Round 7 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 19/05/23

After a topsy-turvy Ascension Day programme which saw the three bottom sides all win, this Saturday’s fixtures look as if someone might have had advance notice of the current table when drafting the programme: 2 vs. 1, 4 vs. 3, 8 vs. 10, 6 vs. 7, all games which promise to have a major influence on the way the sides finish the first phase in (unbelievably) ten days’ time.

RL: The undoubted Match of the Day is the clash of the two top sides at Westvliet. Sparta 1888 had a near-miraculous escape against VRA on Thursday, and if Voorburg’s victory over ACC was not quite so dramatic, it needed Michael Levitt’s unbeaten century to see them home. Their bowling, though, remains a powerful weapon, Shariz Ahmad continuing to bamboozle opposing batters once the pacemen have done their work up front, and the shakiness of the Sparta top order might suggest that Voorburg will be back on top of the table by Saturday evening. That said, Ahsan Malik and Mudassar Bukhari are also a force to be reckoned with, and Khalid Ahmadi’s wicket-taking talents and explosiveness with the bat has been a significant factor in his side’s success so far. Not to mention the batting of Joost Kroesen, who has been a man transformed since moving to the Bermweg.

BdJ: Both Voorburg and Sparta will be looking ahead to Phase 2 now, both now being all-but assured of a spot in the top six. Neither have looked quite as dominant as the table suggests however. Voorburg’s seam attack hasn’t been quite the force we expected, and were it nor for Shariz’ 18 wickets at 10 they might have been struggling to bowl sides out. The batting too has been reliant on Levitt, Croes and Engelbrecht, together with Shariz again down the order, though four bats in form is more than most sides can boast. Conversely Sparta’s success has been driven by seamers Malik and Ahmadi, along with Kroesen’s all-round renaissance. It was the latter two that got them home against VRA last week, after the overseas trio in the top order failed to come off. Sparta will likely need at least one of Ferguson, Clark or Tarr to step up against Voorburg, rather than expect the lower order to bail them out in the face of twenty overs from Shariz and fellow wrist spinner Philippe Boissevain.

RL: Two of the five sides jousting for the four remaining places in the top six, VRA Amsterdam and VOC Rotterdam will meet in another key clash in the Amsterdamse Bos. Both were unable to defend totals in excess of 200 on Thursday, confirming the sense that their bowling doesn’t quite match up to their effectiveness with the bat, although even that is not as solid as either side would like. Max O’Dowd and Lane Berry contributed almost half VOC’s 217 between them against Excelsior, the middle order crumbling badly, and if the VRA score was distributed more evenly, it will be a matter of concern that until the advent of Aryan Dutt no-one was able to go on and play a really significant knock. In Ashir Abid, of course, the Amsterdammers have one of the most menacing new-ball bowlers in the competition, and Eduard Visser also bowled well against Sparta. The VOC pace attack is not quite as incisive, as Excelsior proved, and it may struggle if the home side’s batters bring their A game.

BdJ: VRA’s ongoing fitness and availability issues have certinly hampered their campaign somewhat, with Luke Scully absent again on Thursday and Singh not bowling a full quota, but even accounting for the niggles and no-shows the side has underperformed rather. The batting has seen plenty of players contribute without anyone really dominating opposing attacks consistently, and the absence of Peter Borren in the lower middle order has been keenly felt. Conversely VOC’s big three have looked predictably dominant, and once again the question will likely come down to whether VRA can pervent them from taking the game away.

RL: At the other end of the table, HBS Craeyenhout will travel to Thurlede full of relief at having finally claimed their first points, but they will take on an Excelsior ‘20 unit which gave themselves a chance of squeezing into the championship pool with their victory over VOC. HBS owed their win almost entirely to the record-breaking stand between Tayo Walbrugh and Wesley Barresi, the former posting his third century in four innings, and they are likely again to be crucial to the Crows’ chances. The probability remains that these two sides will spend August battling the threat of relegation, and the two points on offer here could well prove vital at the end of the day. Michael Hart’s limited success with the ball continues to be an issue for the Schiedammers, but he provided a match-winning innings on Thursday, while Luuk Kroesen’s return to an opening spot created the platform for their eventual victory. If neither the return of Tobias Visée nor the inclusion of former Quicker Lucas del Bianco contibuted hugely to the change in the Crows’ fortunes, both could be significant once they settle into the new-look side. But it’s the wickets of Walbrugh and Barresi that Excelsior will need to grab if they are to give themselves a chance of victory here.

BdJ: Word is Visée’s appearance on Thursday was more of a cameo than a return from retirement (though we hear the crows have another cameo lined up for Saturday, with Tim Drummond trading hockey stick for bat for the day) Yet despite Visée’s game-changing potential, the Crows are arguably missing Navjit Singh more, if only as pars pro toto for the almost entirely absent mid-twenties generation in the side. There’s been some signs of promise in HBS’ youngsters, but the reliance on Barresi and Walbrugh is undeniable, and it’s doubtful the pair will be putting on 200+ at Thurlede. Conversely Excelsior haven’t quite got as much out of their professionals as they’d like, though finding ways to win when Hart’s not taking wickets and Ingram’s not making runs is arguably a good sign for the Schiedammers. Niels Etman’s form with the ball has covered somewhat for his new ball partner’s struggles to adjust, while Hart’s own efforts with the bat have gone some way to make up for Ingram’s slow start. That he and Roel Verhagen are the only bats averaging over 30 is a real concern however, and Excelsior fans may well be directing evnvious glances toward Bermweg where the prodigal Joost Kroesen’s averaging twice that.

RL: Although they will have been delighted to come away from ‘t Zomercomplex with the points on Thursday, HCC’s travails with the bat continue, and they will know that they need much more from their top order when they take on ACC at De Diepput on Saturday. Currently ranged either side of the top six cut-off, there a good chance that one of these two sides will end up in the relegation pool, and the fact that the Amsterdammers managed to give Voorburg a bit of a scare on Thursday should give the Lions pause for thought. Again, much depends on whether ACC can contain the threat of Jonathan Vandiar, although to say that Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee are due to hit some form would be an understatement. The HCC attack, on the other hand, did extremely well to dismiss Punjab for 142 on Thursday, and they pose more of a challenge to ACC’s batting than the Amsterdammers’ bowlers do to theirs.

BdJ: From HCC’s point of view, likely the most concerning development at ‘t Loopveld last week was the fact that Heino Kuhn’s started making runs. If Kuhn has rediscovered how to bat on a mat HCC’s attack could be in for a tough day, especially as the rest of the ACC line up has looked occasionally capable of posting scores without him. Conversely HCC’s two senior bats are currently averaging in single figures, meaning that when Vandiar doesn’t score big it’s left to a dangerous but brittle lower middle order to salvage the innings. If Gorlee and Staal were to rediscover some form the HCC batting card would actually look fairly menacing, with hitters down the order in Overdijk, Floyd and Doram, but all too often they’ve been asked to do damage control rather than damage.

RL: Having seen his side struggle against HCC, Sulaiman Tariq will embark on the journey to Overijssel well aware that Punjab, too, could slip out of the top six if things go against them. They have the advantage that their final three games are against the current bottom three, but Salland away is not a straightforward proposition, and if Victor Lubbers has a full-strength side at his disposal he will have the resources to cause Punjab plenty of problems. Venkat Ganesan has been in good form with both bat and ball, and Fraser Bartholomew has been effective with the new ball. Overall, however, Punjab’s experience could be enough to see them through, even if they have not been the force this season that they were a couple of years ago. In Shoaib Minhas, though, they have a potential match-winner, not to mention the combined skills of that well-known group, the Four Zulfiqars.

BdJ: In particular it’s been Saqib Zulfiqar’s all round form that has kept Punjab in contention this season. While Sikander’s also going well with the bat it’s fair to say that Punjab’s Zulfiqar engine hasn’t been firing on all four cylinders thus far. Likewise we’ve probably not seen the best of young Aaliyan Mahmood either, the Pakistan youth international still acclimatising to Dutch conditions. But similarly, Salland’s Finn Raxworthy hasn’t found his feet yet either, too often leaving Victor Lubbers holding the middle order together on his own.

RL’s picks: Voorburg, VRA, HBS, HCC, Punjab.
BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, VOC, Excelsior, HCC, Punjab.

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