Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 29/05/19
Hard on the heels of the Ascension Day round tomorrow, all ten teams will be back in action on Saturday for the second set of games in the of the four-round fortnight. With only a single day to recover after Thursday’s games, one would expect the momentum carried forward from the Ascension round results to perhaps weigh more heavily for Round 6, but at time of writing those results are not yet decided.
BdJ: Should things go against them at Dosti on Thursday, VRA will still be winless after 4 matches, and almost out of contention already when they head down to Bermweg to take on Sparta 1888. Sparta’s own position may be little better, with just a single win from the four matches they’ve played so far and a tough assignment against second-placed ACC on Thursday. Both sides will thus be looking for a win as much to get out of relegation danger as to keep their title hopes alive. On paper VRA have by a distance the better record in the competition, and won the last encounter between the two sides by ten wickets after bowling Sparta out for 138 at Amstelveen last season. Sparta had the best of their last encounter at Bermweg, however, Mudassar Bukhari bagging a five-fer as VRA were bundled out for 148. With neither side really playing to their ability so far this season, one could easily envisage either result this time round.
RL: This is indeed what looks like being one of many four-pointers in this season’s competition, albeit at the wrong end of the table for both sides. Sparta are, of course, missing Dost Muhammad and Faisal Iqbal from the team that played in those games last year, but that is compensated to a considerable degree by the emergence of Max Hoornweg, who has taken eleven wickets in his last two games. On the other side of the equation, Vikram Singh’s century last week will have given him great confidence, even if batsmen tend to find the Bermweg a ground where runs are hard to come by. Sparta’s attack looks better placed to take full advantage of those conditions, although if Quirijn Gunning returns to his best form he could cause the home side’s batsmen plenty of problems too.
BdJ: Over at Nieuw Hanenburg Quick Haag will welcome Dosti-United in a mid-ish-table clash, depending on Thursday’s results of course. With Bista and Dake into their second match by then and Rupert Young having been persuaded to stay on a while longer Quick suddenly look an altogether more imposing outfit, at least on paper. Dosti are likewise a stronger outfit than last season however, Kuldeep Diwan especially looking a judicious addition to the side and the relaxation of overseas limits has allowed Singh to come up to the firsts full-time. With the bat at least one would think Taru Kohli at least balances out Jay Bista, and the Dosti home-grown top-order has shown themselves capable of offering more reliable support than has Quick’s.
RL: For teams like Dosti putting together a consistent series of performances is vital to their prospects of being in the title mix come August, and the four games between Ascension Day and Pentecost are a crucial test. The same applies to Quick Haag, although their first priority at the moment will no doubt be to get themselves well clear of the relegation zone. The Amsterdammers were unable to take full advantage of their previous outing on an artificial outfield, against HBS a couple of weeks ago, but Quick’s new surface should suit Kohli and their other stroke-players, not least Rahil Ahmed and Vinoo Tewarie. For the home side, a lot will depend on how quickly (no pun intended) Bista and Dake are able to settle in and start producing match-winning performances, thus taking some of the pressure off the old-established warhorses like Lesley Stokkers and Geert Maarten Mol.
BdJ: Current table-toppers HBS Craeyenhout meanwhile head to Westvliet to take on Voorburg, who have struggled rather on their return to the top flight, despite a fair bit of expectation resting on what on paper remains one of the strongest sides in the league. The batting, especially, has been a weak point for VCC, with Tom de Grooth struggling at the top of the order and Matt Smit’s wicket generally signalling a rapid collapse. Coming up against an HBS side on a roll with a top order in belligerent form, much will depend on VCC opening bowlers Glover and Kingma finding quick wickets, especially that of the destructive Toby Visée.
RL: Voorburg’s batting will be reinforced from Thursday by the arrival of another Smit, in the person of Matt’s brother Nick, and this may help to reverse what has been a surprising dip in their fortunes. On the other hand, Brandon Glover has reportedly attracted notice in England, so strengthening the batting may be balanced by a diminution in the effectiveness of the attack. The Westvliet side might now be content with a position solidly in the middle of the table, but HBS have their eyes on loftier goals, and will need to avoid potential banana-skins like this one if those goals are to be realised. They have melded into a very well-balanced unit since their return to the top flight, and after falling a little short last season they show every sign of going a step or two further this year.
BdJ: Also at the top end of the table HCC face their first test on turf as they take on Excelsior ‘20 at Thurlede. It will be interesting to see whether the in-form Tonny Staal’s time in Australia will help him shake off his reputation as a mat specialist, and if Adam Wiffen is indeed sidelined for these games then a good portion of HCC’s hopes on Saturday may hinge on Staal’s fortunes, together with those of Bryce Street and Bharat Itagi. Excelsior themselves have again looked rather dependent on Lorenzo Ingram and now newcomer Brenton Parchment this season so far, though Tim Etman and Tom Heggelman have chipped in handily with bat and ball at times. The fact that the Schiedammers are three from four despite playing below their best so far nonetheless suggests they deserve the label favourites come Saturday, especially if HCC are without Wiffen.
RL: This looks like the match of the day this Saturday, and it’s definitely another four-pointer as things stand. Excelsior skipper Tom Heggelman has plenty of options in the field, with Parchment augmenting a seam department in which Heggelman himself, Sohail Bhatti and Rens van Troost, even with the last-named struggling for control, are an effective strike force. With Umar Baker joining Ingram as a front-line spinner the attack is as good as any in the competition. The visitors’, though, also has plenty of power, even if they can’t match Excelsior’s spinners. In batting, even with the possible absence of Wiffen, the sides are evenly matched, and a fascinating battle is in prospect. Knowledge of their own turf may turn things Excelsior’s way in the end.
BdJ: In the round’s final match 2018 champions VOC Rotterdam head to Het Loopveld to take on ACC, looking understrength and undercooked. The Rotterdammers picked up their first win last week against a stuttering Voorburg, though they managed to make a meal of a modest target, losing 7 wickets chasing just 136. The addition of Belgian internationals Noman Kamawi and Ashiqullah Said has gone some way to plugging the hole left in the bowling by the loss of Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker, but they can no longer rely on regularly restricting opponents to sub-200 scores as they did last season. As such more pressure will fall on the top order, which to date has failed to really deliver. Coming up against an ACC side which, despite suffering its first reversal on Saturday, looks to be stronger than ever, VOC will need to find a new winning formula and fast.
RL: Cricket is a game of character, and both these sides have something to prove. ACC will need to bounce back quickly from last Saturday’s reversal, and by the time they toss at Het Loopveld this week we’ll know whether they’ve been able to do so (as by any measure they can be expected to) against Sparta on Thursday. VOC’s issues are on a larger scale: their personnel changes are more substantial than most other teams’, and they need to string together a series of improved performances to avoid the indignity of going from champions one season to relegation contenders the next. Even with their losses they have enough quality in their side to claim a mid-table position, but they need internationals Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards and Pieter Seelaar to create a solid core in their batting line-up, providing their diminished attack with greater cover.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VRA, Dosti, HBS, Excelsior, ACC
Rod Lyall’s tips: VRA, Dosti, HBS, Excelsior, ACC.