Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 08/06/18
After the disruption caused by rescheduling and bad weather last weekend, the Topklasse programme returns to relative normality this week with five matches set to take place on Saturday, three of them in the form of local derbies.
RL: Top of the bill must be Sparta 1888’s clash with Excelsior ‘20 at Sportpark Bermweg. The advent of Warren Bell had an immediate impact in the Capelle side’s match against Quick Haag last Sunday, and he adds greater all-round depth to a team which has at times been a real threat to the established Topklasse order. Whether they can extend that challenge by inflicting Excelsior’s first defeat of the season is another question, and their key players will all need to fire if they are to have a realistic chance against the defending champions, who spent last Saturday gazing at a soggy Thurlede. Excelsior’s attack is steady at worst, and at times a good deal more menacing than that, and with proven matchwinners in Lorenzo Ingram and James Hilditch they will certainly start as favourites to extend their advantage at the top.
BdJ: Bell’s fashionably late entrance does indeed lend this Sparta side a more balanced look, and the menace of Bukhari on home turf shouldn’t be underestimated. The hosts will need a big innings from someone to put the defending champions under any sort of pressure, but in Bell, Pollard and indeed Bukhari they have players who can deliver just that. They remain clear underdogs against a disciplined and determined Exclesior however, and though Berweg itself has proven something of a leveller thus far, a home win would certainly surprise.
RL: After another slow start, VRA Amsterdam looked comfortable against HCC last Saturday, and will take on a Dosti United side which has, by contrast, begun to falter after winning three on the trot. The postponement of their game against Punjab has given Mohammad Hafeez another week to recover from his thigh strain, and Taruwar Kohli and Anees Davids may, for different reasons, relish the conditions in the Amsterdamse Bos. But it is doubtful whether Dosti have the depth in batting and bowling to counter VRA’s undoubted firepower with both bat and ball, and unless the two overseas players have another red-letter day it seems likely that the home side’s recovery will continue.
BdJ: Overseas pros have habitually chosen the Bos as the setting to go big in the past, perhaps revelling in the chance to play on one of the country’s better turf wickets, which in no small part accounts for VRA’s surprisingly poor home record in recent years. With Viv Kingma still on the sidelines VRA’s attack will have a job dealing with Dosti’s overseas Kohli and Davids, but even another big innings from the league’s leading runscorer may not be enough given the depth of VRA’s batting line up.
RL: This Rotterdam derby may not have the antiquity of some of the others in Dutch cricket, but having been twice dismissed for under 100 by their newly-promoted rivals VOC will be very keen to turn the table on their return to Het Zomercomplex. This season’s Punjab is certainly not as formidable as last year’s, while the Hazelaarweg squad has been very considerably strengthened, and with Scott Edwards and Corey Rutgers reinforcing Max O’Dowd, Dirk van Baren and Pieter Seelaar in the batting and Fred Klaassen and Pierce Fletcher adding a cutting edge to the seam attack, VOC should be closer to Excelsior than they in fact are. So this match offers them a double opportunity to emphasize their credentials, and it will be a major achievement if Punjab succeed in taking the points.
BdJ: For a side featuring four current internationals and Corey Rutgers VOC have rather underperformed so far this season, but it would indeed be a major surprise to see Punjab take points off them tomorrow. Though Ahsan Malik is unlikely to play owing to a finger injury, it’s fair to say that VOC will miss him less than Punjab miss Stef Myburgh, whose persisting ankle trouble will keep him out of the Dutch squad for the coming Tri-Series and tomorrow’s match. Though Punjab’s less-celebrated players have at times shown themselves capable of remarkable performances (young Assad Saleemin proving one of our better “players to watch” picks), it will take a more cohesive and indeed aggressive showing than we’ve seen in recent weeks to upset their Rotterdam rivals.
RL: A history is one thing encounters between neighbours HBS Den Haag and Quick Haag do not lack, and this game at Craeyenhout should be absorbing, Quick’s disappointing form so far this season notwithstanding. The home side missed an opportunity to follow up on their comprehensive win over Dosti at Hazelaarweg last Saturday, when the ground was judged too wet for their match to start, while Quick, playing on Sunday, were on the wrong end of a six-wicket victory by Sparta. There is little that suggests that Quick’s attack will be able to tame HBS’s imposing top order, which of course includes former Quick opener Wesley Barresi, and it may be up to the batsmen to buckle down and produce a more convincing effort than they have generally managed so far this season.
BdJ: HBS’ intimidating top order has not proved immune to collapse thus far, most notably against HCC, but it’s difficult to see them having as much trouble against a Quick attack that is in large part still finding its feet in the Topklasse. Though Stokkers and van Gigch produced a vintage performance against ACC, it should be noted it was far from chanceless, and HBS have not been as forgiving in the field as ACC were. Even Quick’s two overseas, Bista and Davey, have struggled for consistency since arriving in the Netherlands, and one suspects the visitors will need both to fire, and then some, if they are to take points back from Craeyenhout.
RL: Two wins ahead of ACC in the table, HCC have nevertheless lost their last two games, against Excelsior and then against VRA last week. Totals of 120 and 86 in those matches underline the fragility of their batting, and Tonny Staal will need more support if the Hagenaars are to rise above their current lower-mid-table position. But their opponents at De Diepput on Saturday had an even more wretched May, and opening-day win against HBS their only success so far. We grow tired of saying that the side is too dependent on its Zulfiqars, but – despite signs of progress by young Shirase Rasool and the undoubted promise of Aryan Kumar – that remains the case. In a normal season ACC would be starting to worry about the prospect of relegation, but this is far from being a normal season. Nevertheless, it would take a considerable reversal of fortune, and a larger contribution from the top oder, for ACC to take the points back to Amstelveen.
BdJ: Winless since their opening match against HBS, ACC will be desperate to turn things around at de Diepput come Saturday, and though their dependency on the Zulfiqars has indeed been mentioned, it also bears repeating that there are probably worse families to be counting on. With the tri-series looming both Saqib and Sikander will be keen to make their case for another senior cap or two, and one might hope a little sibling rivalry might inspire something from Asad or the oft-underestimated Rehmat. On form they nonetheless remain underdogs, and on the other side Hidde Overdijk and Tonny Staal will doubtless be keen to remind the selectors that there are young dutch prospects to be found outside of Amstelveen. Probably the toughest of the round’s games to call, so this is where I’ll part ways with the good professor and back ACC to double their points tally at de Diepput.
RL’s tips are: Excelsior, VRA, VOC, HBS, HCC.
BdJ’s tips are: Sparta, VRA, VOC, HBS, ACC.