Is the an escape route for the bottom three?

Rod Lyall 23/05/2023

The short answer to that question is: absolutely.

With two rounds of the first phase to go, three teams are level on eight points, with two on six and three on four. While at first glance it might appear that the battle for sixth place, and a spot in the championship pool when the 50-over competition resumes in July, is between VRA and ACC, the sides currently straddling the cut-off, in fact any or all of the three bottom teams have a chance of reaching eight points, and if other results go their way, that could be enough.

The remaining fixtures for the teams on four points are:
HBS: VOC (away), Punjab (home)
Excelsior: Punjab (away), ACC (home)
Salland: ACC (away), Sparta (home).

It follows from this that ACC and Punjab will have a vital role in determining the final Phase 1 standings, and it’s likely that much will remain in doubt until the final games are played on Monday.

Of those just above them, one or other of which they will be looking to displace, ACC obviously have the more favourable draw, since both their remaining games are against teams currently below them; on the other hand, they have a poor net run rate, well below that of both HBS and Excelsior.

VRA face a much more difficult run-in, taking on leaders Voorburg at home on Saturday and HCC, who leap-frogged them last weekend, on Monday; their net run rate, though, is healthier than that of either HCC or ACC, which could be very useful if things get tight on Monday evening.

With their weak NRR situation, HCC will need to beat either Sparta on Saturday or VRA on Monday to put themselves out of reach of the three bottom sides, while ACC would probably need to win both their games to feel safe.

Even Punjab, currently fourth with a marginally positive NRR, will go into the weekend with plenty to play for: were they to lose to both Excelsior and HBS and other results go against them, they too could find themselves in danger of slipping out of the top six.

Of the three sides with which we began, Excelsior may feel that they are in the most favourable position, although a visit to Het Zomercomplex is never an easy proposition and the way in which Punjab saw off Salland on Saturday suggests that they may be finishing the first phase strongly.

Although VOC have been inconsistent the power of their top order is unquestionable, and HBS would need to be at their absolute best to beat them on Saturday and keep themselves in the hunt.

And whether Sparta, after their mauling by Voorburg at the weekend and with a crucial match for HCC at the Bermweg this Saturday, will be at anything like full strength for their visit to Deventer on Monday will be a question of intense interest for Salland.

All in all, we can look forward to a dramatic long weekend, and perhaps a table which looks rather different by Monday night.

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