Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 04/08/81
After the annual fallow week and the excitement of the international interlude, the Topklasse resumes this week with four rounds left to play and the key issues almost sharply defined at both ends of the table.
RL: Two points clear at the top, but more importantly with two defeats fewer than their nearest rivals, VOC Rotterdam are at home to Sparta 1888, who have dropped back to sixth after briefly leading at the turn. The Hazelaarweg side may have had something of a scare last time out, hanging on to beat ACC by two wickets, but there is no doubt about the championship potential of their side, and they know that if they keeping winning the chasing pack can do nothing to catch them. Max O’Dowd’s continuing injury problems are a worry – he missed both of this week’s ODIs – but with Fred Klaassen and his new-ball partner Pierce Fletcher in fine form and skipper Peter Seelaar a dominant force, they should prove too strong for a Sparta side whose big guns have generally failed to fire in recent weeks.
BdJ: Corey Rutgers and O’Dowd both remain at less than 100%, though both showed against Quick Haag that they needn’t be to win games for VOC. Whether either or both will play tomorrow is an open question, but part of the reason that VOC are at the top of the table is that they have coped with injuries and absences better than most, and even without the pair they would start as favourites against a Sparta side that’s been on the slide for most of the season now.
RL: Now perhaps VOC’s only serious challengers for the title, VRA Amsterdam must keep winning themselves and hope that the Rotterdammers slip up along the way, setting up a winner-take-all confrontation between the two sides on 26 August. This week VRA are at home to likely wooden-spooners Punjab Rotterdam, who have to win at least three of their last four games to have any realistic hope of survival in the top flight. VRA will be without Vikram Singh, who is in England with the national Under-17 side, but still seem much too powerful for a Punjab side which has shown flashes of form – mainly from openers Stef Myburgh and Ali Raza – but who otherwise have been outclassed for much of the season. The return to form of Eric Szwarczynski, enjoying his role as opener in company with Dan ter Braak, has given greater solidity to the home side’s batting, and with the outfield in the Bos at its quickest the runs can be expected to flow.
BdJ: More than the absence of Singh, whose promising future looks like it will remain ahead of him for at least another season, the departure of Michael Rippon after a one match cameo leaves VRA looking more beatable than last round. That said, Punjab don’t look the team to beat them. An upset at the Bos tomorrow would make things more interesting at the bottom of the table and less so at the top, but given the strength of VRA’s batting it really would be quite the upset.
RL: In view of Punjab’s plight the threat of relegation faced by Quick Haag and ACC may appear largely theoretical, but that doesn’t detract from the importance of these sides’ clash at De Diepput this week, since the winner will take a large stride away from the danger zone. Both teams will be missing players from the Under-17 squad: Teun Landheer and Govert Trappenburg for Quick, and Shirase Rasool for ACC. But it’s once again the key players on each side who will likely decide this match: Richardt Frenz and the Zulfiqars for ACC; Jay Bista, Sean Davey (if he’s fully fit) and Geert Maarten Mol for Quick. It was Quick who prevailed when the sides met back in May, but there’s little to choose between them and this one could go either way.
BdJ: Yup, the toughest call of the round this one. ACC have been affected more than most sides by the u19’s absence, and will be without Devon Botha’s services too, the South African’s stint in the Netherlands having come to an end. Though the Amsterdammers will likely be able to field a full complement of Zulfiqars tomorrow, who will doubtless be looking to make a point after being overlooked for national duties last week, the bowling attack looks weaker than ever. Quick have retained the in-form Jay Bista’s services to the end of the season, and one suspects ACC will struggle to contain the mumbaiker, much less dislodge him. A strong showing and a little luck may be required for ACC to take a step toward safety on Sunday.
RL: If we still had play-offs involving the top four the encounter between Dosti United and HBS Craeyenhout would be one of the games of the season, but the latter’s defeat by VRA a fortnight ago means that they have only the slimmest chance of getting back into title contention, and this match is close to being a ‘dead’ rubber. It’s also robbed of some of its glamour by the departure of Taruwar Kohli, one of the iconic players of the season, and that should give the Crows considerable heart – provided that Sharn Gomes is still among their number. With Tobias Visée and Wesley Barresi both having been in good form with the bat for the national side, and an attack which has been consistently impressive, HBS are tough nuts to crack, and without Kohli the home side will need to draw on all their talent and determination if they are to have a chance here.
BdJ: Despite a successful season the Crows’ hopes of adding the Topklasse title to their T20 trophy are indeed now out of their hands, and they will need a perfect run couple with other results going their way if they’re to catch VRA and VOC. It’s unlikely their hopes will be entirely snuffed out tomorrow though, facing a Dosti side that’s now missing both Kohli and Anees Davids and are themselves playing for little but pride. It will take quite the team talk from young skipper Vinoo Tewarie to instill the sort of inspiration Dosti will need to spring an upset on HBS.
RL: Fifth and seventh on the table, Excelsior ‘20 and HCC meet at Thurlede in what is to meaningful cricket what the Norwegian Blue in the Monty Python sketch is to parrots, although once again in another universe Excelsior would be fighting for a place in the play-offs. That said, every cricket match is worth winning, and both as individuals and as teams these sides have plenty to prove. Excelsior, still without James Hilditch, will be looking to finish their season on a high, putting behind them a very disappointing run of form, and the progress made by Joost Kroesen with the bat and his younger brother Gijs with the ball are a couple of positive features the Schiedammers will want to see continue. HCC are without Boris Gorlee, skippering the Under-17s in England, but they have Tonny Staal and Hidde Overdijk as core members of a young side which will also be looking towards a more prosperous future. Lorenzo Ingram, of course, remains capable of turning any game Excelsior’s way, but this, too, could be a very close match.
BdJ: It’s inevitable given the lamentable new format that the tail end of the season will see an increasing number of matches with little on the line but pride, but for HCC and Excelsior at least there’s plenty of that to play for. Excelsior will be keen to prove that they are more than just the Jimmy and Lorenzo show, and their young youth graduates will doubtless be keen to draw national selectors eyes back the Thurlede. Whilst HCC’s reliable new ball pair of Mark Jonkman and especially Reinier Bijloos have struggled to make the same impact as in seasons past, Ali Ahmed and Overdijk have stepped up admirably, and Tonny Staal looks a much more complete player following his antipodean adventures. The latter pair have been rewarded with senior T20 call-ups, and were arguably unlucky to miss out on selection against Nepal this week. Though besting Excelsior away is a big ask, I make the visitors narrow favourites.
Rod Lyall’s tips: VOC, VRA, ACC, HBS, Excelsior.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VOC, VRA, Quick, HBS, HCC