Topklasse top four look to create a gap
It’s only three weeks since the first Schiedam derby of the Topklasse season, but an unusual reshaping of the schedule means that the second will take place at Thurlede this Sunday, and it will be a gala event: the first match between Excelsior ’20 and Hermes-DVS on a turf pitch will mark the official inauguration of Thurlede’s new square.
The defending champions were too strong for their rivals at Sportpark Harga on 29 May, and will go into the return fixture confident of retaining their unbeaten record and their four-point lead at the head of the Topklasse table.
They will be without player-coach Ed Cowan, who has returned to Australia to play for his country’s A side against Sri Lanka A, and will miss two matches. He will be replaced by Second XI coach David Sandman.
For Hermes, the match will be the last appearance of coach Shanan Stewart and batsman Derek de Boorder, both of whom have been called up by New Zealand for their Emerging Players side which will play in a tournament in Australia early next month. Stewart’s replacement will be the club’s former coach, fellow-New Zealander Greg Todd, who had two seasons with the Schiedam club in 2003-04.
HCC, four points behind in second place, just squeaked home by one wicket against Quick Haag in their first meeting, and will be hoping for a somewhat less nerve-wracking victory in the return fixture at De Diepput.
Their winning run was abruptly halted a fortnight ago by a remarkable batting collapse in a rain-affected match against ACC, and Bernard Loots and his men will want to establish that this was no more than a temporary blip.
Quick Haag, on the other hand, are still looking for that elusive first win, and they know that time is beginning to run out if they are to make up the four-point deficit they have conceded to ACC and get themselves clear of a relegation play-off. After coming desperately close against Rood en Wit and HCC they again struggled against VRA, and they will need to lift themselves significantly if they are to challenge a well-balanced HCC side.
For the tightly-bunched pursuing pack, every match is now vital, and few more so than the encounter between VRA Amsterdam and VOC Rotterdam in the Amsterdamse Bos. In an unfamiliar sixth spot, VRA will be hoping that home advantage will help them reverse the result three weeks ago, when VOC secured a four-wicket victory.
Although VRA’s attack is far from imposing, it has been the failures of the batsmen which have contributed most to their lowly position, and it will have come as something of a relief that they posted 200 for the first time when beating Quick Haag in their last outing.
VOC is another side which seems stronger in batting than in bowling, but it was the attack which held on two weeks ago to claim a narrow win over Hermes-DVS. The batting continues to rely a good deal on Michael Dighton and Bas Zuiderent, although Jelte Schoonheim has also been in good form with the bat.
After their victory over HCC in their last match, ACC will travel to Haarlem hopeful of avenging their defeat at the hands of Rood en Wit. Two games away from a place in the top four, the Amsterdammers need to win matches like this if they are to mount a serious challenge for the play-offs, but Rood en Wit have been in solid form, winning four in a row and giving Excelsior a scare before finally succumbing a fortnight ago.
As this preview was being completed the news came through that, as reported elsewhere on CricketEurope, Excelsior’s home match against VRA Amsterdam will, despite their protests, have to be played on Saturday. It’s an unhappy situation, and it will be interesting to see what sides are fielded at such short notice.
Excelsior will, of course, be without Ed Cowan, but it is, frankly, anybody’s guess who will take part in this match.
As for Sunday, with the current top four all playing lower-placed opponents, I’m going with form, knowing that at least one of these predictions will be wrong:
Excelsior, HCC, VOC, Rood en Wit.