Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 01/07/21
The knot in the middle of the table tightened a little more last weekend, and with eight points (or two wins) separating third from seventh there is still plenty to play for most teams in the competition. Even ACC, currently in eighth spot, are not yet completely out of the hunt, although most interest is likely to centre on which two of Voorburg, Excelsior, HBS and HCC join Punjab and VOC in the play-offs come August.
RL: The eight-pointer of the week is the clash between Punjab Rotterdam and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam at the Zomercomplex. Punjab had a six-wicket win when the sides met at the same ground back in May (Thurlede being too wet to be playable), and little we have seen since suggests that they will go into this game as anything other than favourites. Excelsior’s top-order brittleness continues to be a cause for concern, and although Tristan Stubbs is still a potential trump card, he can’t be expected to dig them out of trouble every week. If the Schiedammers have the sharper of the two attacks, with Klaas Roelfsema emerging as a valuable addition to the seam battery, Punjab’s boa constrictor tactics have served them well, most recently against a strong HBS batting line-up last Saturday, and their top six is capable of chasing most totals, especially at Fortress Zomercomplex.
BdJ: Now ten points clear of the danger zone Punjab can perhaps afford to relax a little, but there’s little indication that they’re taking the foot off the gas at the moment. Though their batting remains their principle strength, the addition of Sohail Bhatti and the development of Mubashar Hussain has meant skipper Tariq has not lacked for bowling options either. While Exclesior boast two of the most dependably dangerous bats in the league in Ingram and Stubbs, the relative fragility of the rest of the order means the pair cannot afford themselves the same license as Punjab’s big hitters. At a ground that traditionally rewards a degree of adventure with the bat, the hosts certainly hold the stronger hand.
RL: VOC Rotterdam slipped back towards the pack with last week’s defeat by Voorburg, and will be hoping that they can take a more complete side to the Bermweg for their encounter with Sparta 1888. The Capelle outfit’s performance against Excelsior last Saturday belied their lowly position on the table, and they might have had cause to be marginally more aggrieved when the rain put an end to proceedings. If their batting remains too reliant on the skills and resolution of Garnett Tarr, the knock by Mamoon Latif could suggest that their Belgian contingent will have more to offer in the latter part of the season, and the attack, spearheaded by Max Hoornweg and the evergreen Mudassar Bukhari, remains a menacing force. But it’s not often that Scott Edwards and Max O’Dowd both go cheaply, and even a below-strength VOC is likely to be up to the challenge Sparta present.
BdJ: If events at Hazelaarweg last week exposed VOC’s vulnerability to a decapitation strike, the question remains whether Sparta have the firepower to deliver. Bukhari has been in impressive form with the bat this season, but his relative lack of penetration with the ball thus far has been a problem Sparta have yet to remedy. While VOC’s middle order has looked rather brittle, especially in the absence of the stabilising presence of Pieter Seelaar, it will take a better performance from Sparta’s attack than we’ve seen this season to expose it and an improve performance with the bat to capitalise.
RL: Even a depleted Voorburg were truly impressive in their victory over VOC last week, skipper Bas de Leede stepping up to the mark with a fine all-round effort. They should be full of confidence for their meeting with VRA Amsterdam, whose batting implosion against HCC last Saturday was matched by some less than impressive catching. Giving Karl Nieuwoudt the new ball against VOC turned out to be an inspired move from De Leede, and if he can reproduce that form he will trouble most top orders in the competition, VRA’s not excepted. Injuries and other absences have meant that the Amsterdammers have been unable to establish a settled top six, and with Shirase Rasool having played only four games and Vikram Singh well below his best form – his century against Dosti apart, he has mustered 54 runs in eight innings – they have had to rely on skipper Peter Borren and the lower mid-order to dig them out of trouble. Voorburg’s batting, by contrast, has been pedestrian at times, but it has a solidity which has kept them in strong contention for a top four spot.
BdJ: Injuries, absences and under-performance have conspired to transform what initially looked a daunting VRA batting card into something of a liability over the course of the season, though the Amsterdammers can at least take heart in the impressive return of Quirijn Gunning lending their new ball attack an air of menace. Had they held their chances last weekend they would have comfortably defended their desultory total, and VCC have shown themselves capable of collapsing in the face of lesser bowling attacks, especially in the absence of Logan van Beek as lower-order backstop. Though the unheralded Mohit Hingorani has been quietly effective at the top of the order and Sybrand Engelbrecht has more than lived up to expectation the rest of the batting has been rather hit-and-miss. If VRA can produce anything like the performance with the ball they did last week, they could quickly find themselves with a winning position to squander.
RL: ACC produced their best performance of the season so far against a below-strength HBS in a rain-affected match at Craeyenhout on Ascension Day, but they will need to be at the top of their game if they are to repeat that victory at Het Loopveld this week. Young Zinesh Master’s outstanding debut five-for against Dosti last Sunday adds another dimension to the Amsterdammers’ attack, but skipper Anis Raza will need to be careful how he deploys him against an explosive HBS line-up to which Wesley Barresi has made a welcome return. Sahil Kothari has been the most effective with the bat for ACC, and although Ammar Zaidi, Raza, and now Chris Knoll have made useful contributions on occasion, the side has yet to put in a solid top-six effort other than that against HBS. With Tayo Walbrugh in superb form and the rest of the top order all producing consistent runs, not to mention a balanced attack spearheaded by Ryan Klein, HBS look likely to have too many guns for their hosts this time.
BdJ: Having noted Master’s impressive pre-season performance one does rather wonder where he’s been for the last few weeks, but fair to say his entrance was as dramatic as it was late. Bowling at HBS’ ever-more intimidating line-up is a different proposition to Dosti, however. The ACC top-order also had the luxury of facing a Ryan Klein-less HBS attack last time round, and his ten overs will likely do as much to shift the odds as the addition of Visée or Barresi on the batting side.
RL: HCC may have risked an embarrassing defeat after skittling VRA in the Amsterdamse Bos last week, but they did their NRR a power of good once they pulled off their slightly farcical victory, and that may stand them in good stead if the battle for places on the table goes down to the wire in August. They will hope to improve it still further on Saturday, when they entertain Dosti-United Amsterdam at De Diepput. Rahil Ahmed apart, Dosti’s batting has been consistently disappointing, and willing as their bowling may be, it lacks the cutting edge to trouble most teams. HCC’s four-man seam attack of Hidde Overdijk, Reinier Bijloos, Ollie Klaus and Henrico Venter, by contrast, has cutting power a-plenty, and with Clayton Floyd the competition’s leading wicket-taker it will take a massive reversal of form for Dosti to make enough runs to keep them in the game.
BdJ: If last year’s table-toppers are perhaps rather disappointed with how their season has unfolded thus far, Dosti have looked altogether too content with the prospect of picking up another wooden spoon. Though a top-four spot was always likely to be beyond Dosti in the absence of any overseas pros, it’s been the inconsistency of their established players that’s left the Amsterdammers winless again so far. Should Tewarie, Hans and Ahmed fire at once there’s enough talent in the rest of the side that earned points should be a reasonable possibility, one feels they’ll be taking the trip down to de Diepput more in hope than expectation.
RL’s picks: Punjab, VOC, Voorburg, HBS, HCC.
BdJ’s picks: Punjab, VOC, VRA, HBS, HCC.