Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 27/06/19
As the Topklasse returns to what passes for normal this Sunday, the luck of the draw pits each of the current top five at home against one of the lower teams; this should make prediction easy, but of course it doesn’t. What it does do is create opportunities for the teams in the wrong half of the table to bridge the gap to the current leaders somewhat.
RL: In what has the potential to be the most absorbing clash of the day ACC will take on Quick Haag at Het Loopveld. Having managed to survive the absence of almost half their team last week in beating strugglers VRA, the Amsterdammers can add a maiden Topklasse century for Jean Marais and a first significant innings from young Jamieson Mulready to their list of milestones for the season. With new ball spearhead Brady Barends one of the undoubted successes of the season they have moved from surprise packet to deserved title challengers, while the addition of Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake to Quick’s line-up has not (yet) made the side as competitive as many at Nieuw Hanenburg will have hoped. Nevertheless Quick can be expected to put together two or three winning performances in the latter part of the season, and by doing so they could have a real effect on the championship as well as keeping themselves clear of relegation.
BdJ: Two judicious acquisitions and regular contributions from an increasingly impressive cast of junior players has seen ACC to the top of the table, and it’s beginning to look like they have the side to go the distance. Witch Excelsior and HCC close on their heels though the Amsterdammers need to keep winning to stay ahead of the pack. Doc Mol aside, Quick have not really been at their best this season, and even the qualities of Bista and Dake would not have been enough to keep them out of relegation danger so far were it not for the haplessness of VRA. As it stands, they will likely only need three or four more wins to be assured of safety this time round, and upsetting the current leaders would be a fine way to start.
RL: Another game in the banana skin category sees Excelsior ‘20 take on Voorburg at Thurlede. Tom Heggelman’s side has also gone on winning, fortified no doubt by the experience of two titles with pretty much the same squad in 2016 and 2017, and with Brenton Parchment proving a fine successor to James Hilditch they, too, have emerged as one of the most difficult sides to beat. Voorburg’s performances have been much more variable, but their demolition of HBS a few weeks ago proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Brandon Glover returns after a successful introduction to the Dutch side, and together with his national team colleague Viv Kingma he will present a serious challenge to the Excelsior top order. With Tom de Grooth adding more solidity at the top of Voorburg’s batting, this too is likely to be a keenly-fought battle.
BdJ: A tough on to call, this. With Excelsior’s sole home defeat so far this season coming courtesy Max Hoornweg’s spectacular return of 7-36, it’s fair to say it will take something special to take two points home from Thurlede. The return of VCC’s pace pairing of Glover and Kingma certainly gives them something of an x-factor, though the slow-bowling contribution of Clayton Floyd to Voorburg’s hopes should not be underestimated. The batting has been the somewhat surprising weakness for Voorburg so far, with an under-performing Matt Smit the only VCC bat to have reached 200 runs at better than 30. Against and Excelsior side that has managed to win consistently even without really recapturing the collective dominance of two years ago, Voorburg start as underdogs on form at least.
RL: Currently third, one win behind the leaders, HCC will welcome Dosti United to De Diepput. Welcome may not be exactly the right word, since the Amsterdam side will be buoyed up by their 217-run win over VOC last Sunday, and their powerful batting line-up will relish the short square boundaries at the HCC ground. Abhinav Bali’s maiden Topklasse century takes some of the pressure off Taruwar Kohli, but it was the Dosti bowling which was particularly impressive against VOC. With Bryce Street in great form with both bat and ball, however, at the centre of a well-organised and balanced HCC outfit, and this is again a match which, despite the current standings, could well go either way.
BdJ: With one less completed game, HCC are in fact marginally less than one win from the top spot having, like ACC and Excelsior, lost only twice thus far. They have every chance of adding to that tally on Sunday however when they take on a Dosti side that indeed looks in good nick. Perhaps not too much can be read into their beating up on a depleted VOC last weak, the Rotterdammers resorting to nine different bowlers to share the overs around, but the bowling does indeed look well settled, with the Hoseinbaks-Hans spin axis providing a variety of slow bowling options and Anees Davids also in the wickets. HCC will nonetheless be a considerable step-up in class of opposition however, even if the batting card remains rather top-heavy.
RL: Having started their campaign in rampant mood, HBS Craeyenhout have faltered in recent weeks, and their game against Sparta 1888 on Sunday is now a must-win event for them. They were, of course, handicapped by the absence of Tobias Visée and Wesley Barresi in losing to HCC last Sunday, and their powerful batting line-up will be back at full strength for this crucial encounter. For Sparta, dropping Andrew Fletcher down the order produced his first significant innings of the season, but they will need him to make the most of the batsman-friendly conditions at Craeyenhout if they are to trouble HBS. Sparta are, it must be said, something of a bits-and-pieces side, but all their bowlers have performed well on occasion, and with former internationals Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman always capable of producing important innings, they will be hoping to pick up a win which would move them further clear of the relegation zone.
BdJ: HBS will have to get used to being without their captain, one suspects, an upcoming stint in Canada at the GT20 will see him miss two further games this season, and the Vancouver Knights likely won’t be the last franchise to come calling. They’ll be glad to have him back Sunday, and Sparta will doubtless be ruing the Netherlands’ comparatively light international schedule having failed to take advantage of a weakened VCC last week. Fletcher’s drop to number five seems to have worked for him, but not necessarily for his team who are now an opener short, and even contributions from both overseas wasn’t enough last week. With HBS batting back at full strength and Westdijik still bowling well Sparta will have their work cut out at Craeyenhout.
RL: Just at the head of the chasing pack on net run rate, VOC Rotterdam meet relegation candidates VRA Amsterdam at Hazelaarweg. Here, too, the return of the sides’ Dutch internationals will come as a relief, especially for VOC, who suffered that thumping defeat at Dosti last week. These teams have not yet met this season, their first-round match having been rescheduled for 20 July, but this is a traditional rivalry which always has an additional charge. VOC’s attack has been strengthened by the return of Bobby Hanif, but for VRA the inability of their bowlers to dismiss opposing sides remains a serious concern. Leon Turmaine is their leading wicket-taker with 11, but in all they have only taken 40 wickets in eight matches, and they have lost their last two by seven wickets. If O’Dowd, Edwards, Seelaar and Co. fire here, VOC could achieve a big total on their own account.
BdJ:With two games to play against VOC and only three losses adrift, besting the Rotterdammers twice may represent VRA’s best shot at avoiding relegation. But though Dosti exposed the reliance of the VOC batting on their three Dutch internationals, all three are now back and in fine form, indeed O’Dowd has probably never looked better. VRA’s pace attack has at times bowled better than their meagre returns suggest, and the batting remains stronger on paper than in practice, but the Amsterdammers will need to find another gear if they are to escape an increasingly inevitable-looking relegation.
Rod Lyall’s tips: ACC, Voorburg, Dosti, HBS, VOC.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: ACC, VCC, HCC, HBS, VOC.