Topklasse sides hope for a start, second time round
After last week’s false start, the eight Topklasse teams will have a second opportunity to size each other up this Sunday, and the national squad members will get the first of two chances in the middle before they set off on their quest to take on the counties.
That’s if the weather co-operates, of course, and the current prediction is that while there may be showers to interrupt proceedings, we are unlikely to see a repetition of last Sunday’s unrelenting rain.
For Excelsior ’20 in Schiedam, the day will have special significance, since – weather permitting – their game against VOC Rotterdam at Thurlede will mark the inauguration of their new turf square.
This match will pit two team-mates from the Tasmanian state side against each other, with VOC’s returning player-coach Michael Dighton facing Excelsior’s Ed Cowan. It will also provide a first opportunity to see New Zealander Andrew Hoogstraten, who will be the spearhead of the visitors’ attack.
These sides are among many people’s picks for the top four, so this is a game which could have a big impact on the standings all the way through to the end of the season – a real ‘four-pointer’. Two strong batting line-ups confront each other, but on paper it seems that VOC may have the stronger attack, and it would not come as a huge surprise if they were to spoil Excelsior’s party by winning at Thurlede for the first time since 2006.
VRA Amsterdam will make the short journey across Amstelveen to take on old rivals ACC at Het Loopveld. ACC upset the form book by winning both their Hoofdklasse encounters last season, and VRA will be determined to prevent their making it three in a row.
Former VRA coach Ryan Maron always relishes the challenge of playing against his old club, and this time he will be joined by young left-arm spinner Michael Rippon, who is in the ACC squad this season after having played a few matches for their opponents in 2008.
The Loopveld West pitch tends to be bowler-friendly, and that may neutralise the power of the VRA batting line-up, with a strong and varied home attack looking to take full advantage of the conditions. But ACC’s batting is a largely unknown quantity, and they will need Mudassar Bukhari to run into form quickly with both bat and ball if they are to build on last season’s performances.
Quick Haag will also face a tough challenge, at home to Hermes-DVS Schiedam, although with the amateur football season lingering on the match will actually be played on the artificial surface at Quick’s next-door neighbours HBS.
Strengthened by the acquisition of New Zealander Derek de Boorder, Hermes-DVS look to have a more solid batting order than they have in recent seasons, but Quick’s well-balanced attack, with newcomer Farshad Khan sharing the new ball with Somesh Kohli, is capable of giving them plenty to think about.
Equally, Quick have plenty of batting, while Hermes’ experienced seam bowlers, backed up by international spinner Pieter Seelaar, have traditionally formed one of the more effective units in the competition. All in all, this promises to be another tight battle.
In the day’s fourth game, promoted side Rood en Wit Haarlem will entertain HCC at the Spanjaardslaan. With experienced allrounders Andrew Bailey and Shahbaz Bashir having joined the Haarlemmers they will start the campaign full of optimism, and this is the sort of the game they will need to win if they are to have any realistic chance of challenging for a top four spot.
HCC, by contrast, are in a rebuilding phase, and their batting in particular, despite the presence of Johan Myburgh and Tom de Grooth, gives rise to some doubts. But with the Jonkman twins, Bernard Loots and Philip van den Brandeler, the HCC seam attack will provide a severe test for the home side’s batsmen, led by Jarrod Englefield and coach Enoch Nkwe alongside Bailey and Shahbaz.
In the absence of form these matches don’t get any easier to predict, and of course the possible influence of Duckworth/Lewis makes things even more difficult. But this week’s tips (with a very low level of confidence) are: VOC, VRA, Rood en Wit, Hermes-DVS.