Rod Lyall 02/08/19
After the usual end-of-July week off, this year a busman’s holiday for VOC Rotterdam and for the youngsters engaged in Under-19 WCQ duty, the Topklasse resumes on Sunday, in the midst of a four-match T20I series against the United Arab Emirates. We understand that the national squad members have been released for Sunday’s matches, although the bowlers are supposed to be limited to five overs apiece. Oh, and it’s the time of year when, as visas begin to expire, overseas players start to return home.
Against this background, leaders Excelsior ‘20 travel to De Diepput to take on their main challengers, HCC. As others have faltered these two sides have emerged as the season’s most consistent, and this promises to be one of the most absorbing matches of the year, as well as one of the most significant. An Excelsior victory would extend the gap between the sides to five points and effectively put the title out of reach for the Hagenaars, but Tonny Staal’s men have the all-round ability to keep themselves in the hunt against an Excelsior outfit which, for all its consistency, has needed some determined performances in the field to defend disappointing efforts with the bat. The outcome may depend on which side’s local players step up at this crucial point in the competition.
Fresh from their triumph in the inaugural ‘European Champions League’ in La Manga, VOC Rotterdam return to reality for their encounter at Hazelaarweg with the other principal contenders for the title, ACC. And they will, we understand, do so without Pierce Fletcher, further weakening an attack which has struggled all season. For ACC, no less than for HCC, a win here is absolutely vital if they are to retain a chance of snatching the championship, and they will be hoping that they can recapture the dominating form which took them to the top of the table in the first half of the season. To do that they will need their top five to take full advantage of VOC’s limitations with the ball, while at the same time finding a way of containing O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards.
Among the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, one thing is certain: HBS Craeyenhout will be without skipper Tobias Visée when they take on Voorburg on the second ground at De Diepput. He, of course, is in Canada, and his side will undoubtedly miss the mayhem he so often creates among opposing attacks. Their opponents will be without Matt Smit, but will still have his brother Nic, who has provided a solid core in what has all too frequently been a disappointingly irresolute batting line-up. Who else plays, and under what limitations, remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that an HBS defeat here would definitively end whatever thin theoretical hope they might have of remaining in the title race. A fairer assessment would be that this is really a mid-table clash where pride and individual reputations are at stake rather than any larger issues.
The delayed arrival of Quick Haag’s two Indian players may now turn out to their advantage, locked as they are in a tight relegation battle with Sparta. Every match that these two sides play in the coming month will be vital, and Quick will travel to Sportpark Drieburg on Sunday knowing that they really need to raise their game against Dosti United. As so often, the contribution of Jay Bista will provide a crucial subplot: if he fires Quick will be in contention, but should Dosti remove him early their chances of claiming the points will be greatly improved. How many of Dosti’s overseas contingent remain will also be a factor: one late arrival who could balance Bista is Abhinav Bali, who has shown that he can give his side plenty of momentum in the initial powerplay.
With one point from their last five games Sparta 1888 badly need some good news, their fortunes since the turn contrasting unfavourably with those of Peter Borren’s resurgent VRA Amsterdam. Favourites (if that’s the right word) for relegation for the first half of the season, VRA have climbed way from the foot of the table, and a win in the Amsterdamse Bos this Sunday would further enhance their prospects of remaining in the top flight. Vikram Singh returns from a more successful Under-19 qualifier than many of his national team-mates, and with their combination of youth and experience VRA seem likely to be too strong for a Sparta side more dependent than ever on old stagers Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman.
Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, ACC, Voorburg, Dosti, VRA.