Rod Lyall 25/07/19
Whatever you think about the current competition structure – and I have reservations about several aspects of it – you have to admit that this season’s Topklasse is providing the most enthralling battle at both ends of the table that we have seen for some time.
At least three sides are still in with a real chance of winning the championship, while in the lower reaches, although there are two main candidates for relegation, there are a further three who still need at least one more win to ensure that they will be playing Topklasse cricket next year.
The equations are, of course, complicated by the fact that teams have played differing numbers of games, and that the table is therefore determined by average rather than absolute points.
So Excelsior ’20 may currently be three points ahead of their nearest rivals, but since they have played one match more than HCC it’s the difference in the average points (0.12) which is the true margin.
This makes it correspondingly more difficult to calculate how much the leaders will need to do in order to be sure of taking the title, especially since in a summer like this one there’s no guarantee that more matches won’t be lost to the weather.
What we can say, however, is that if Excelsior win all four of their remaining games, they will finish with a points average of 1.71, while the best HCC can do is 1.63.
If Excelsior were to lose just one match, though, they would finish on 1.59 – and that makes the clash between the Schiedammers and HCC at De Diepput on 4 August one of the many four-pointers which are scattered through the coming weeks’ programme.
By the same token, HCC’s away match against ACC the following week is likely to be crucial as well: by winning all four of their remaining games ACC could finish on 1.53, just ahead of HCC even if they won their other three matches, but then they would need Excelsior to have lost two games if they were to become champions.
HBS Craeyenhout, despite their recent defeats, are not mathematically out of the race, but the odds are decidedly not in their favour: not only would they need to win all their remaining matches, including victories over Excelsior (11 August) and ACC (18 August), but they would need Excelsior to lose two further games, and HCC also to lose twice.
At the other end of the table, VRA Amsterdam’s four wins on the trot before their defeat by Dosti United on Sunday have thrown the relegation battle wide open, with just two wins separating current wooden-spooners Quick Haag from Voorburg, in sixth place.
The average points gap is greater than that would suggest, at 0.40, but there are so many matches between the lower sides scheduled for the run in that one is very quickly overwhelmed by possible scenarios.
To take Quick first: of their four games still to play, two are against the sides immediately above them in the table, VRA (11 August) and Sparta 1888 (18 August).
Both are therefore of huge significance if Quick are to escape the drop to the Hoofdklasse.
Sparta 1888 will also meet two of their closest rivals: VRA (4 August) and Quick (18 August), with the latter game perhaps being the one which finally decides which team is relegated.
For those immediately above Quick and Sparta, there is the comfort of knowing that it would now take a marked reversal of form by both of those teams to bring their own status into question.
Just one more win by Voorburg, VOC or VRA would mean that Sparta would have to win three out of four to have any chance of overtaking them, and since both VOC and VRA are due to play the Capelle side they do to a great extent have the outcome in their own hands.
For Quick Haag it’s an ever bigger ask: as well as Sparta, they still have to play Dosti, VRA and VOC, and even three wins would probably only bring them level on points with their rivals, and with a worse points average.
The truth is that it would take an extraordinary combination of events for anyone other than either Sparta or Quick to be relegated, and that their encounter on 18 August will likely be the four-pointer to end all four-pointers.
One thing is certain: we’re in for a more interesting (and for some nerve-wracking) August than many recent seasons have provided.