Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 04/06/21
There are two rounds to go to the halfway mark, and there are still six teams in with a shout of claiming the Topklasse title, especially now that it has been decided to replay the ten matches which were initially abandoned because of the ferocious May weather. VOC are, of course, very definite front-runners, their only defeat so far in part the result of a tough DLS target, but if any one of the chasing pack is able to put together a sustained winning run it could become extremely interesting, not least because there are four play-off spots on offer. We should brace ourselves for a lot of eight-pointers! Meanwhile, this weekend’s games will be without players from the national squad, hopefully secure in their Super League bubble, which will impact four of the five matches to a greater or lesser extent.
RL: One eight-pointer where the effects of the Super League are likely to be felt most acutely is the clash between Excelsior ‘20, currently fourth on the table, and VOC Rotterdam at Thurlede. The Schiedammers will be hoping for a repeat of last week’s effort, when their bowlers ran through HCC’s much-praised batting line-up, and it will do their prospect no harm that VOC will be without Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards, and captain Pieter Seelaar. Others will therefore need to step up, since the leaders will basically be back to where they were last season when the first two were trapped in the Southern Hemisphere and Seelaar was out through injury. Corey Rutgers played a key role then, but the intervening year has seen the further development of Arnav Jain and Siebe van Wingerden, not to mention the return of Pierce Fletcher. Even at full strength, though, VOC would be hard pressed by an Excelsior side in which Tristan Stubbs is in fine form with the bat and the attack combines nagging seam with effective spin.
BdJ: Excelsior fans occasionally express some exasperation that none of their title-winning side ever seem to warrant consideration for a national call-up, but such complaints are likely to be rather muted on Saturday when they have a chance to derail a weakened VOC’s own title campaign. Ryan Campbell might rather have Tristan Stubbs in the bubble that on the field at the weekend, but the Thurlede faithful will be happy to see him in yellow, even if only on their screens rather than from the sidelines. With the Stubbs-Ingram middle-order engine ticking along and both Gijs Kroesen and Umar Baker proving wicket-taking threats in an Excelsior attack more celebrated for discipline that penetration a trip to Thurlede looks more daunting than ever. Van Wingerden’s place at the top of the wicket-taking table is a testament to his development and ability, but he is limited to ten overs and in the absence of VOC’s international contingent Excelsior can afford to see just him off. Thoug the Rotterdammers’ younger and fringe players have done well thus far it’s difficult to see them besting Excelsior away with the senior’s absent.
RL: The absences will be a little more evenly distributed at De Diepput, where HCC will be without their new international Musa Nadeem Ahmad when they entertain a Punjab Rotterdam side which will be without Stef Myburgh and Saqib Zulfiqar. HCC obviously need to bounce back after last week’s defeat, and will be helped by the fact that skipper Tonny Staal was omitted from the Super League squad. It will be especially interesting to see how their attack deals with a Punjab top order which still features three Zulfiqars and Teja Nidamanuru, while Punjab’s disciplined attack will need to be at its best against Staal and Co. De Diepput’s short square boundaries are an encouragement to the big hitters and a potential nightmare for the spinners, and this, too, is a match which could have a big influence on the eventual look of the table.
BdJ: Though both of last season’s top two sides have been affected by the Ireland series, it’s probably fair to say that HCC would have benched Nadeem in exchange for Punjab losing Myburgh and Saqib Zulfiqar for Saturday’s game if given the option. The expected return of Hidde Overdijk will further bolster the hosts confidence ahead of what could indeed prove a crucial enocounter.
RL: HBS Craeyenhout and VRA Amsterdam will each be without a big hitter when they meet at Craeyenhout: Tobias Visée for the home side, and Ben Cooper for the visitors. The latter are, on paper at least, better equipped to cope with the loss, and their batting showed signs of running into form as they posted 300 against Dosti last week; the innings of Vikram Singh and Shirase Rasool will have been especially gratifying to skipper Peter Borren. For HBS, Tayo Walbrugh with the bat and Ryan Klein with the ball will be even more important than usual, although Navjit Singh has been in good form in recent weeks, and Julian de Mey is a real threat to opposing batters. A win for VRA would confirm their standing as play-off contenders, while HBS need the points to bridge the gap from the lower reaches of the table to the chasing pack.
BdJ: While VRA will doubtless be glad of Visée’s absence when they arrive at Craeyenhout, it is new overseas Tayo Walbrugh that currently leads the runscoring for the Crows, and indeed the entire league. While Cooper would have been a potentially game-changing presence on HBS’ samll ground one suspects that the player VRA will miss most come saturday will be turning out for the opposition. The Amsterdammers may yet have cause to regret the failure of pre-season talks with Ryan Klein on the day, while there is sufficient depth in batting that Cooper’s absence does not unduly upset the balance of the VRA side, they look like they’ve been missing an extra quality seamer all season and with Quirijn Gunning still sidelined it’s hard to see where wickets are coming from for VRA.
RL: Anchored at the foot of the table, Sparta 1888 travel to Het Loopveld to take on an ACC side which has bursts of success let down by longer periods of its opposite. The Amsterdam bowlers did well to put Voorburg under early pressure last Saturday, but then saw a fine partnership undo their good work, and the batting again failed, admittedly against the best attack in the competition. Sparta’s batting has been even worse, only passing 150 once – and that against Voorburg. Garnett Tarr may be finding that too much responsibility rests on his shoulders, but if he can produce a substantial innings against ACC, Sparta could have a chance of posting their first win of the season. ACC’s own batting is heavily dependent on the unheralded Sahil Kothari, but their bowling unit has plenty of variety, and if they can make early inroads into the Sparta line-up they should have enough to claim the points.
BdJ: Well I must take issue with m’colleague’s description of Kothari as “unheralded” given that I’ve been carrying his colours all season in these pages, but I’m inclined to agree he may be the difference again on Saturday. Though most of the ACC top order have put up a score or two this season Kothari is the only ACCer in the top ten of the aggregates. That’s one more than Starta boats though, and while Tarr and Bukhari have done themselves some credit thus far the rest of the Sparta line-up has yet to contibute significantly. Bukhari too could be a game-changer with the ball in a matchwhere one feels a solo performance could be the difference, but for so long as Sparta’s Belgian contingent are off the boil the Amsterdammers are favourites heading in.
RL: Even more depleted than VOC, Voorburg will head north to Drieburg on Sunday without captain Bas de Leede, Viv Kingma, Logan van Beek and Philippe Boissevain. That shortens the odds on a Dosti United victory considerably, but Voorburg’s win against ACC last Saturday owed more to Sybrandt Engelbecht and Aryan Dutt than it did to the international stars, and the home side will need to continue their improvement of the past couple of weeks if they are to capitalise on their visitors’ absences. The return of Rahil Ahmed has strengthened their batting, and with Waheed Masood and Asief Hoseinbaks performing well with the ball, Vinoo Tewarie’s wickets with his leg-breaks are a significant bonus.
BdJ: If Dosti are to spring an upset this season, then surely this is the time. With Voorburg missing their internationals and both Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed both in form Dosti would have been eying up this game already, but with Anees Davids reportedly back this week they should be gunning for their first win since 2019. Voorburg nonetheless have decent bench stregth, and oveseas Sybrand Engelbrecht looks to be hitting his stride, though away at Drieburg they look vulnerable to a Dosti outfir that has looked by turns hapless and hopeless but not yet looked like rolling over.
RL’s picks: Excelsior, Punjab, VRA, ACC, Voorburg.
BdJ’s picks: Excelsior, Punjab, HBS, ACC, Dosti.