Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 14/08/20
Just like that, the final-phase is upon us. It may seem like the 2020 Topklasse is just barely heating up, but with just three games to go (if that, given the weather forecast) we are very much entering the end-game.
BdJ: Once again the lack of a home ground forces Dosti-United to play a home game at their opponents’ ground, and to move it to Saturday. In this case ACC will be hoping for a positive outcome in the other Amsterdam Derby, when Dosti cross the Amstel to take them on at Het Loopveld. Vinoo Tewarie’s side are still looking for their first win this season, despite the skipper’s own best efforts. Tewarie had another fine game with bat and ball last week but again found little support from his team-mates. An occasional exception has been Waheed Masood, who has become almost as crucial with bat as with ball to his struggling side, but Tewarie will need both him and Mahesh Hans on form, or contribution from an unaccustomed corner if Dosti are to find their first points this Sunday.
RL: ACC are one of clubs who are benefiting from the opportunity to allow their crop of youngsters to flourish, and they will have ample opportunity to do so this week against a less-than-imposing Dosti attack. Not that the Drieburgers can be written off entirely: the pace of Masood and Tewarie’s leg-spin caused VOC problems last week, and with varied spin from Touseef Ahmad, Hans and Asief Hoseinbaks the likes of Shreyas Potdar and Jamieson Mulready will have the chance to practise their technique against slower bowling. ACC’s own attack has shown, notably against Sparta and VOC, that it can run through opposing sides, and Dosti’s capacity for spectacular collapse has been evident on a weekly basis. If Messrs. Duckworth, Lewis and Stern manage to generate a finish, you’d expect it to be in ACC’s favour.
BdJ: In pole position, HCC will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak when they welcome title-holders Excelsior ‘20 Schiedam to de Diepput. Excelsior’s young side are beginning to claw their way back into the mid-table after a tough start to the season, young Stan van Troost recording a maiden top-flight fifty as they saw off HBS last week. The win will doubtless restore some of the Schiedammers’ old confidence, not least in that it was accomplished even without any decisive contribution from Lorenzo Ingram. Nonetheless there’s a reason that HCC are yet to drop a point this season, as illustrated by their utter demolition of Sparta last week. Hidde Overdijk has been in particularly fine form, both with the ball last Sunday and the bat during the “Pro” Series games during the week. Though as with all the games this weekend the weather is the most likely winner, HCC remain solid second-favourites.
RL: HCC’s attack has been the key to their success so far, and Excelsior’s youthful batting line-up is likely to face a stern examination if the weather permits. But Ingram is always lurking in the background, and this could be an occasion for him to turn around what has been by his standards a fairly modest season up to now. By comparison with the bowlers the home side’s batsmen have been less consistent, but Staal, Ahmad, Crowley, Gorlee and Overdijk constitute a menacing top five, and with Felix Vecchi and Yash Patel also having runs under their belts they, too, represent a challenge for Excelsior’s attack.
BdJ: Both HBS Craeyenhout and VOC Rotterdam are playing for pride at this point on one win apiece, both over the hapless Dosti-United. Both sides have been hit hard by the availability issues caused in part by the ongoing pandemic, and the Rotterdammers are also missing skipper Pieter Seelaar. Corey Rutgers has stepped admirably into the gap, and the return of Ahsan Malik and Bobby Hanif have bolstered the bowling at least, but VOC retain the air of a rather cobbled-together outfit. HBS, for their part, have looked persistently reliant on captain Toby Visée, who remains a menace at the top of the order, but his wicket usually signals deep trouble for the Crows. With both sides lacking for any real depth this season one suspects this game may turn on a single stand-out innings or spell, and though it’s hard to predict where it may come from one feels there’s a couple more candidates on the Rotterdam roster, that said, with the rain likely to eat up most if not all the overs, HBS’ top-heavy batting may yet prove an advantage.
RL: Enigmatic seems the best word to described both these outfits: perhaps the absence of any real stakes in this season’s half-competition (read that ‘half’ any way you want) and the fact that both have a preference for the T20 format explain their stuttering efforts as much as the loss of key players, but it may be that the weather plays into their hands by cutting this game to the sort of length they avowedly prefer. Should that happen, as m’learned colleague avers, a Visée or a Jelte Schoonheim, a Ferdi Vink or an Ahsan Malik – whose T20 record is as good as anyone’s – could swing the match either way. Rutgers will no doubt have plenty of ideas about how to neutralise the threat of Visée, but this should be an occasion for cool heads and wise counsels.
BdJ: After being handed their first defeat at Westvliet on Sunday Punjab Rotterdam will be hoping to get back to their winning ways against Sparta 1888 at the Zomercomplex. Two points adrift of HCC, Punjab can’t afford to drop a game now, but despite their shambolic showing against the frontrunners last week Sparta remain something of a banana peel. Lenert van Wyk has mostly shown his stuff in the T20 comp thus far, but his threatening form together with that of Mudassar Bukhari means it will be tough for Punjab to judge what might be a safe score. Nonetheless the Rotterdammers enjoy considerably more depth in the batting at least, and it would be brave to bet against them taking HCC to the line at the business end of the season.
RL: Even more than VOC or HBS, Sparta have blown hot and cold this season, to the extent that it almost seems unpredictable which side will show up. If Bukhari’s in the mood against Punjab at the Zomercomplex there could be fireworks, especially if he can find some batting to keep him company. Ali Raza, too, may start eyeing the shorter boundaries, while Van Wyk adds class to any batting line-up he’s part of. There’s less doubt about the bowling, but even they will be tested by a Punjab side which is equally explosive at the outset and has a solid middle order as well. But yes, even in losing to Voorburg Punjab demonstrated the power of their batting, and Sparta will need to be at their best if they are to compete.
BdJ: Also still in the hunt are VRA, who will be welcoming Voorburg CC to the Bos to watch the rain. They’ll be keen to get on the field if they can though, finally having assembled something close to a full strength side. VCC meanwhile will be missing Tom de Grooth and Stef Mulder, so weather permitting Bas de Leede’s side will be facing a genuine test of depth. De Leede himself has been in fine form, but marshalling a young side as genuine underdogs will be a stiff challenge for the FCoH.
RL: Being more of a glass-half-full sort of person, I persist in the belief that cricket will prevail. That being the case, this looks like the game of the day, with Voorburg, having seen off Punjab, taking on a side which, apart from one aberration against HCC, has also looked the part despite the absence of Peter Borren. Much depends, though, on who is available: it’s a big ask when 17-year-old skipper Vikram Singh is one of the most experienced players in the VRA side, and the attack undoubtedly benefits if Leon Turmaine and/or Adeel Raja is present alongside Quirijn Gunning and the youthful cohort. Voorburg will certainly be weakened by the loss of De Grooth and Mulder, but the new ball attack of Viv Kingma and Ali Ahmed Qasim will put the home side to the test. The hardest of this week’s match-ups to call, but I worry when we’re in total agreement. So . . .
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Rain or ACC, Rain or HCC, Rain or HBS, Rain or Punjab, Rain or VRA.
Rod Lyall’s tips: ACC, HCC, HBS, Punjab, Voorburg.