Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 23/07/20
There will be a maximum of two Topklasse sides with a perfect record after this Sunday’s fourth round matches, as the abbreviated competition begins to take shape. But several of this week’s fixtures are very tricky to read, and it looks like another absorbing day’s cricket.
RL: The match of the day is undoubtedly that between HCC and VRA Amsterdam at De Diepput. The home side will have been greatly encouraged by their victory over Voorburg last Sunday, but VRA have been untroubled in their three wins so far and everything looks set for a highly entertaining encounter on the Hagenaars’ pocket-sized ground. VRA are able to pursue their policy of rotating youth players in the knowledge that in Vikram Singh, Ben Cooper, Peter Borren and now the returning Eric Szwarczynski they have a richly-experienced batting line-up, while Quirijn Gunning’s form with the ball against Excelsior lent a real cutting edge to the attack. But HCC, too, have well-balanced side, augmented this year by the arrival of Musa Ahmad and Damien Crowley, and if there are some questions about the solidity of their batting they were answered in part last week by the good form of Boris Gorlee and Hidde Overdijk. One for the connoisseurs, this!
BdJ: The games’ top-table status may make it the one to watch this week, but VRA at least are unlikely to be fielding a full-strength line-up on the day. With this round falling on what was to be the cricket-free weekend and travel restrictions beginning to ease across the continent, pre-booked holidays are taking their toll across the league and VRA look likely to be particularly hard hit. Most notable expected absentees are the above-mentioned Szwarczynski and Gunning, and with a couple of the youngsters also granted the week off, expect some new (or old!) faces when the Amsterdammers take the field. The core of the batting line-up in Singh, Cooper and Borren at least willl ensure HCC won’t have the easiest time of it, and themselves will have to find a replacement opener for Musa Nadeem who is out with a suspected fractured jaw courtesy a bouncer from Singh in the nets earlier in the weak, but nonetheless they may just have reason to be glad of the way the schedule has shaken out.
RL: Also with three wins out of three, Punjab Rotterdam have what looks like a rather less challenging task, at home to struggling Dosti-United Amsterdam. Punjab have a strong case for being the best batting line-up in the competition, with Stef Myburgh joined by a quartet of Zulfiqars and Anil Nidamanuru, while Dosti have managed a total of just 195 runs in three completed innings; Punjab made more in beating VOC last Sunday, for the loss of four wickets. It seems that nothing can go right at the moment for the Amsterdammers, and it will be a real test of character for them to turn this season around. Touseef Ahmed remains a potential trump card, but there’s a limit to how much he can be expected to do on his own.
BdJ: Fair to say that Dosti will at least have little to lose when they arrive at het Zomercomplex, and one might argue that simple reversion to mean is reason enough to expect them to put three figures on the board at some point, but there’s little further reason to expect a turnaround when they go up against a near-full-strength Punjab who will be looking to cement their place at the top end of the table.
RL: Two sides with a strong youth component, Voorburg and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam meet at Westvliet in what could be another absorbing game. Excelsior’s limitations were ruthlessly exposed by VRA last Sunday, and one senses that it is more important than ever that Lorenzo Ingram comes off if Excelsior are to be competitive. Their batsmen will face the test of Voorburg’s seam quartet of Viv Kingma, Ali Ahmed Qasim, Bas de Leede and Stef Mulder this week, and while Voorburg’s batting crumbled against HCC they can be expected to perform better against the Excelsior attack. But a key aspect of this season is the opportunity it affords for the youngsters to prove their mettle, and there is plenty of youthful talent in both these sides.
BdJ: The title-holders’ will doubtless be displeased to find themselves at an unfamiliar end of the table three rounds in, but one wonders if they might be more determined to do something about it were their title under threat. The Schiedammers have looked comparatively unconcerned with their disappointing season, seemingly happy to give their youth a run-out at senior level. At times it’s looked like it might even pay dividends, Rens van Troost looking increasingly comfortable batting up the order and Niels Etman showing some promise, but they’ve yet to come close to a win. Despite last week’s defeat, several of VCC’s own home-grown contingent have had the benefit of greater experience at a higher level, and one suspects that may tell again come Sunday.
RL: Another outfit with plenty of youth is ACC, as seamer Mees van Vliet demonstrated last Sunday and batsman Shreyas Potdar the week before. They will take on a VOC Rotterdam side for whom national captain Pieter Seelaar showed renewed appetite for runs in the defeat by Punjab, and despite that loss the Rotterdammers looked a lot more competitive than they had in their first two games. Again on their own patch at Het Loopveld, ACC will be looking to repeat last week’s success against Sparta, a fine team effort by a side with half-a-dozen changes from last season. Bobby Hanif’s return gives the VOC attack a more stable look, but the batting is yet to cohere into a unit, and although they are capable of springing a surprise my guess is that ACC will have the better of this battle between two mid-table sides.
BdJ: VOC have been struggling with player availability throughout the season and it has been reflected in their results, so the news of Seelaar’s sidelining (due to a back injury rather than a city break) will come as a still heavier blow. It was Seelaar’s unbeaten 93 that proved the backbone (sorry) of their first half-decent score of the season, and his absence will further unsettle an already unstable line-up, as well as depriving them of ten overs of quality left arm spin. ACC meanwhile, despite extensive personnel changes, seem to have gelled into something resembling a steady if unshowy side. In a competition where few teams can say the same, the Amsterdammers may yet give a better account of themselves than many predicted.
RL: After their demolition of VOC Sparta 1888 were brought back to earth by ACC, and now return to the Bermweg to face a HBS Craeyenhout side which may have been put back on the rails by their comprehensive win over Dosti. Here we have two seam attacks well suited to the traditionally bowler-friendly conditions in Capelle, but equally both sides have explosive batsmen who can, if they come off, transform a game remarkably quickly. Sparta will be hoping that they can grab the wicket of Tobias Visée before he does too much damage, while HBS will know that they need to neutralise the threat posed by Mudassar Bukhari and Ali Raza. Whoever achieves that goal quicker will probably win, but on all-round strength it may be HBS who just about have the edge.
BdJ: Probably the toughest game to call this round, with both sides fortunes tending to hinge on the performance of rather mercurial match-winners. Among players returning this season, Mudassar Bukhari was unarguably the stand-out performer of 2019 (unless of course you happen to be on the KNCB Player of the Year panel, in which case it was apparently was entirely arguable). Bukhari hasn’t really come off so far this season, but remains a real threat with both bat and ball. Conversely Tobias Visée reminded everyone last week of why he is one of the few in the league to attract interest from T20 franchises abroad with a brutal 67 off 24, though as with Sparta the rest of the HBS line-up looks rather threadbare, especially when Tim Drummond is unavailable. All told it’s a match up that could produce a tight game or blow out wildly either way, which obviously isn’t much of a prediction, so for the sake of being sporting I’ll back Sparta this time.
Rod Lyall’s tips: VRA, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, Sparta