Bertus de Jong and Rod Lyall 28/05/2021
After a rain-sodden first month, the weather seems set to finally clear this week in time for the seventh round of Topklasse matches, along with one straggler from round four. With every side having seen at least one wash-out (but some more than others) the Topklasse’s new points system awarding just one point apeice for a no result has proved controversial at best, and doubtless some overdue sunnshine would be welcomed by all.
BdJ: For Dosti-United, among the worst affected by the weather with three washouts already, their early ground-availability issues may prove a blessing for either themselves or HBS Craeyenhout as it resulted in their round 4 match being pushed back to this weekend. It will take some bouncing-back for Dosti to claim their first earned points however, coming off a 140-run drubbing at the hands of VOC last week. Though the Dosti attack has looked in reasonable shape this season when not bowling to Max O’Dowd, the Crows boast similarly destructive bats in the form of Toby Visée and Tayo Walburgh, and the Dosti batting has been little short of dire thus far this season. Anything but four points from their trip to Drieburg will be another disappointing return for HBS.RL: Another Dosti win, the last one now a distant memory, seems increasingly unlikely, although it has to be said that Waheed Masood, Asief Hoseinbaks and Sami Naseri stuck to their task gamely for nearly half the overs last Monday before Cyclone Max started demolishing everything in its path. The long-term effects of such a drubbing can be severe, and the worry is that they can be cumulative. It’s not in anybody’s interests for one team to be so outclassed on a regular basis, and we must hope, for the sake of the Topklasse as a whole, that Vinoo Tewarie can find a way of hauling his side back into fighting knick. Whether they can raise their game against HBS on Sunday may depend a lot on what happens in the Amsterdamse Bos the day before, a point we shall consider in a moment.
BdJ: Before they deal with unfinished Round 4 business, however, HBS will have to face current leaders VOC Rotterdam at Hazelaarweg. VOC’s recent matches have all been washouts or routes, and though HBS are likely to prove a sterner test it’s fair to say the hosts have momentum on their side. O’Dowd has been in imperious form after a slow start to the season, though the lower order has looked a little shaky on the occasions they’ve been called upon. The same is less true of HBS, though Visée and Walbrugh remain the greatest threat, and the emergence of young Siebe van Wingerden as a wicket-taking spinner may give the HBS middle order cause for concren if VOC can manage to take the top off the order early.RL: HBS have frequently looked a bowler short this season, and they will clearly need all guns firing if they are to get the better of a rampant VOC. A key factor for them in the field will be Ryan Klein, who has had something of a stop-and-start campaign so far (but then, who hasn’t?) but who certainly has the capacity to rip through batting sides. The challenge of VOC’s top order should be enough to bring out his best form, and if the Hazelaarweg pitch turns out to be anything like the one used for the Scotland matches conditions may work in his favour. The Rotterdammers relied entirely on spin in their demolition of Dosti on Monday, but Pierce Fletcher and Bobby Hanif will no doubt have more work to do this week, even if Van Wingerden, currently the competition’s leading wicket-taker, may ultimately prove to be the trump card.
BdJ: Dosti’s prior engagement will be with VRA Amsterdam at the Amsterdamse Bos for what will be VRA’s first home game of the season. That’s assuming of course that VRA, which some may still remember as a turf wicket club, manage to get a pitch ready this week. VRA picked up their second win of the season in rather scratchy fashion last week, surviving another middle order collapse to see off ACC at het Loopveld after Ben Cooper had put them in a commanding position, but it’s fair to say that the batting still looks unreliable at best. That’s a deal better than Dosti’s batting has been of course, but if Dosti are able to get their act together before VRA do they may just have a shot at an upset.RL: Whether Dosti’s attack could withstand an O’Dowd-like onslaught from Cooper, Peter Borren – or for that matter, Marcus Andrew – is as legitimate a question as how a dispirited batting line-up could cope with the seam of Quirijn Gunning, Ashir Abid, Vikram Singh and Borren and the spin of Leon Turmaine and Luke Hartsink. VRA’s early-season poor form, while not unprecedented, has been something of a puzzle, given that even considering the rebuilding process they are in the middle of and the youth policy which underpins it, they should be much higher in the table than their current sixth spot. Should Dosti bowl first they could have a decent chance of keeping VRA’s total within bounds; batting first, they would need to find the resources to build a couple of substantial partnerships, something which has eluded them so far.
BdJ: Meanwhile third placed HCC head to Thurlede looking to preserve their unbeaten record when they take on Excelsior ‘20, last year’s table-toppers facing off against the official defending champions. The HCC top order made extremely short work of a retrospective DLS target of 88 against Sparta last week, though they can expect the going to be tougher in Schiedam. Excelsior were twice frustrated by the weather last week and their last match was a heavy defeat at the hands of Punjab, but with the return of skipper Tom Heggelman they are back to full strength, and back on home turf for the first time since their opening win against VCC. With Musa Nadeem in selector’s eye-catching form at the top of the order, Boris Gorlee also in the runs and a solid middle order combined with a disciplined bowling unit HCC have the ingredients for success at Thurlede, but nonetheless Excelsior are never truly underdogs at home.RL: This unquestionably has the makings of the Match of the Round, even if HCC carry more momentum into it than Excelsior. Both sides have been among the most affected by the dreadful May weather, and the Schiedammers have also been affected by Heggelman’s absence. The poor initial form of opener Tim Etman hasn’t helped, but they do have the enormous value of their two overseas players, Lorenzo Ingram and Tristan Stubbs, in their middle order and as their ‘spin twins’. Neither was especially effective against HBS on Monday, but they could be a different proposition at Thurlede, and HCC revealed against Voorburg a couple of weeks back that their usually-dominant batting line-up can be put under pressure by quality bowling. They bat in depth, though, as that Voorburg game also illustrated, and the Excelsior attack will need to be at its best to tame them.
BdJ: While the much-fancied Voorburg CC went down to their second defeat of the season against Punjab on Monday, the lifting of bowling-load restrictions on their international attack makes them strong favourites at home against ACC come Saturday. With Viv Kingma, Logan van Beek and likely Bas de Leede all back bowling up to ten overs the Amsterdammer’s batting line-up faces it’s toughest day of the season. Though all of the ACC top-order have a score or two under their belt, they will need Sanil Kothari at his best and the rest in good shape if they are to withstand the VCC pace battery. Though the ACC attack showed itself capable of causing all sorts of trouble for highly-rated but struggling VRA middle-order last week and VCC’s batting is not their greatest strength, it would be brave to bet against the hosts at Westviet this round.RL: Not just Voorburg’s formidable pace attack but the spin section of Philippe Boissevain, Aryan Dutt and Sybrand Engelbrecht lie in wait for ACC at Westvliet, and that’s enough to worry any visiting side. ACC continue to perform above expectations, with captain Anis Raza proving a valuable opening partner for Kothari, but their batting otherwise lacks consistency and has a tendency to squander a good start. Their bowling, on the other hand, can prove troublesome and Voorburg, who have found it difficult to find their optimal batting order, have sometimes laboured to score quickly enough to set their opponents a really challenging target. They look better chasing, and given the strength of that attack must be odds-on favourites if ACC bat first. If ACC are initially in the field, on the other hand, it might be a more interesting battle.
BdJ: Finally second-placed Punjab Rotterdam will be heading across town to Cappelle to take on the still-winless Sparta 1888 at Bermweg. For the hosts, it’s a tough ask to start turning their season around against a Punjab side that has proved occasionally dominant as many expected, and reslient in a manner most had not. Teja Nidamanuru’s penchant for lower-order counter-attacks means even early inroads rarely spell victory against the Rotterdammers, nor have Sparta yet shown themselves capable of capitalising on early success with the ball when they find it. Suffice it to say a Sparta win on Saturday would be a a veritable bolt from the blue, and though the season has already seen more lightning strikes than one might expect for May, none has come from as clear a sky as that.RL: If the Four Zulfiqars haven’t been as all-commanding with the bat this time round as they were in 2020’s foreshortened season, one senses that it may only be a matter of time before they fire on all cylinders, and with Stef Myburgh and Nidamanuru also components of Punjab’s engine they remain a potent threat, and potential challengers for the title. On the other hand, the Bermweg is not generally a high-scoring ground, least of all for a home side which has consistently struggled to get into three figures this year. Mudassar Bukhari has too often found himself on his own in that struggle, although Garnett Tarr has shown signs of giving greater solidity to the top order and Manminder Singh (and Prithvi Balwantsingh on Monday) has done sterling service lower down. But Punjab’s attack is disciplined and varied, and it would indeed be a major surprise if Suleiman Tariq’s men returned to the Zomercomplex without the points.
BdJ’s picks: HBS, VOC, VRA, Excelsior, Voorburg, Punjab.
RL’s picks: HBS, VOC, VRA, HCC, Voorburg, Punjab.