Rod Lyall 11/5/18
The mildly sadistic master who was in charge of cross-country running at my secondary school used to claim that his task as a handicapper was to ensure that everyone crossed the line at the same moment.
He never achieved this, of course, but it’s beginning to look as if the self-regulating recruitment and transfer process which has operated in the Topklasse over the winter might just produce such a result, with all ten teams on 18 points at the end of August.
Two sides emerged from the second round of matches on Thursday with a brace of wins, but after an excellent start Excelsior ‘20 had to work hard to overcome the resistance of VRA Amsterdam, and it’s only Dosti United who have twice been really convincing winners. Intriguingly, these two sides will meet at Dosti’s Drieburg ground on Saturday.
Dosti, who could thank a fine double from Mohammad Hafeez – including five for 13, his best-ever figures in the top division – for their convincing victory over Quick Haag, will have every reason to relish this encounter, while Excelsior, after reducing VRA to 79 for eight on Thursday, saw their visitors recover to 176, George Dunlop contributing a career-best 57 and sharing a ninth-wicket stand of 82 with veteran former international Adeel Raja.
It was, moreover, only due to a fighting knock of 62 not out by James Hilditch that the Thurlede side squeezed home with a three-wicket margin and 11 balls to spare, and Tom Heggelman will be conscious that his side has yet to hit top gear in its attempt to win a third successive title.
Quick, bowled out for 71 by Dosti as they chased 209, only openers Jay Bista and Lesley Stokkers reaching double figures, came down to earth with a bump after their first-day victory over VRA, and they will visit VOC Rotterdam on Saturday determined to regain some momentum.
But it is the opposite story for the Rotterdammers: having suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Dosti last weekend, they bounced back with a vengeance against HCC on Thursday, dismissing the Hagenaars for 127 with an excellent all-round bowling performance.
Their own total of 206 for nine owed a huge amount to Dutch international keeper Scott Edwards, who batted throughout the innings for his 153-ball 90, including just three fours and a six, and a good deal to his partnership with Pieter Seelaar, who made a rather brisker 53 in a fourth-wicket stand of 91.
HCC now find themselves at the foot of the table, and will face difficult opponents this Sunday in the form of HBS Den Haag, whose demolition of Sparta 1888 secured them a position in the top half of a very crowded table.
Disappointing as their total of 160 may have been, Wesley Barresi and Tobias Visée again falling in single figures and Jaron Morgan top-scoring with 36, HBS made it seem like a decent score when they shot the Capelle side out for 61, seamer Berend Westdijk claiming four for 30.
This defeat put Sparta’s win over HCC into a different perspective, and they will be very keen to add Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell to their strength at the earliest opportunity. They are clearly a workmanlike side, but it looks as if they may need every point they can muster as the season unfolds.
They, too, will face a tricky third game on Saturday, when they play Punjab Rotterdam at Het Zomercomplex. Punjab were in rampant form against ACC on Thursday, with Stef Myburgh (101 not out) and Ali Raza (73) ripping the Amsterdammers’ attack apart with an opening stand of 163 in just 22 overs.
The advent of legspinner Bernard Vorster gives the Punjab attack another dimension too, and while it may not be the most dangerous in the competition, the bowlers did well to restrict ACC to 204 for six, a total which the batsmen then passed with more than 17 overs to spare.
For ACC, who were admittedly weakened by the absence through illness of Richardt Frenz, this will have been something of a wake-up call, the innings of Rehmat (30), Saqib (45) and Sikander Zulfiqar (67 not out) again confirming just how vital the fortunes of the brothers are, not forgetting the contribution of father Ahmed (29), standing in for Frenz.
Saturday will see ACC make the short journey across Amstelveen to take on the enigmatic VRA, who share with HCC the indignity of being winless after two matches.
Their blushes rescued to a degree by the resistance of Dunlop and Raja, and by another fighting effort with the ball, the VRA top order again failed to live up to their reputation and their potential, and Emile van den Burg’s men will need to regroup quickly if they are to avoid losing contact with the leaders, one of whom will be on six points by Sunday evening.
One the first week, two on Thursday – can I make it three this weekend with the following picks?
Dosti, VOC, HBS, Punjab, VRA.