Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 06/06/19
Once again this week we have two rounds of matches in three days, with the normal Saturday fixtures followed by another set on Monday’s Pentecost holiday. The table may look a lot more settled by Monday evening – or, on the other hand, it may not.
RL: Back at the top of the table by virtue of a better net run rate, ACC travel to De Diepput to take on HCC. The Lions disappointed last week when the batting folded against Excelsior, but they had a significant plus point in the Topklasse debut of Raafiek Isaacs, who claimed four wickets, a contribution all the more valuable because of the absence of Ali Ahmed Qasim. ACC’s victory over VOC owed much to a superb innings from Sikander Zulfiqar, as well as to the opening onslaught of Brady Barends with the new ball. ACC have shown considerable consistency in the first month of the season, and if the top order of the brothers Saqib and Rehmat Zulfiqar and Shirase Rasool have been less productive in the past couple of weeks, others have done enough to keep them winning. HCC’s efforts have been much more fluctuating but they’re only one game behind, and if they can withstand Barends and Aryan Kumar early on they have the ability to give ACC a real run for their money.
BdJ: HCC have indeed blown rather hot and cold so far this season, and with a rather top-heavy batting line up could be particularly vulnerable to ACC’s new ball pair. Conversely the quality of the HCC top four is such that ACC will likely struggle if they fail to make early inroads. ACC’s top order will have their own worries too, facing the abovementioned Isaacs as well as an in-form Hidde Overdijk, who has already racked up 14 wickets with the new ball for HCC this season, as well as another six (and counting) for Netherlands A against Guernsey during the week. It may well come down to which of the sides weather the new ball with the fewest casualties.
RL: After losing to Voorburg last Saturday HBS Craeyenhout will be anxious to get back into a winning stride against Excelsior ‘20. By all accounts Voorburg’s win was testimony to the old-fashioned virtues of line and length, and Excelsior’s attack – with the exception of Brenton Parchment and Lorenzo Ingram – has not so far shown the same level of discipline. That said, the Schiedammers did well to cut through HCC’s batting last week, and if they can reproduce that sort of form they could give even HBS’s powerful top order some difficult moments. Ingram’s also in great form with the bat, though he could do with greater support from the rest of the batsmen. Roel Verhagen is struggling after coming back from injury, and HBS have the bowling – even if Ferdi Vink is unable to play – to cause Excelsior’s rather shaky line-up plenty of problems.
BdJ: Excelsior’s Ingram dependency seems to have gotten worse in the past two seasons. Of the promising young side that exceeded expectations to claim the title two seasons running just a couple of years ago, only Tim Etman seems to have even stayed still much less kicked on. Even with HBS on the back foot after last week’s defeat, Ingram will need more than a couple of Excelsior’s now fairly experienced home-grown core to step up and offer support if they are to keep the Crows at bay.
RL: The two sides which have been most greatly influenced by the rules change regarding overseas players, Dosti United and Voorburg, meet at Westvliet. Nominally a home game for Dosti, the game will be played at Voorburg’s ground because the Amsterdammers’ isn’t yet available on Saturdays owing to the extended football season. Dosti again lost chasing against Quick last week, and it may be that they are more comfortable setting a target than in pursuit of one – if so, this may be an important toss to win. Voorburg’s reversal of their fortunes against HBS was created by their impressive attack, but there are signs too that the arrival of Nic Smit has given more solidity to the batting order. A consistent run of good form could put either of these teams into the mix at the end of the season, and there will be few games in this competition where more talent will be on show.
BdJ: If VCC have proved vulnerable to collapse after Smit is out, it makes sense that they’d look a steadier outfit with two Smits rather than one. Conversely, given that Dosti are unlikely to be able call upon the services of the other Kohli any time soon, they will have to make do with the one they have. Taruwar Kohli remains their most reliable source of runs, but one suspects a solid score from him will be necessary but not sufficient for victory at Westvliet on Saturday. Taking a longer view, Dosti’s less celbrated batsmen will need to start stringing regular scores together if they are to mount a serious challenge at the top of the table, though with Kuldeep Diwan in fine form their already solid spin section now looks the strongest in the league, they cannot be expected to regularly hold their oppponents under 200. Voorburg’s own attack, spearheaded by Kingma and Glover, have looked capable of defending low scores on occasion, but not as low as the ones the batsmen have been posting. Though these two sides both boast enviable overseas contingents, it may nonetheless come down to who offers their pros the best support.
RL: Both VOC Rotterdam and Sparta 1888, who meet at Hazelaarweg in what used once to be the Rotterdam derby, experienced roller-coaster rides on Saturday: VOC fought their way back into their match against ACC only to be denied by Sikander Zulfiqar, while their visitors withstood a late rally by Peter Borren to secure the narrowest of victories against VRA. The defending champions are more dependent in their batting on internationals Max O’Dowd and Pieter Seelaar than they would like, and although Ashiqullah Said and Pierce Fletcher removed the top of ACC’s batting they were unable to press home the advantage. For Sparta, Mudassar Bukhari has played a crucial role recently with both bat and ball, but it was skipper Joost Martijn Snoep’s five-for which clinched the win against VRA. Where others, VOC not excepted, may be less than the sum of their parts just now, Sparta may be a little more. In a competition as tight as the Topklasse, that can be very important indeed.
BdJ: It’s remarkable how well Sparta’s season has gone despite the comparatively limited impact that their overseas have had so far, Bukhari, Max Hoornweg and now skipper Snoep’s performances ensuring they’ve been able to hang with the lower mid-table till now. Hazelaarweg is not the fortress it was last season, with VOC short ten, arguably twenty overs of reliable spin compared to last year. VOC’s three Dutch internationals were the only three to reach triple figures against ACC, and Max O’Dowd is the only VOC bat averaging over 30 so far. At first glance last year’s champions at home against last year’s 7th place finisher ought to see VOC start clear favourites, but I’d say the form book is rather more ambiguous for this encounter.
RL: It was predictable – and predicted – that the arrival of Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake would make a big difference to Quick Haag’s fortunes, but last Saturday’s victory over Dosti, defending a relatively modest total, was a fine team effort. Their next engagement is in the Amsterdamse Bos, where they face a VRA Amsterdam side which is still looking for a first win. There have been some epic matches between these sides over the years, and both have veterans of many of them: Geert Maarten Mol is still a key figure for Quick, as Borren is for VRA. The Amsterdammers have missed Eric Szwarczynski from their batting line-up in recent games, and although Ben Cooper’s century in a losing cause against Dosti last Thursday was a reminder of what he is capable of, VRA need more consistency from a batting order which has to compensate for an attack which is decidedly lacking in firepower.
BdJ: Game in hand or no, the Amsterdammers’ none-from-five record this season has gone rather beyond a slow start, and VRA are beginning to look like a side that’s flatlining. Borren aside, the batting has been flakey all season and the bowling broadly insipid. The absence of the unassuming but dependable Dan ter Braak at the top of the order seems to have unbalanced the batting more than anyone expected, whilst the decline with the ball is less explicable. The front-line bowlig attack is largely unchanged from last season barring the addition of Brandon Graber, but Quirijn Gunning and Leon Turmaine have both struggled for rhythm, and the top 20 wicket-takers for the season current features not a single VRA player. Having to do without Bista and Dake for their first few games seems to have galvanised Quick, and the Mumbaikers’ arrival makes them solid favourites in a match one might even have backed them to win in their absence.
Rod Lyall’s tips: ACC, HBS, Dosti, VOC, Quick.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, HBS, VCC, Sparta, Quick