Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 06/07/18
In contrast with last week, when the top six were pitted against each other and the lower four likewise, this Sunday’s programme matches each of the top five against one of the sides in the lower half of the table. Such is the nature of the Topklasse, however, that in any of these fixtures there could be lurking a surprise.
RL: Perhaps the most interesting encounter is at Thurlede, where third-placed Excelsior ‘20 will take on Dosti United Amsterdam, currently sixth. If winning is a habit, it’s a habit that has eluded Excelsior recently, and after three defeats in their last four games the defending champions really need to turn things around. James Hilditch’s absence last week undoubtedly made a big difference, but the fundamental problem is that he and Lorenzo Ingram have been getting too little consistent support from those around them. Joost Kroesen’s first Topklasse half-century is a step in the right direction, as is the return of keeper Roel Verhagen. Dosti, too, were without Anees Davids last week, but his replacement Amitoze Singh more than compensated with both bat and ball, and their two wins keep them just about in touch with the pack.
BdJ: This match-up is definitely harder to call now than it might have been at the start of the season, and duly provides us with our only point of disagreement. Excelsior are now entirely bereft of the momentum that they have been able to count on for all of last season and most of this one, and will likely miss Hilditch at least as much, not only for his stabilising influence with the bat but also his habit of creating chances with the new ball. “Where’s Kohli’s wicket coming from?” is the question that looms largest here, as recent games have shown you either get him early or far too late. Excelsior will need Gijs Kroesen and Rens van Troost to step up with the ball as much as Verhagen, Etman and Joost Kroesen with the willow.
RL: Local derbies always have an extra vibe, and that between ACC and VRA Amsterdam at Het Loopveld West is likely to be no exception. The home side come off another outstanding batting performance from their top order, although it will be a worry that the limitations of their attack were again exposed by Punjab’s batsmen. VRA have a better-balanced combination, particularly with Viv Kingma restored to the attack, and if they are at full strength they should be the stronger side. They have underperformed all season, however, and with an unsettled batting order they have struggled to realise their potential in that department. Daan ter Braak, Ben Cooper and Peter Borren have kept them going, with Leon Turmaine often chipping in with valuable runs. ACC’s top five, by contrast, have found a rich vein of form, and VRA will need to secure early breakthroughs if they are to prevent another big total.
BdJ: It’s a testament to the strength of this VRA side that they are still in touch with the top of the table despite consistently underperforming and rarely fielding a full first-choice side. Moreover, rather perversely for a team that plays at the Bos, they are generally at their best on artificial wickets. They’ve lost just one game on a mat so far this season, and generally their away record is better than at home. Though ACC’s top four are all have a weight of runs behind them from the last few games and both Kingma and Gunning are carrying niggles, one suspects that VRA’s depth will win out at het Loopveld come Sunday.
RL: Quick Haag’s current groundlessness has produced an unusual sort of double-header this week, since they will play VOC Rotterdam on the artificial surface of the second ground at De Diepput. (This may be a subtle preparation for playing on their own artificial ground next season.) VOC have deservedly moved to the top of the table, and it’s hard to see Quick causing them much trouble unless Jay Bista has another personal field day. He has been outstanding both as batsman and bowler in recent games, but few of his team-mates have been able to give him consistent support. The reconstructed VOC side, by contrast, has strength in depth, with Seelaar, O’Dowd, Klaassen and Edwards getting plenty of backing, especially from the other bowlers. If the batting has sometimes seemed a little brittle, though, the big names have salvaged the situation, and they should once again prove too strong for Quick.
BdJ: VOC’s position at the top of the table would look a lot less precarious if they could still count on the full roster they had assembled at the start of the season, but with Cory Rutgers and Max O’Dowd both playing against doctor’s advice they are beginning to look more reliant on Pieter Seelaar than they might like. The new Dutch skipper has been a man to bank on thus far, his only challenger for Topklasse MVP as things stand being the aforementioned Jay Bista. An off day for either could yet turn the game, but though VOC have looked more vulnerable away than at Hazelaarweg the nominal hosts will likely need more than that, and indeed it would take a remarkable reversal of form for Quick to pick up points here.
RL: While Quick and VOC do battle behind them, HCC will be playing HBS Craeyenhout on their main ground. On their last outing here Ali Ahmed Qasim spearheaded a remarkable win against Sparta, and the Diepput pitch certainly offers plenty for the faster bowlers. He and the other HCC seamers, Hidde Overdijk, Reinier Bijloos and skipper Mark Jonkman, will need to be at their best against the HBS top order, where the aggressiveness of Tobias Visee, Jaron Morgan and Wesley Barresi is well balanced by the more restrained skills of Wessel Coster and, especially, Sharn Gomes. And Coster, Berend Westdijk, Farshad Khan and Ferdi Vink will also present a threat to HCC’s batting, where Tonny Staal and Bryce Street have frequently been given too little support.
BdJ: More than his exploits against Sparta, one suspects Qasim’s 8-wicket demolition of HBS’ much-vaunted batting line-up will be playing on the Crows’ minds ahead of Sunday’s encounter. But they would do well to be at least as wary of young Hidde Overdijk, who has quietly made his way to third in the wicket-taking table with 22 at 17.55. Even while Overdijk and Qasim have had stellar season, however, the reliable paring of Jonkman and Bijloos have struggled, and the batting has been inconsistent at best. Even should HCC contain HBS’ battery of big guns, there’s no guarantee they could chase even a sub-par total.
RL: Having lost their last two matches and dropped from first to fifth in the table, Sparta 1888 will be especially keen to get back on track with a win over Punjab Rotterdam at Sportpark Bermweg. But the advent of Rohan Qadri has strengthened Punjab somewhat, and they did well to get within 30 runs of ACC’s massive total last Sunday. Their bowling still lacks a cutting edge, however, and against quality batting they clearly struggle. In Michael Pollard and Warren Bell, both of whom are due a score, Sparta have batsmen capable of taking full advantage of this, and while the Bermweg pitch Is something of a batsmen’s nightmare, Mudassar Bukhari, Bell, Dost Muhammad, Usman Saleem and Joost Martijn Snoep are better equipped to make the most of the conditions.
BdJ: First innings scores at Bermweg have been trending resolutely downward from a high of 176 in the season opener, culminating in two sub-50 scores in the last two games to be played there. One could say that might make it something of a leveller, but as the esteemed professor rightly points out, it is the hosts that have the attack to take advantage. Punjab have looked to rebalance their side somewhat in recent matches and have posted some creditable scores, but generally only after conceding unreachable ones. One can never discount the possibility of of a Myburgh special of course, and in Ali Raza he has an equally dangerous foil, but the conditions are unlikely to favour the sort of explosive start that set up the Rotterdammers first and still only win this season.
RL’s tips: Excelsior, VRA, VOC, HBS, Sparta
BdJ’s tips: Dosti, VRA, VOC, HBS, Sparta