Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 08/08/19
Three games to go and the Topklasse remains undecided at both ends of the table, though one of Sparta 1888 and Quick Haag is practically certain to finish bottom of the pile whilst Excelsior ‘20 have pulled away at the top, and may have a chance to claim the title this week with a win over HBS, should HCC lose to ACC.
BdJ: As it stands third-placed HBS Craeyenhout could theoretically still catch Excelsior, just three points ahead albeit from fewer completed matches. They will need to take the full two points back from Thurlede though, where Excelsior will be looking to claim a third title in four years in front of a home crowd. They will have to do so without skipper Toby Visée, who remains in Canada on duty with the Vancouver Knights at the GT20 (assuming the organisers manage to head off an incipient player strike.) Even without him they still have the best-performing top order in the league however, with Sharn Gomes, Zac Elkin and Wesley Barresi occupying the top three spots in the run tables, and have the hitting power to take a disciplined Excelsior fielding unit out of the equation. Conditions at Thurlede are unlikely to really suit HBS even without the factor of a fired-up home crowd, but nonetheless the Crows are probably the toughest assignment still on Excelsior’s agenda. The Schiedammers likely only need one more win to grab this year’s title, but HBS will at least be looking to make them wait another week.
RL: Both these sides are at their best batting first, though for different reasons: HBS because the strength of their top order consistently sets big targets, Excelsior because they specialise in defending modest ones. So this will be an unusually important toss, and whoever wins it will strike a significant blow for his side. Excelsior will have been boosted by Brenton Parchment’s first Topklasse half-century last Sunday, and the bowling managed to dismiss HCC’s challenge without a contribution from Rens van Troost. On the other hand, attention for the powerful HBS batting line-up has tended to distract from the achievements of their bowling unit, which has been very effective much of the time. This should be a really interesting game, hopefully better than the damp squib we saw at De Diepput last week.
BdJ: Equally capable of frustrating Excelsior’s celebrations are second-placed HCC, who travel to het Loopveld to take on ACC, now out of contention. The Amsterdammers have faltered somewhat after a strong start to the season, and the departure of Jean Marais has left their top-order looking short of stability, as evidenced by their remarkable collapse against VOC last week. The league’s lead wicket-taker Brady Barends has taken over Marais’ role at the top of the order, batting through ACC’s innings last Sunday for an unbeaten 65, but received little support from the rest of the line-up. With little left to play for the pressure will be off the Amsterdammers come Sunday at least, and HCC themselves had a less than stellar performance with the bat in the previous round. Yet HCC remain Excelsior’s nearest rivals for good reason, and with VOC and Sparta to look forward to have an easier run at the back end than the current table-toppers. With a first title in over a decade still in sight, fair to say HCC will be the side with the most to gain.
RL: Perhaps ACC should indeed push Barends up the order (he actually batted at eight last week, and eventually ran out of partners), since the departure of Marais leaves a considerable gap. 11 for five was exceptional, but the Amsterdammers have had only three really good starts so far and the fragility of their top order was disguised for a time by their overall performances and their early position at the head of the table. HCC are a better side than they showed against Excelsior, and in Hidde Overdijk, Ali Ahmed Qasim, Olivier Klaus and Bryce Street they have a seam attack which is at least as capable as VOC’s of creating havoc against a rocky batting side. Form says that the Lions will start as favourites, but Het Loopveld is never a comfortable place to visit, and ACC will doubtless be keen to convince their own crowd that last Sunday’s debacle was an unhappy one-off.
BdJ: At the other end of the table Quick Haag will be looking to get their fourth win on the board when they take on the now-safe VRA at Nieuw Hanenburg, looking to steal a march on relegation rivals Sparta ahead of their crucial clash next week. Once again Quick have looked reliant on Jay Bista and Geert Mol to keep their top-flight survival hopes alive, and the former’s relatively modest form (at least compared to last season) has left them staring down the barrel. VRA meanwhile have improved markedly since their horror start to the season, and will start the day as firm favourites. Questions about Haseeb Gul’s fitness are a worry however, especially in light of patchy performances from the rest of the attack through the summer. The batting likewise has been over-reliant on Peter Borren and Ben Cooper, though with both enjoying a fine run of form leading into the game a VRA win still looks the most likely outcome.
RL: There have been some classic matches between these sides in the past, but Quick’s miserable form this season suggests that – a sudden reversal excepted – this seems unlikely to be another. VRA’s own reversal has carried them towards the middle of the table, and having disposed of Sparta last week they will be keen to do the same against Quick. As always, much will depend on whether they can dismiss Jay Bista early on; if they don’t, he is capable to taking full advantage of a fairly limited VRA attack. He does, of course, need people to stay with him, and so far that’s mostly been either Geert Maarten Mol or Bobby van Gigch. The fact that Quick’s younger generation has so far failed to fire is one of the bleakest aspects of their situation; VRA may not have a squadron of youngsters, but they do have Vikram Singh, whose contribution to their recovery shouldn’t be underestimated.
BdJ: With just a single point advantage over Quick, Sparta 1888 remain in serious jeopardy too, though a win over VOC this Sunday would be a significant step toward securing safety. They will at least be back to something approaching full strength when they welcome the European Champions to Bermweg after fielding a rather ad-hoc side against VRA last week, but the departure of Garnett Tarr still leaves a serious hole in the batting order. Though VOC’s attitude in the Topklasse has been somewhat cavalier since their chances of mounting a serious title defence receded mid-season, the Rotterdammers’ trio of Dutch internationals continue to prove a match-winning combination. With Bobby Hanif back and leading the attack in the absence of Pierce Fletcher, taking two points off VOC remains a tough proposition.
RL: VOC’s ruthless demolition of ACC sets them up for their visit to the Bermweg, while Sparta know that two points here would give them a valuable cushion for their clash with Quick on 18 August. Sparta’s Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman are two more veterans who have played a key role for their side this year, but it’s asking a lot for them to neutralise the effect of O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards, and although Andrew Fletcher has seemed a little more at ease of late, he has yet to turn in a match-winning performance. This wouldn’t be a bad time to do it, but the odds surely favour a VOC side who look stronger in both batting and bowling than their relegation-threatened hosts.
BdJ: The round’s final match sees Voorburg welcome Dosti-United to Westvliet, both sides looking destined for a mid-table finish after disappointing seasons. Fifth-placed Dosti are merely jostling for position at this point, long out of contention and danger, but Voorburg remain at least arithmetically at risk of a return to the Hoofdklasse if every remaining result goes against them. With Dosti’s Taru Kohli and Kuldeep Diwan done for the summer, VCC will sense an opportunity to put those fears to bed on Sunday. Widely tipped as title contenders ahead of the season, VCC have unquestionably underperformed, most markedly with the bat. Without a single batsman among the top 20 run-scorers this season, VCC have relied on occasional individual contributions from their inconsistent top-order to get scores on the board. Should nobody step up on Sunday they may go at least another week uncertain of their survival, or hope one of VRA or VOC do the job for them.
RL: The two sides whose performances on the field contrast most starkly with their strength on paper, Voorburg and Dosti have both lost players to the immigration rules in recent weeks. Yet both still have plenty of proven match-winners: Dosti’s Anees Davids and, on his day, Waheed Masood can unsettle any batting order, while the same obviously applies to Brandon Glover and Viv Kingma, although the latter has been below his best lately. That might suggest a low-scoring encounter, but if Abhinav Bali or Nic Smit gets going, there might be some lacquered leather to be chased as well. And if Westvliet plays anything like as well as it did for Tuesday’s T20 International, it will offer both batsmen and bowlers plenty of opportunities. A difficult one to pick, this, but with Vinoo Tewarie also among the runs I’m going with Dosti to shade it.
BdJ’s tips: HBS, HCC, VRA, VOC, VCC.
RL’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, VRA, VOC, Dosti.