Bertus de Jong 09/06/19
Capping off a frenetic fortnight for the Topklasse, the 8th round of Topklasse matches kick off on Monday – the fourth round in ten days. Despite two of yesterday’s matches falling victim to the elements, the table is nonetheless taking on a recognisable shape, with the field beginning to sort itself into title contenders and relegation candidates.
Of the former, front-runners ACC are set to take on nearest rivals HBS at het Loopveld in what looks likely to be the round’s headliner, weather permitting. ACC’s game against HCC at de Diepput was called off early in sodden conditions, so they have been two rounds now without a win. After a five match winning streak the Amsterdammers were handed their first defeat by Excelsior the week before, and HBS suffered similarly at the hands of the Schiedammers yesterday losing and abbreviated 30-over encounter in the final over. The Crows’ top order did a decent job for them, with the top four all looking in decent nick, but the bowling unit struggled in the face of Excelsior’s Jamaican combination, unable to defend 195. Wesley Barresi’s off-spin has come a long way since he passed on the gloves, and Julian de Mey has improved markedly, but the HBS spin attack remains more serviceable that intimidating. ACC lack an equivalent to the Ingram-Parchment partnership however, despite the strides made by Shirase Rasool and the acquisition of Jean Marias. It has been a joint effort with the bat from ACC that has got them this far, but they will nonetheless be looking to Brady Barends, currently the league’s leading wicket-taker, to spike HBS’ top-order guns early if they are not to come up short.
Keeping pace with the top two, and the only side to have beaten both, Excelsior ‘20 welcome 6th-placed Dosti-United to Thurlede tomorrow hoping to rack up their sixth win. Dosti’s match against Voorburg at Westvliet was abandoned yesterday as high winds kept blowing the sightscreens over, and conditions were consequently judged impossible for play. In the two sides most recent encounter, at Thurlede last season, Dosti skittle the hosts for just 81 after Wahid Masood pinned Ingram LBW for a six-ball duck. Now, as then, Excelsior have looked alarmingly reliant on the Jamaican all-rounder together with his newly-arrived compatriot. It is perhaps a little reductionist to luck at this game as Kohli and Diwan vs Ingram and Parchment, and the result may come down to which of the two sides offer their overseas the greatest support, but solid showings from the pros will likely be at least a necessary, if not necessarily sufficient condition for victory.
Meanwhile mid-table 4th-placed HCC head over to Hazeleaarweg to take on VOC, who completed a 126-run trouncing of Sparta at the same ground yesterday, bouncing back from 53-4 to post 204 thanks to Jelte Schoonheim’s counter-attacking 66, and then ran through Sparta for just 78. The Rotterdammers will be heartened by the performance of Pierce Fletcher, Ashiqullah Said and Rami Upadhyaya, each of whom picked up three wickets in the rout. VOC’s bowling remains their weaker suit however as they rebuild after the loss of Klassen and Baker. With Wiffen, Itagi and Street all in the runs for HCC, and Hidde Overdijk in fine form with the ball both in HCC’s yellow and in Orange, the Hagenaars have reason to be optimistic as they take on the defending champions.
As we head down-table, both Sparta 1888 and their opponents Quick Haag have had just a day to recover from their respective defeats at the hands of VOC and VRA on Saturday. Quick had at least looked in decent form against last year’s runners-up, and might have taken the points had Jay Bista managed to make another century. As it happened he fell for 75, and collapse ensued. Though arguably the best bat in the league, Bista is too often put under pressure by the slow scoring of the rest of the Quick line-up, and cannot be expected to both anchor the innings and drive the scoring. He has nonetheless proved of more use to his side than Sparta’s overseas, Andrew Fletcher especially looking like the season might be half-over by the time he acclimatises to Dutch conditions. Though Sparta’s local boys have stepped up on occasion and Garnett Tarr has settled in rather better than his senior colleague, they cannot continue to carry a misfiring pro with any success. Conversely, should Fletcher find his feet Sparta would suddenly look a competitive outfit. Dost Mohammad’s four wicket on return to the team was the only real positive Sparta could take from yesterday’s shambles, and if he can line up alongside Max Hoornweg and Mudassar Bukhari Sparta’s attack takes on an intimidating character. Whether they can contain or remove Bista, however, is a different question.
The day’s final encounter sees incumbent wooden spooners VRA head down to Westvliet to take on newly-promoted VCC who have rather failed to live up to their pre-season hype. With yesterday’s game blown out, their win over HBS last week remains only their second victory of the season. The arrival of a second Smit has appreciably strengthened the batting however, and against VRA’s under-performing attack they may not need to worry too much about their brittle lower-middle order. Probably more of a concern for VCC is VRA’s batting card, even if Peter Borren is the only VRA bat to find any consistent form the Amsterdammer’s order is comparatively deep and dangerous. Though with Kingma and (county trials permitting) Brandon Graber opening the bowling early wickets are always on the cards, that may not be enough to restrict VRA. That said, VRA occupy the bottom spot for good reason, having lacked consistency with the bat and penetration with the ball all season. Newcomers Tom Long and Matt Lake have yet to convince at Topklasse level, and with Haseeb Gul and Quirijn Gunning both likely out injured, the VRA bowling especially looks rather thin.
Bertus de Jong’s picks: Sparta, VCC, Dosti, HBS, HCC