Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 28/05/19
With four rounds of matches in the space of twelve days, starting with Thursday’s Ascension Day holiday, the Topklasse moves into its traditional burst of intensity which could have a key role in determining the ultimate shape of the table.
RL: With four wins out of four, HBS Craeyenhout will go into their derby with their neighbours in the Bosjes van Pex, Quick Haag, brimming with a confidence all the greater because of Quick’s indifferent form so far. If their attack made less impact than they might have hoped against a rather tottery VRA batting line-up, their four-man seam attack and pair of spinners have generally been an effective force, and they are likely to cause plenty of problems against a Quick side which, even with the addition of Jean Bredenkamp, has looked to be well short of Topklasse form. But they did manage to ambush VOC, and that may suggest that they have a better chance chasing than they do trying to set a target. That said, the HBS top six are a menacing prospect for any bowlers, and the odds favour the Craeyenhout outfit whoever gets first use of the wicket.
BdJ: The momentum’s certainly with the Crows as they welcome their local rivals to Craeyenhout, boasting a perfect record so far with Quick still looking for their second win. Bredenkamp’s cameo last week is understood to be a one-off, but Quick nonetheless head across the way appreciably strengthened by the arrival of last season’s MVP Jay Bista and fellow Mumbaiker Prathamesh Dake. Bista’s presence as batting linchpin will be a worry for the HBS bowling attack, which has generally been solid but uninspiring thus far, but whether Dake will have any more luck containing or removing the Crow’s explosive top-order than anyone else has so far is probably the crucial question hanging over the game.
RL: Having seen off the ACC challenge on Saturday, Excelsior ‘20 will travel to Hazelaarweg in good spirits for their meeting with VOC. The champions, though, will be greatly heartened by having their first points under their belt, and this game may prove to be as tough a battle as this match-up produced last season. The Schiedammers’ batting was again heavily dependent on their two overseas players against ACC, and Brenton Parchment’s efforts with the new ball were equally crucial in enabling them to seize the initiative in the field. VOC’s batting is, if anything, in somewhat rockier shape, and while the attack has benefited from the acquisition of Noman Kamawa Pieter Seelaar’s side is still some way short of the title-winning form they mustered last season.
BdJ: A tough one to call, this, with both sides looking much diminished since their title-winning days. The loss of Umar baker to their opponents coupled with Max O’Dowd’s as yet unrewarding switch to leg-spin has left VOC looking far more vulnerable at home, where last season their spin attack ensured they didn’t lose a game. Excelsior do indeed look rather dependent on their two Jamaican overseas, but then both Ingram and Parchment have looked entirely dependable so far. The defection of Baker means Excelsior have arguably the stronger slow-bowling attack this season, and though the youth graduates that helped win them two titles in a row seem to be in a collective slump at the moment they will fancy their chances against a VOC side in the midst of a rebuild.
RL: ACC, on the other hand, return to Het Loopveld for a match against Sparta 1888 which should give them an early opportunity to make amends for last Saturday’s defeat. Their surprise win over Excelsior apart, Sparta have been far from impressive so far, and it has been the efforts of Max Hoornweg, with 14 wickets at 12.36, which have been their most significant plus point. Andrew Fletcher’s battle to adapt to Dutch conditions (which has yielded him just 50 runs in four innings) must be a genuine source of concern at the Bermweg, but he is too good a player for this to continue for long. Even while losing to Excelsior the Amsterdammers did enough to confirm that their position at the top was no flash in the pan: they have a varied attack, and although their top order was hustled out in short order, the Zulfiqar brothers and Shirase Rasool (a modified re-formation of last season’s popular folk group) are unlikely to succumb so easily a second time.
BdJ: As some predicted, ACC’s run of wins came to an end at first sight of a turf wicket, and doubtless the Amsterdammers will be happy to feel the familiar mat under their feet again on Thursday. Their new acquisitions in Jean Marais and especially Brady Barends have proven shrewd ones, though it is the marked improvement of youngsters Rasoole and Kumar that has done the most to lift ACC stocks this season. That said, one has the feeling that Sparta’s best cricket is yet to come, and they have looked competitive across most of their games even as their overseas failed to really fire. It is reasonable to assume that at some stage the performance of Fletcher especially is bound to revert to the mean, and there’s no reason Thursday shouldn’t be the day. And given that I’ve called every single ACC match wrong so far, they’ll doubtless be delighted to hear that I’m picking Sparta to spring an upset at het Loopveld.
RL: The third of the teams jockeying for position a game behind the leaders, HCC are at home to Voorburg, a contest which brings Tom de Grooth and Philippe Boissevain back to De Diepput in the unfamiliar role of visitors. With Tonny Staal running into excellent form against Quick on Saturday HCC did not need to turn to Adam Wiffen, and Voorburg might look envyingly at the relatively prolific batting line-up of the home side. One cannot escape the feeling, however, that Voorburg’s travails with the bat are a temporary phenomenon, and that before long an opposing attack will be on the receiving end of their return to form. Their attack, certainly, is strong enough to defend any half-decent total, and they almost succeeded in defending a decidedly indecent one against VOC at the weekend. HCC’s bowlers, though, have disposed of VRA and Quick on their last two outings, and they will start as favourites to repeat the trick on Thursday.
BdJ: There’s no word as yet on whether the finger injury Wiffen sustained last week will keep him out on Thursday, but it will be a major blow to HCC’s hopes if it does. Though Staal, Street and Itagi all have runs under their belt this season, the HCC middle order has looked brittle when it has been tested, and with Kingma and Glover sharing the new ball for VCC early wickets are a safe bet. The question remains whether they will have much to bowl at, as the Voorburg batting line-up has looked equally suspect when the top order has failed. Indeed despite the overseas reinforcements they have called in, VCC have missed Bas de Leede in the middle order more than many had anticipated.
RL: The holiday schedule means that Dosti United, free of competition from Saturday football fixtures, are able to entertain VRA at Sportpark Drieburg. It’s a vital match for both sides: Dosti are two games behind the leaders and need to avoid falling back further, while their visitors have yet to post a win and are much in need of their first points. Vikram Singh’s maiden Topklasse century will have given them a boost, but they need runs from Ben Cooper (9 runs in three innings so far) as well as from Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski if they are to set challenging totals. Dosti are still in second gear, but if their four overseas players – who played a decisive role in the win over Sparta on Saturday – all fire at once we can look forward to some spectacular cricket from a side which has the potential to be serious title contenders.
BdJ: Though slow starts are something of a VRA tradition, it’s beginning to look as if the Bos-dwellers have stalled in the blocks this season, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor. One would expect what is on paper a strong batting unit to come good eventually, Szwarczynski, Borren and now Singh all have decent scores this season, as does Cooper if one looks beyond the Topklasse, but the bowling is perhaps more of a worry. VRA’s attack has not come close to bowling a side out, having managed just 8 wickets in total across three matches so far. With newcomers Graber and Long still waiting for their first Topklasse wickets and Gunning and Turmaine both at less than their best, one suspects Thursday will see Taruwar Kohli add to his growing tally of Topklasse centuries. VRA remain too good a side to go winless for long, but they may well manage another few days.
Rod Lyall’s tips: HBS, Excelsior, ACC, HCC, Dosti.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HBS, Excelsior, Sparta, VCC, Dosti.