Rod Lyall 09/05/18
The traditional Ascension Day fixtures on Thursday feature a clash between two of last weekend’s surprise winners, Quick Haag and Dosti United Amsterdam, at the former’s Nieuw Hanenburg ground.
It also brings into direct confrontation two of the overseas players, both Indian, who made the greatest impression in the opening round: Dosti’s Taruwar Kohli (Punjab), whose chanceless 115 not out was the first century of the new Topklasse season, and Quick’s Jay Bista (Mumbai), who took three for 23 on debut in his side’s three-wicket victory over VRA Amsterdam.
Bista’s arrival at Nieuw Hanenburg, along with New Zealander Sean Davey, looks to have compensated Quick to some degree for their loss of international opener Wesley Barresi and the long-serving Henk-Jan Mol, while Dosti, thanks to the batting of Kohli, Rahil Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez, were never really stretched in their 81-run win against VOC Rotterdam.
Thursday’s contest will give us a clearer perspective on the relative strengths of both these sides, one of whom will be guaranteed at least a share of the early running in the Topklasse’s packed May programme.
Sparta 1888 also made a promising start to their campaign, and what was particularly encouraging about their six-wicket victory over HCC was the way in which, even without Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell, they fought back after their visitors had established a firm initial platform.
The Capelle side have a well-balanced attack, led by Mudassar Bukhari and Dost Muhammed, backed up by the seam of Usman Saleem and skipper Joost Martijn Snoep as well as Faisal Iqbal’s spin, and in Michael Pollard they have an overseas player who seems well equipped to score plenty of runs in the middle order.
They will again have home advantage on Thursday, when they take on HBS Den Haag at Sportpark Bermweg.
HBS’s powerful batting lineup failed to fire against ACC on Saturday, only Sharn Gomes coming good as his side chased a target of 234, and they will need two or more of Wesley Barresi, Tobias Visée, Navjit Singh and Jaron Morgan to give him greater support if they are to recover from that setback.
The clash between Barresi and Visée on the one hand and Bukhari and Dost Muhammed on the other could well be one of the highlights of what looks like an intriguing encounter.
HCC’s decline on Saturday from a potentially winning position will have given Mark Jonkman’s side cause for serious reflection, and it is already clear that the Diepput outfit will be missing the resilience of leading run-scorer Jonathan Vandiar.
He dug them out of some difficult situations in recent seasons, stiffening a middle order which looked all too vulnerable against Sparta, and that absence will throw even greater weight upon the top three, Bryce Street, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee, while Ryan Ninan and Hidde Overdijk will also have a crucial role if HCC are to set – or chase – decent totals.
They will have their first chance to rectify matters at De Diepput on Thursday, when they entertain VOC Rotterdam, who were also disappointing in going down to Dosti United last Sunday.
One of the strongest sides in the competition on paper, a VOC attack which includes internationals Fred Klaassen, Ahsan Malik Jamil and Pieter Seelaar, as well as seamers Pierce Fletcher and Bobby Hanif and spinner Umar Baker, was able to make little impression on the Dosti top order, while the batsmen struggled against a disciplined opposing attack.
It can only be a matter of time before VOC realise their very considerable potential, but Dosti did enough on Sunday to show they cannot be taken lightly.
Another of the sides which underperformed on the opening day, VRA Amsterdam, travel to Schiedam to take on Excelsior ‘20, who once again took up the battle where they had left off last season.
The defending champions looked as strong as ever as they cruised to an eight-wicket victory over Punjab Rotterdam, with Lorenzo Ingram and James Hilditch again leading from the front, and VRA will need to raise their game considerably if they are to trouble their hosts.
Early-season rustiness can scarcely explain a VRA side which includes Ben Cooper, Eric Szwarczynski and Peter Borren, as well as openers Vikram Singh and Daan ter Braak, being bowled out for 124, and although the bowlers did well to keep their team in the game, a much more disciplined effort will be needed against Excelsior.
The Schiedammers are, of course, a much more experienced outfit than they were in their first championship season two years ago, and they seem virtually certain to be at the heart of the title race. That said, VRA are perfectly capable of bouncing back fast, and their potentially explosive batting and very considerable bowling resources are both strong enough to give Excelsior a serious run for their money.
At Het Loopveld West ACC, the fifth of last weekend’s winners, will be at home to Punjab, and looking to build on that opening victory over HBS.
The Rotterdammers remain something of an unknown quantity, and all the more so because they had to begin their campaign against as formidable opponents as Excelsior. But they did enough, especially with the bat, to indicate that last year’s mid-table position wasn’t a flash in the pan, and they will travel to Amstelveen hopeful of causing problems for an ACC side which remains far too dependent upon the Zulfiqar brothers and their overseas players.
But the Zulfiqars looked to be in great early-season form last weekend, and unless Punjab can find a way of neutralizing that threat a home win looks to be on the cards.
Rod Lyall’s I’m-not-sure-why-I-do-this predictions:
Quick, Sparta, VOC, Excelsior, ACC.