past. HBS have been something of an enigma, but they proved against Punjab on Saturday that when the top order gets it right they can be the most powerful combination in the competition. Neither attack, perhaps, is of the same quality as the batting, so high totals may be on the cards.
BdJ: Though firm favourites on paper, especially at home, the big question for HBS remains who, if anyone, is going to take Kohli’s wicket tomorrow. Better attacks have tried and failed, and if he is not removed promptly one can imagine him thaking the game swiftly away from the hosts tomorrow. HBS’ cause will not be helped by the rumoured suspension of two first choice bowlers, who have reportedly fallen afoul of a newly-instituted policy barring 1st team cricketers from playing other sports in season. Nonetheless Dosti probably have more wickets to worry about than HBS, with Toby Visée and Wesley Barresi in the runs this week and the menace of Jaron Morgan and Sharn Gomes to come after them, Dosti’s attack will need to be on top of their game if they’re to contain the Crows.
RL: VRA Amsterdam will travel to Het Zomercomplex to take on a Punjab side which showed signs of complete collapse against HCC on Monday. Whether it was the absence of Stef Myburgh which threw them out of kilter or the continuing dispute over the eligibility of their Belgian-based players, but the batting slump and the bowling performance which followed suggested that the Rotterdammers, regardless of the eligibility regulations, may face an uphill struggle to avoid relegation. VRA have yet to hit a consistent vein of form, with their top order still failing to produce the starts they are capable of, but it will take a huge effort from Punjab if they are to prevent the Amsterdam side taking the points back north with them. And with half-centuries in his last two knocks, Peter Borren is starting to look ominous.
BdJ: Indeed as things stand Punjab’s dispute with the KNCB looks like it might turn out academic at least in so far as the Rotterdam club’s Topklasse survival is concerned, though Raza and Latif have shown in the past why Punjab are so keen to field them. The sidelining of Vivian Kingma due to a recurring ankle issue also takes some sting out of VRA’s new ball attack, and even in Myburgh’s absence Punjab have the firepower to take advantage. Nonetheless VRA’s mercurial middle order has enjoyed the Zomercomplex’s short boundaries before, and if Borren or van den Burg tee off it’s tough to imagine a score that would be out of reach.
RL: Like Punjab, ACC and Quick Haag have just one win from five games, and in normal circumstances both would be beginning to have serious worries about relegation. It’s ACC who will be at home on Saturday, and they will be fully aware that the four Zulfiqar brothers managed just 14 runs between them against VOC on Monday. On top of the failure of all except Sikander on Saturday, a side which is very dependent on that one family has genuine cause for concern. If ACC’s Richardt Frenz is just starting to run into form, Quick’s Jay Bista did so with a vengeance against Excelsior, and the Hanen will hope that he can do the same again this week. Quick are, perhaps, marginally less brittle at the moment than their hosts, and may start as favourites to prevail in what is a real four-pointer.
BdJ: Last weekend was certainly an emphatic demonstration of ACC’s weakness should all four (or five) Zulfiqars fail at once, with even Frenz’ firsts serious score of the season not enough to prevent comprehensive defeat. That said a look at the seasons’ stats does suggest that total Zulfiqar failure is something of an aberration, with Sikander especially looking in good nick, as he showed again during the Pro-Series this week. Jay Bista’s rapid acclimatisation to Topklasse cricket is Quick’s only real comfort in a season where they have first played down expectations and then played down to them, and even 127 rapid runs from the Mumbaiker were not enough to win any points last weekend.
RL’s tips: Excelsior, Sparta, Dosti, VRA, Quick.
BdJ’s tips: HCC, VOC, HBS, VRA, ACC.