Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 23/08/19
So we arrive at the denouement of this season’s Topklasse, the championship decided last week with Excelsior reclaiming the title with a convincing win over an understrength Dosti side, and all that remains to be resolved is which of Quick and Sparta will be replaced by Punjab Rotterdam next season.
BdJ: Sparta 1888 still need a win, a tie or a washout against HCC at Bermweg on Sunday to be sure of their Topklasse survival, having failed to put the question to bed when they sank to a 64-run loss against relegation rivals Quick Haag last week. Though Andrew Fletcher has finally found some form after a disappointing season, Max Hoornweg’s progress has proved sufficient to catch the eye of national selectors and Mudassar Bukhari is bowling as well as ever, going up against the second-placed HCC is an unenviable final fixture for a side in Sparta’s position. The Cappelle side has won just one match in the second half of the season, whilst HCC are six from eight. The form of Bryce Street has been a major factor in HCC’s success thus far, currently leading the batting averages as well as boasting 20 wickets and 15 catches so far this season. Adam Wiffen has had a fine season with the bat, and comes off a couple of solid performances for Netherlands A against Jersey in the past week. It’s been an all-round effort from HCC to keep in the title hunt for as long as they did however, and Sparta will have to hope that they arrive at Bermweg somewhat deflated after falling short in the quest for the championship.
RL: No question that HCC have the edge over Sparta, who were distinctly the weaker party in their match against Quick Haag last week. They do have a potential match-winner in Mudassar Bukhari, who shares the season’s leading wicket-taker spot with Dosti’s Kuldeep Diwaan at 32, and who remains a threatening presence in the batting line-up. Sparta are, of course, a tougher proposition at home, where their bowlers are a more imposing unit than elsewhere, but HCC’s batting is both strong and relatively deep; although Hidde Overdijk didn’t come off last Sunday he is also capable of scoring quickly should circumstances demand it. Sparta will want to ensure that events at Westvliet are irrelevant to their survival, but it will take a much improved effort if they are end their season with a win.
BdJ: Also in contention for the wooden spoon are Quick Haag, currently languishing at the bottom of the table on 9 points from 17 games. They will need both HCC to best Sparta on Sunday as well as taking two points home themselves when they face VCC at Westvliet. Their win over Sparta last week kept their hopes alive one more week, though it again rather underscored the importance of Jay Bista to the side. Though Bob van Gigch and Jeroen Brand came through with half-centuries in support, it was Bista’s six wickets in the second innings that sealed the win. That said, VCC will not have forgotten the 194 that the Mumbaiker racked up against them in their previous encounter. Though one might hope Quick will be the more motivated of the two sides come Sunday, VCC bounced back from a string of poor results to find an unlikely last ball win away at VRA last week, perhaps enjoying some cricket with the pressure off.
RL: One of the season’s great enigmas is Voorburg’s failure to have a more significant impact on their return to the Topklasse: they have undoubtedly missed the contribution of Bas de Leede, but their batting has consistently been unable to fulfil its promise and they have only intermittently shown what they ought to be capable of. Quick, on the other hand, demonstrated last week that even without Geert Maarten Mol they can produce a convincing effort when it is needed, and it will never be more acutely needed than it is this week at Westvliet. They could turn on another winning performance only to find that Sparta have squeezed them out; but they know that without such a performance it won’t matter what happens in Capelle. Voorburg have the bowlers to cut through Quick’s batting, but if the latter show the resilience they did against Sparta this is a relegation battle which could go all the way to the wire.
BdJ: Meanwhile VRA have the chance to put a bit of a downer on the party at Thurlede when they take on the newly-crowned <b.Excelsior ‘20. Despite a rather sloppy performance against VCC that saw them concede some 29 extras and eventually the game, they remain entirely capable of bringing the champions down to earth. The loss of Quirijn Gunning to injury takes some of the sting from the attack, but on the batting side of things the Amsterdammers are beginning to live up to their paper strength. Vikram Singh continues to mature, crossing 500 runs for the season last week and looking in good nick for Netherlands A, and together with Peter Borren and Ben Cooper VRA now have three players with 500 runs to their name, whilst Excelsior, quite remarkably, have none. That stat is of course something of a testament to Excelsior’s strength in the field, and indeed the Schiedam side has looked more than the sum of its parts throughout the season.
RL: Brenton Parchment and Lorenzo Ingram may have had relatively quiet seasons for Excelsior with the bat, but they are massive presences in the side, and their efforts in the field far outweigh their mere statistics. With skipper Tom Heggelman and Rens van Troost in great form with the ball the Schiedammers’ demolition of Dosti last week was a fitting climax to their pursuit of the title, but the whole team will be keen to ensure that the season doesn’t end in anti-climax at home to VRA. The Amsterdam side are, of course, extremely dependent on a few outstanding players, including the rapidly-emerging Singh, and their batting will provide a stiff test for Excelsior’s attack.
BdJ: What remains for the rest is mid-table positional play, though for last year’s champions VOC Rotterdam even a top-five finish is more than they can now hope for. They welcome fourth-placed HBS Craeyenhout to Hazelaarweg on Sunday, though one expects both sides will be more concerned with events the preceding day when they contest the final round of the T20 competition along with ACC and HCC. One suspects if one side or other can carry some momentum in from Saturday’s contest at VCC it may prove decisive for the final 50-over contest of the season for these two underperforming sides.
RL: Every game of cricket matters, or ought to, and there will at least be pride at stake when HBS take on VOC on Sunday. Some of the individual battles, too, are intriguing: HBS’s battery of seamers against O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards, for example, and Seelaar’s spin against that powerful HBS batting line-up. If that suggests that HBS have the edge in both departments that’s because they do, but if VOC’s international trio perform as they are capable of doing, or other key team-members like Dirk van Baren and Bobby Hanif play their part, then this could be a closer match than form indicates.
BdJ: And finally ACC, who rather fell away after making the early running in the Topklasse, will take on the wildly erratic Dosti-United at Het Loopveld, again largely for bragging rights. ACC staged something of a resurgence after their late season slump, besting HBS at De Diepput last week to ensure they’d finish top of the Amsterdam clubs this season, whilst Dosti collapsed to 61 all-out against Excelsior to hand the Schiedammers the title on a platter. Dosti were rather understrength last week, with Kohli long gone and Bali and Davids also absent, but there is little indication they will field a substantially stronger outfit come Saturday. Though both Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed have stepped up on occasion to produce some fine innings over the season, Dosti will need both to fire and the rest of the regulars to offer some support if they’re to finish on a high this season.
RL: It’s been a difficult season for Dosti, and not only in the Topklasse, and this was underlined very firmly by last week’s disappointing effort against Excelsior. With Amitoze Singh also missing from the teamsheet and Waheed Masood forced out of the attack after bowling just ten deliveries, the attrition of resources is reaching critical levels, while ACC’s roller-coaster season has at last seen the emergence of some of their younger talents, especially Aryan Kumar and, to a degree, Shirase Rasool. But Brady Barends has been the star of their show, and with the Zulfiqar brothers making runs last week they look a much more impressive outfit than they did a month or so ago.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, VCC, VRA, HBS, ACC
Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Quick, Excelsior, HBS, ACC.