Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 22/06/19
With the season half-done, the traditional opening fixture reversal is upon us. Also upon us, as some have noted with indignation, are the first international fixtures of the Summer, the Dutch national team making a good start to their four-match ODI/T20I series against Zimbabwe with outstanding wins at Deventer on Wednesday and Saturday. Such elevated international goings-on are usually rather above our pay grade here at TK of course, except that the scheduling of the first T20I on Sunday afternoon means the 13 players called up for Oranje will not be available this round. Such clashes are something of a rarity in Dutch cricket, where the national team’s sparse schedule has in the past made them easy to avoid, though they are likely to become more common in future as the international fixture list grows from “barely there” to “comparatively light.”
Whether Sunday’s availability issues merit the dread term competitievervalsing perhaps depends on your (sense of) perspective, it may equally be said that where you stand depends on where you sit. If, for example, you’re sat at Drieburg or de Diepput, one imagines it’s comparatively easy to be sanguine about it, less so at at Craeyenhout or Hazelaarweg, with some sides being significantly hit and others not at all.
BdJ: Without question the most affected are VOC Rotterdam who travel to Drieburg to take on Dosti-United. VOC will make the trip to Amsterdam under the leadership of Jelte Schoonheim, who will be standing in for regular skipper Pieter Seelaar. Also on national duty are Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards, leaving VOC without their captain, keeper and two lead run-scorers. Dosti meanwhile are entirely unscathed by the decimation perpetrated upon the Topklasse by the national selection committee, and even with Taruwar Kohli currently looking comparatively out of form should fancy their chances of having the best of the mid-table encounter. They managed to sneak a one-run win in the season opener against a full-strength VOC despite Kohli contributing just 3 runs, and have at least shown they can win on occasion without him, if not with any consistency.
RL: If we try to think about these things positively, it’s an opportunity for players who usually have a secondary role to step up and prove their worth to the team. In VOC’s case, the attack will, of course, be weakened by the absence of Seelaar, but it’s the batting which will be especially tested. That said, the Dosti attack is hardly fearsome, and if Schoonheim’s depleted side can bat the fifty overs it could be an interesting contest. For Dosti, though, this looks like a great opportunity to harvest two much-needed points.
BdJ: Also passed over by the scouring hand of Campbell are Quick Haag and Excelsior ‘20 who will both be undiminished when they meet at Nieuw Hanenburg on Sunday. Excelsior won their rain-abbreviated opening encounter by four wickets with 14 balls to spare, the increasingly impressive David Woutersen getting them to the 147-run target with 31 from 33 balls from number 6, but then Quick were without overseas Dake and Bista. Bista’s presence will be Excelsior’s biggest worry, coming off the back of a titanic 194 against a much vaunted VCC attack last week. Though Excelsior will doubtless be relieved that their own pace spearhead, Sohail Bhatti, has once again been inexplicably overlooked by the national selectors, they will nonetheless be hoping the persistent rumours of Bista’s return to Mumbai prove better founded than they did last week.
RL: Although Bista has been justifiably attracting most of the attention, Prathamesh Dake’s addition to the attack has also been a key factor in Quick’s recent performances. Nor should we underestimate the contribution made by evergreen allrounder Geert Maarten Mol. If they, with or without Bista, can again cut through Excelsior’s top order then we could be in for an absorbing battle; otherwise Quick’s somewhat brittle batting may struggle to match the visitors’ run-scoring capabilities. And it seems likely that Lorenzo Ingram and Branton Parchment will relish the artificial Nieuw Hanenburg outfield.
BdJ: Also passing unreduced through the winnowing fan of national duty are Sparta 1888 who will be spared having to face either of Voorburg CC’s first pick opening bowlers, with Viv Kingma and Brandon Glover both called up. Perhaps then a chance for Sparta’s chronically underperforming Andrew Fletcher to make fresh start with the bat for the second half of the season. Sparta have muddled through without him thus far, but only VRA’s horror season has kept either of these sides out of serious relegation danger so far. With five teams on six points as it stands though, two points today would go a long way to calming nerves.
RL: Sparta have indeed crafted some surprising wins through the contributions not only of the invaluable Mudassar Bukhari, but also of Max Hoornweg and Joost Martijn Snoep. The Bermweg, too, is never an easy place to visit, and the Spartans will be hoping that they can get the jump on a Voorburg side which was distinctly a better outfit – even without Kingma – than they on the season’s opening day. It was the batting which gave Voorburg the edge that day, and the batting is essentially unaffected by international duty. If they perform to their potential, which is admittedly a fairly big if on recent form, Voorburg might well prove too strong again, even without their new-ball pairing.
BdJ: Meanwhile at de Diepput HCC will be happy not to have to bowl at Wesley Barresi this time round, after his unbeaten, 93-ball, 126 sunk them in their opening match at Craeyenhout. Also missing from HBS roster will be skipper Tobias Visée, also on national duty on Sunday and now likely to miss two more matches in early August having been picked up by the Vancouver Knights in the Canada Global T20 league. Conversely, Adam Wiffen’s bad luck at missing out on selection is his side’s good fortune, especially should he repeats his century-hitting efforts from the two sides’ last encounter. That said, HBS have a degree of depth in their batting, Sharn Gomes especially looking in good nick, and though they may be low on fireworks without Barresi and Visée they will be no pushovers.
RL: The absence of Visée and Barresi would be significant for any side, and with Ferdi Vink still out of the attack as well this will be a stern test for HBS. Their title hopes have taken a blow or two in recent weeks, while HCC have produced a series of solid performances when the weather has permitted. With two home games rained off in the past two weeks they may be a little rusty, but they are a well-balanced side who would be equipped to trouble even a full-strength HBS. Hidde Overdijk has been in great form with the ball, and with Tonny Staal and Bryce Street making runs, you have to think that the home side may have the edge here.
BdJ: Also skipperless will be table-toppers ACC when they make the short trip down the Kalfjeslaan to take on runaway wooden spoon favourites VRA. Whilst losing captain and lead wicket-taker Saqib Zulfiqar is a blow for ACC, VRA will probably miss Ben Cooper at least as much. The VRA batting has been shaky all season and taking Cooper out of it leaves a hole they don’t have the bench strength to fill, and these days deprives them of their second spinner too. That Cooper’s admittedly perfectly serviceable off-spin is so regularly called upon by skipper Peter Borren is itself a testament to the paucity of VRA’s bowling stocks, whilst Borren’s own return to the captaincy suggests that the threat of relegation is perhaps now being taken seriously at the Bos.
RL: If a serious relegation-avoiding campaign is to get under way at VRA, there could be no more satisfying spot to begin it than the traditional Amsterdam derby. It’s been a long time since these clubs went into the fixture with ACC top of the table and VRA bottom, and it must be acknowledged that both positions are a fair reflection of the sides’ efforts so far. ACC, like HCC, have been the surprise-packets of the season until now, and logic says that they will take another step towards their title goal on Sunday. But this is the Topklasse, and if anyone can craft a win from nowhere it’s Peter Borren.
Bertus de Jong’s picks: Dosti, Excelsior, VCC, HCC, ACC.
Rod Lyall’s picks: Dosti, Quick, VCC, HCC, VRA.