Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 07/05/21
After a batch of somewhat one-sided matches to open the 2021 season last Saturday, round two will largely pit last week’s losers against the winners, assuming the weather stays away.
BdJ: Last season’s table-toppers HCC hit the ground running at Het Loopveld last week when they steamrolled ACC, and they’ll be up against another Amsterdam team this week when VRA arrive at De Diepput. VRA were a tad understrength when they lost to VOC in their opener, missing Jack Balbirnie and Eric Szwarczynski due to illness or threat thereof, but the return of the pair will do little to address the relative paucity of quality pace bowling options available to skipper Peter Borren, who shouldered much of that responsibility himself against VOC. De Diepput will likely prove a less challenging environment for batsmen than Hazelaarweg did last week, but HCC no less challenging opponents. Skipper Tonny Staal led from the front against ACC but most all of the HCC top-order have runs under their belt, and while Clayton Floyd’s maiden five-fer was the standout performance of the round with the ball, all five of HCC’s other bowlers also did themselves credit. In short HCC again look the team to beat this season, and will start clear favourites at home against a VRA side that still looks a tad rusty.
RL: Borren’s tactic of alternating young and inexperienced batters with the older hands only works if the latter come off, which was signally not the case last week. The presence of Szwarczynski and Balbirnie will ease that problem somewhat, and the resistance offered in a losing cause by Mitch Lees and Leon Turmaine at least shows that VRA bat all the way down. But HCC look a pretty complete outfit, and on their own ground seem likely to have too many guns for their visitors. The Lions’ top five of Staal, Musa Ahmad, Boris Gorlee, Damian Crowley and Floyd looks settled and menacing, and while VRA’s attack is capable of presenting a greater challenge than ACC’s did last week, it’s hard to see anything other than a home win.
BdJ: The much-fancied Voorburg will be looking to get their campaign back on track when they welcome VOC Rotterdam to Westvliet, after suffering something of an upset against and understrength Excelsior last week. It was arguably lack of ambition with the bat that cost VCC in that game, though it’s tough to say what a winning total might have been in the face of Tristan Stubbs’ exploits in the chase. VCC’s apparent difficulty playing Umar Baker will be of particular concern considering VOC’s spin stable, Arnav Jain’s success last week meaning skipper Pieter Seelaar only had to bowl four overs himself. Westvliet will likely offer less assistance to slow bowlers than Hazelaarweg however, especially if VCC are minded to tailor conditions to suit their enviable seam attack.
RL: VOC’s curate’s egg effort against VRA last Saturday tended to confirm their dependence on their international stars, although Jain’s performance with both bat and ball was an encouraging sign for Pieter Seelaar and his men. Voorburg will provide a stiffer test, and the contest between Viv Kingma, Logan van Beek and Bas de Leede for the home side and Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards and Seelaar promises to be something to savour. The Villagers’ own batting is less obviously stellar, although with De Leede, Sybrand Engelbrecht and Van Beek it is strong enough to test a VOC bowling unit which only fired intermittently last week. A harder one to pick, this, but Voorburg should come out on top if they play anywhere near their best.
BdJ: Meanwhile Sparta 1888 will take on Excelsior ‘20 in their first home game of the season, hoping to bounce back from a nine-wicket drubbing at the hands of HBS on Saturday. It was above all the batting that let them down at Craeyenhout, and though the Excelsior attack lacks anyone with the accuracy of Ryan Klein, Sparta lost plenty of wickets to less celebrated HBS bowlers. Both Tom Heggelman and Niels Etman look in decent rhythm for Excelsior, as does off-spinner Umar Baker. The arrival of overseas bat Garnett Tarr may do something to strengthen the Sparta batting, though it’s not clear that he’ll be available come Saturday. Of Sparta’s bowlers only Mudassar Bukhari found any reward in the brief HBS chase, and this round will also have to contend with the in-form Tristan Stubbs who stepped admirably into the shoes of the absent Lorenzo Ingram to see Excelsior comfortably home in the face of VCC’s much vaunted attack. Sparta will have to find some way to remove or contain him if they’re to take points off the 2019 Champions.
RL: Sparta and Excelsior tied last time they met at the Bermweg, and the year before that, in 2018, the Schiedammers were shot out for 41 in one of the great shocks of that or any other season. Neither seems on the cards on Saturday, although Excelsior will be greatly handicapped by the loss of Heggelman, whose hamstring injury last week is likely to keep him out for some time and whose leadership will be missed as sorely as his bowling or, for that matter, his batting. The return of Ingram is therefore even more vital than ever, while Sparta will be hoping that Tarr is there to bolster their rather hit-or-miss batting line-up. But Ali Raza and Sherry Butt will plunder opposing attacks on occasion this season, and Bukhari’s reaction to his rather soft dismissal last week as well as his effort with the ball shows that he’s lost none of his appetite for the battle.
BdJ: With their opener against Dosti postponed due to positive Covid tests in the Dosti camp, Punjab Rotterdam will open their season at home against HBS Craeyenhout. HBS looked in flying form against Sparta last week, but last season’s runner-up will likely provide a sterner test for the Crows. Veteran opener Stephan Myburgh was key to their success last season, topping the run tables and forcing his way back into national consideration. His duel with newcomer Ryan Klein, another who has caught the eye of national coach Ryan Campbell, is arguably the individual match-up to watch this round. The depth of Punjab’s Zulfiqar-heavy batting line-up probably makes them favourites on home turf against a dangerous but somewhat top-heavy HBS (even one bolstered by the arrival of Klein’s Western Province team-mate and fellow Rondebosch alumnus Tayo Walburgh) yet with a points on the board and momentum on their side the Crows may just catch Punjab napping.
RL: Match-up of the day overall for this observer, Punjab and HBS can be expected to slug it out on the Rotterdammers’ smallish ground, and quite a bit of time may be spent retrieving the ball from the undergrowth or the even tinier second field, where there will at least be no lower-division players risking their lives. Klein’s arrival undoubtedly adds cutting edge to the HBS attack, more than compensating for the retirement of Wessel Coster, but Myburgh and the Zulfiqars can be expected to take him on as well as the rest of the Crows’ bowling. How strong the visitors’ batting would be under pressure wasn’t tested last week, but Punjab’s bowling is usually protected by the side’s efforts with the bat, and whoever bats first this game may be decided in the home team’s innings.
BdJ: Likewise Dosti Amsterdam will have to be quick out of the blocks when they cross the Amstel to take on ACC in their 2021 opener. ACC were never really in the game against HCC last week, though their fightback with the ball in the latter stages of the first innings showed some creditable tenacity. Certainly a raw Dosti side still coming out of winter hibernation looks an easier prospect than last year’s winners, though with Rahil Ahmed and possibly Anees Davids returning Dosti may not be the pushovers they were last summer.
RL: This has the look of an early contest in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon, although ACC could legitimately claim that their efforts last year belie that suspicion, and that taking on HCC first up is scarcely a fair test of their potential. In the club’s centenary season they will be keen to see their youngsters make further progress, and the fact that Dosti had to reschedule last week’s game certainly does the visitors no favours. But overall Dosti have more potential match-winners than their opponents, and if one or two of them come off it could be another difficult day for the Loopveld side.
BdJ: Finally on Sunday Dosti and Punjab are slated to meet in their delayed Round 1 match, and the odds are little different than they were last week.
RL: What the man said, although the second match of a double weekend can often turn up a couple of surprises.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VRA, Voorburg, Excelsior, Punjab, ACC, Punjab
Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Voorburg, Excelsior, Punjab, Dosti, Punjab