Rod Lyall 07/06/2023
With the national squad now ensconced in southern Africa, prospects for the T20 Cup will become clearer this weekend, with a further eight matches scheduled.
The effect of the efflux will be most apparent at Westvliet on Saturday, where Voorburg will be without at least six first-choice players when they take on first HCC, who won both their matches last week, and then Sparta 1888 in the day’s one triple-header.
The damage is spread pretty evenly across the batting and bowling, although Voorburg are fortunate in having a decent crop of reserves to step up in this situation: Mees van Vliet will presumably assume a greater role in the pace attack, but he could be supported by the experience of Stef Mulder and Ali Ahmad Qasim, as well as by Floris de Lange and Bas de Leede’s younger brother Tom, all of whom have been taking wickets in the Hoofdklasse for the club’s second team.
It may be harder to replace Michael Levitt and Noah Croes, both of whom have been called up for the national side, but Laurens Boissevain did not look out of place last week, and he may be joined in the middle order by Nirav Kulkarni.
Then again, neither Sybrand Engelbrecht nor Karl Nieuwoudt played in the defeat of VOC last week, and they would make a huge difference to the balance of the side were they to return.
HCC, by comparison, will be missing only Clayton Floyd, and while his wicket-taking capacity will be absent, Daniel Doram will still be there, and Jan-Wieger Overdijk slotted in effectively in last week’s games.
Even without Jonathan Vandiar HCC displayed plenty of hitting power, Ratha Alphonse proving much more uninhibited in the shorter format, and with Tonny Staal coming back into form and young Teun Kloppenburg finding his feet at this level, the Lions will give the reconstructed Voorburg a severe test.
The same probably applies to Sparta, who will be especially keen to expunge any memories of their 50-over nightmare at Westvliet a couple of weeks ago.
Their match against ACC last Saturday could have gone either way, and with their three overseas players, Ferguson, Tarr and Clark at the top of the order and the explosive Ali Raza to follow, they remain a force to be reckoned with.
Mudassar Bukhari may be out of the attack at the moment, but they still have Ahsan Malik and Khalid Ahmadi, and they are perfectly capable of upsetting either their hosts or HCC, whom they will take on the middle game of the three.
Having squeezed home against Sparta, ACC will host a double-header at Het Loopveld on Saturday, their opponents first VOC Rotterdam and then HBS Craeyenhout.
The Amsterdammers may not have anyone in the Dutch side, but they will be without captain-coach Heino Kuhn, who has been responsible for much of the side’s improvement this season and who will be in Zimbabwe as part of the coaching staff.
He leaves a sizeable gap, but it’s perhaps not as great as that left by Scott Edwards and Max O’Dowd, who have contributed such a large share of the Rotterdammers’ runs in recent seasons.
VOC are fortunate to have the experienced Corey Rutgers waiting in the wings to join the prolific Lane Berry, Tim de Kok and the rest in the first team, but quite apart from the loss of two dominant figures from the batting line-up, the bowling remains a matter of some concern.
That is even more true of HBS, who fielded a remarkably young attack against VRA and Punjab last week; on the whole, Elmar Boendermaker, Azzam Khan and Joris van Oosterom stood up pretty well to the pounding they took, and they can only have learned from the experience.
The Crows will be without skipper Wesley Barresi for the rest of their campaign, but with Tayo Walbrugh back to his best form and allrounder Nic Adendorff assuming a steadily-increasing role with both bat and ball, they will be keen to bounce back quickly against ACC, and then against VOC, whom they will meet at the Hazelaarweg on Sunday.
With two wins under their belts, Punjab Rotterdam will welcome Excelsior ‘20 back to Het Zomercomplex on Saturday, albeit without Saqib Zulfiqar.
That still leaves them plenty of firepower with both bat and ball, and although they were too strong for Salland last week, this Excelsior side looks to be less well adapted to the T20 format than to the 50-over game, where their season so far has already been disappointing enough.
That said, it would be dangerous to write off any team with Lorenzo Ingram in it, and Punjab will need to get him early.
Punjab, of course, have match-winners of their own, with Shoaib Minhas and Mohsin Riaz both capable of piling on quick runs, not to mention the all-round capabilities of Sikander Zulfiqar.
Roel Verhagen, though, has been in good form with the bat since his return from injury, and with Stan van Troost now well established behind the stumps, Verhagen chose last Saturday to reveal previously-unsuspected talents with the ball.
The other one-off game on Saturday sees VRA Amsterdam take on Salland in the Amsterdamse Bos, but they will do so without Vikram Singh, whose unbeaten 161 was an outstanding feature of the opening day, Teja Nidamanuru and Aryan Dutt.
It remains to be seen whether VRA have the resources in reserve to cover these losses, as well as that of the injured Shirase Rasool, but they could scarcely have chosen a better way to find out than against a Salland side which looked thoroughly unconvincing in both their games at De Diepput last Saturday.
Aaditt Jain and Zamaan Khan both slotted into the side encouragingly at Craeyenhout, but the top of the batting may prove to be somewhat threadbare in the absence of the three internationals and Rasool, even if Johan Smal returns to a place in the top three.
For Salland, it’s always a question of how many of their German contingent are available, and although Talha Ahmed Khan performed solidly against Excelsior and HCC, there can be no doubt that they look a much weaker outfit without Venkat Ganesan and Sahir Naqash.
My (still very tentative) picks: HCC, Punjab; HCC, VRA, ACC; Voorburg, ACC; HBS.