Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 16/07/20
We’re still just two rounds into the 2020 Topklasse season, but with only seven games to go the early running carries rather more weight than it would under normal circumstances, and as we look ahead to round three the table is already starkly divided between winners and losers, with five teams undefeated and five yet to put a point on the board.
BdJ: At the top of the table by virtue of net run rate are Sparta 1888 courtesy their demolition of VOC last week, though their position remains somewhat precarious as a wash-out at Thurlede in the opening round means their lead is based only on that single game. They take on the still-winless ACC on Sunday away at Het Loopveld and will be looking to consolidate against an experimental Amsterdam side that’s missing the majority of their 2019 first XI. Nonetheless the Amsterdammers can be expected to put up stiffer resistance than did VOC last week, with the new opening pair of Burnett and McInerney having shown their quality in the first game, and Ramesh and Potdar demonstrating that the middle order is not entirely hollowed out when the new openers failed last week. Sparta remain favourites going into the game, but expect a closer contest than we saw on Sunday.
RL: Poor as VOC were last Sunday, the Sparta bowlers were seriously impressive on their own patch, getting good movement and never easing the pressure through the 24 overs of their opponents’ innings. Het Loopveld is another venue which is traditionally bowler-friendly, and they will go into this game with plenty of confidence; as m’learned colleague observes, however, ACC are likely to be less of a pushover than VOC, especially if Burnett and McInerney manage to avoid the fate that befell them at Voorburg. If 2020 is mostly a nursery for the future, it is the growing maturity of players like Sparta’s Max Hoornweg and ACC’s Shreyas Potdar which is the most significant feature of this season, and their fortunes will be followed closely on Sunday and beyond.
BdJ: Likewise a tougher game to call will be HCC’s match against Voorburg at Westvliet. Both sides are still undefeated thus far, though neither have looked exactly dominant either. VCC were given something of a scare by ACC last week, needing Philippe Boissevain to pull them back from the brink after a top order collapse threatened to squander the good work of Bas de Leede and Rigchardt Pieterse at the top of the order. HCC nonetheless look the more vulnerable of the two, after Dosti’s new acquisition Touseef Ahmed exposed the brittleness of their batting on Sunday. Facing arguably the best pace attack in the competition in Vivian Kingma, Ali Ahmed and the in-form Stef Mulder, HCC will need someone to step into Bryce Street’s sizeable shoes if they’re to take points home from Westvliet.
RL: This shapes to be one of the most competitive match-ups of the season, with both Voorburg and HCC looking like potential title candidates were there to be a title to be claimed. Both are more solid in the bowling than in the batting, but HCC have more experience in the latter dimension than their hosts, whose middle order is perhaps the youngest in the competition. Voorburg did extremely well to see off ACC in the absence of skipper Tom de Grooth last Sunday, but Bas de Leede, like his father before him, is a potential match-winner, while Ali Ahmed Qasim will fancy the prospect of taking on his former team-mates from De Diepput. The same applies in reverse to Clayton Floyd, who returns to Westvliet in the gold of HCC rather than the home side’s blue-and-red. And don’t underestimate the skills of Italian international Damien Crowley. A tough call, but I think HCC might shade it.
BdJ: The hapless VOC Rotterdam meanwhile face the unenviable prospect of a visit from fellow Rotterdammers Punjab CC, who saw off the title-holders to go two from two last week. Few would bet against them making that three from three on Sunday, with a batting line-up lent enviable depth by the arrival of three more Zulfiqars added to the persistent menace of Myburgh at the top of the order. If Punjab’s bowling has looked a little reliant on Mubashar Hussain and skipper Tariq, they will nonetheless back themselves to see off VOC’s hitherto flimsy line-up without too much trouble, barring a remarkable turnaround for Pieter Seelaar’s men.
RL: Punjab, too, are riding high after good wins against HBS Craeyenhout and Excelsior ’20, and unless VOC can raise their game considerably they should be untroubled in making it three out of three after their visit to the Hazelaarweg. The Bloodhounds may be helped by the rumoured return of Bobby Hanif and Ahsan Malik to the attack, but it’s the batting which has been truly awful, Pieter Seelaar and Jelte Schoonheim having so far managed two runs between them in their four innings. Should they recover their appetite for the game they have the ability to provide a real test for Punjab, although in a competition largely without overseas players Anil Nidamanuru may prove a trump card; his unbeaten innings last Sunday certainly put paid to Excelsior’s challenge.
BdJ: Meanwhile Dosti-United will be looking to break their duck when they head down to the Hague to take on the similarly winless HBS Craeyenhout. The arrival of Ahmed has added some teeth to the Dosti attack, and with Wahid Masood and Mahesh Hans both bowling creditably Dosti remain a threat with the ball, but the batting has been utterly abject so far. With just 105 runs on the board across two matches, Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need to show some application, even in the face of HBS’ second-string attack.
RL: With seamers Ferdi Vink, Wessel Coster and Navjit Singh and spinner Julian de Mey still in the HBS attack it’s perhaps a little more threatening than m’learned colleague gives it credit for, and they may have been unfortunate in having faced the batting strength of Punjab and VRA on their first two outings. Dosti are a very different prospect, at least on their form so far, and they have undoubtedly been set back by the absence of Anees Davids and the side-lining of Rahil Ahmed. Tobias Visée has yet to fire for HBS, and his battle with Touseef Ahmed could be a highlight of Sunday’s encounter.
BdJ: The day’s final fixture will see VRA travel down to Schiedam to take on title-holders Excelsior ‘20 who will be looking for their first win after a wash-out against Sparta and last week’s defeat at the hands of Punjab. Excelsior’s chief concern will be their continued reliance on Lorenzo Ingram for runs, the Jamaican’s half-century last week being the only significant score for the Schiedammers, despite some useful contributions from Rens van Troost and Niels Etman in the middle order. VRA meanwhile have looked serious contenders this season, not least thanks to the development of their youth players, who have stepped up admirably in the circumstances. Vikram Singh, most notably, looks increasingly comfortable at senior level, even if VRA might hope for a little more intent from the youngster given the weight of batting behind him. In what promises to be probably the weekend’s most engaging encounter, it may well come down to which of the two sides’ new faces most ably support the old guard, and in this respect the Amsterdammers look to have the advantage.
RL: Another fascinating match-up between two sides with a healthy mix of experience and youth, and two fine captains in Tom Heggelman and Peter Borren. Excelsior have had the wood on VRA lately, winning seven of their past ten meetings, and with Lorenzo Ingram still in their side they are always a serious threat. But they are using this season to blood more youngsters – scions of the Van Troost and Schewe dynasties – and they may take some time to settle into the side. In opener Vikram Singh VRA have one of the undoubted rising stars whose confidence is growing in what is now his third season in the top flight, and with Shirase Rasool added to the middle order the Amsterdammers’ younger brigade is already beginning to flourish. I would also expect VRA to have the edge, but one should never underestimate the Schiedammers’ ability to prevail in a tight battle.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.
Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.