Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 23/05/21
Not only busy, but also badly affected by the weather: of the 24 matches scheduled so far only seven have been rain-free, while five have been abandoned without a ball being bowled, four more yielded no result, and eight had the overs reduced. This is extreme even by the standards of a Dutch summer, and the forecast for Pentecost Monday indicates more of the same. Nevertheless, we all soldier on, and pretend that everything’s more or less normal.
RL: Struggling Sparta 1888 will spend the Monday Pentecost holiday at De Diepput, looking to take on HCC. There were encouraging signs in their match at Voorburg on Saturday, where the advent of Garnett Tarr gave greater solidity to the top order, and skipper Mudassar Bukhari was again impressive with both bat and ball. But the rest of the batting remains fragile, with Belgian internationals Ali Raza and Sherry Butt yet to make a significant contribution. HCC remain unbeaten, albeit in part due to their terrible luck with the weather. They may regard themselves as unfortunate not to have returned from Craeyenhout with four points on Saturday, but they will be a little concerned about the inability of their bowlers to make a greater impression on the HBS top order, but their batting remains a force to reckon with, and you’d expect them to match any total Sparta are able to post.
BdJ: One advantage that Sparta do at least have over HCC is match practice. Their showing against VCC showed some signs of improvement too, albeit from a very low base. Their lack of batting depth remains a concern, though it is one that may be papered over if tomorrow sees another rain-abbreviated game. The evident hittablitiy of the Sparta bowling is harder to get around however. A lot would have to go right for Sparta to sping an upset on even a frustrated and undercooked HCC, not least earl wickets one suspects. Mudassar Bukhari may well find a few of those of course, but he will need the rest of his side to give him more support than they have thus far.
RL: On top of the table on run rate, Voorburg travel to the Zomercomplex to meet Punjab Rotterdam in what looks like the match of the round. Even with the restrictions on their attack reportedly imposed by the national team management ahead of the Ireland Super League series – Kingma and De Leede unable to bowl at all, Van Beek restricted to six overs – Voorburg were strong enough to see off Sparta, but Punjab are obviously a very different proposition. The contest between the Rotterdammers’ top order and a full-strength Voorburg attack would be something to savour, but in present circumstances you have to expect the former to have the edge. Punjab’s own bowling, on the other hand, is less overwhelming that the batting, even if they did a great job containing Excelsior last week, and Voorburg’s top six will really test their mettle. Should be a great game (weather permitting) which could go either way, but I reckon Punjab may shade it.
BdJ: VCC may have reason to regret their all-international bowling attack in the circumstances, though the request from the Dutch camp is not altogether unreasonable given the workload the bowlers have had, and it’s a testament to their confidence that they were prepared to play VRA on Ascension Day without any of their internationals if necessary. Nonetheless Punjab away is a rather different proposition, with a motivated Myburgh at the top of a batting card that hits a long way down VCC can hardly afford to be sending down anything too part-time. It may indeed come down to VCC having to match their hosts hit for hit, surely a prospect to relish if the rain relents
RL: Seldom has the Amsterdam derby been such a low-focus event, but VRA’s visit to Het Loopveld to face ACC finds both sides in the wrong half of the table and level on points, VRA’s run rate advantage owing almost entirely to their massive victory over Sparta. Neither got a game in on Saturday, and each has managed just one win so far. But ACC have a marginally better record, having beaten HBS and had a great start against Excelsior, even if much of that success is due to in-form opener Sahil Kothari. A side without stars, or even big names, they take on a VRA line-up which includes the likes of Peter Borren, Ben Cooper, Vikram Singh and Eric Szwarczynski, although their one win came through the efforts of Marcus Andrew and Jack Balbirnie. Both sides have a mix of experience and youth, but it may the performances of VRA’s big names which decide who gets the bragging rights come Monday evening.
BdJ: One might not have imagined, looking at the two Amsterdam line-ups at the start of the season, that this match would be tricky to call. Even now one would have to back the VRA batting to come good eventually and though the top-order is horribly out of form Peter Borren was finding the middle of the bat last week and his record at het Loopveld is intimidating. Nonetheless ACC may just smell blood in the water, with VRA coming off the back of a heavy defeat and having had a rainy day to dwell on it, one cannot imagine that confidence levels are high.
RL: There’s a similar imbalance of reputations in the other match scheduled for the capital on Monday, in which co-leaders VOC Rotterdam will meet Dosti United at Sportpark Drieburg. We keep going on about VOC’s international trio of O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards, but that’s because they’re enough to give their side the edge over most opponents. Dosti, of course, are going through hard times, and Vinoo Tewarie’s men will need to be at their absolute best if they are to discomfit VOC to the degree they discomfited their previous visitors from Rotterdam, Punjab. The prospective return of Rahil Ahmed should give them a boost, but Tewarie, Mahesh Hans, Waheed Masood, Asief Hoseinbaks and the rest face an all-round VOC outfit which is a serious championship contender.
BdJ: Having had no better luck than HCC with the weather this season, one imagines Dosti will be glad just to get on the park on Monday, but putting up a competitive total will require more application with the bat than Vinoo Tewarie’s men (Tewarie himself excepted) have shown thus far in their admittedly limited season. The scare they gave Punjab however suggests that if they bowl to their ability they may not need an overwhelming number of runs to sneak a win, indeed one rarely does at Drieburg. A little luck with the toss and the weather and Dosti will count themselves in with a chance, though they will have to get used to the label of underdogs.
RL: Harder to pick is the clash between HBS and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam at Craeyenhout. The Crows did well to pull two points out of the fire on Saturday, especially since they were at least one front-line bowler short. In Lorenzo Ingram and Tristan Stubbs Excelsior have the batters to take full advantage of that and of the artificial Craeyenhout outfield, but the HBS overseas pairing of Tayo Walbrugh and Ryan Klein are capable of turning a game as well, and Klein’s encounter with the Excelsior top order could be one of the features of the round. Both Stubbs and Walbrugh have made a big impression with a couple of half-centuries in their first Topklasse innings, but the game may turn on how the local members of the two teams respond to the challenge of the occasion as much as on the efforts of the Big Four. And there it may be the visitors who hold a slight advantage.
BdJ: Excelsior’s preferred tactic of containment through discipline is not always reliable at Craeyenhout, especially so long as Tobias Visée is at the crease. Dismissing Visée cheaply is a nigh-indispensible part of any plan against HBS of course, and Excelsior have managed it more often than not in the past. With both Ingram and Stubbs in form the defending champions can also afford to leak a few more runs than has been the case in the past, but one feels that Craeyenhout remains the ground where the Schiedammers feel least in their element.
RL’s picks: HCC, Punjab, VRA, VOC, Excelsior.
BdJ’s picks: HCC, Punjab, VRA, VOC, HBS.