Amsterdam derby tops Sunday's Topklasse bill
Squeezed in between the penultimate Group matches of the Twenty20 Cup and two Clydesdale Bank 40 League games, the second round of the Topklasse competition takes place on Sunday, with the headline event the derby in the Amsterdamse Bos.
The match between VRA Amsterdam and ACC is the only one of the four games which pits two of the winners from the Ascension Day opener against each other, and it will be a rematch of last season’s hard-fought championship decider.
VRA are, of course, a tough side to beat, and especially at home – and they posted a comfortable victory over their former neighbours in their group match in the Twenty20 Cup. But ACC showed great determination in beating promoted side Dosti Amsterdam in their first Topklasse game of the season, and with Mudassar Bukhari in good form with both bat and ball, and players like Bas van der Heijde and Olly Lodder also starting the season well, Mohsin Ghaznavi’s side do have an outside chance of pulling off an away win against the defending champions for the first time since 2009.
For the home side, safely through to the semi-finals of the Twenty20 Cup, every Topklasse game is a step towards not only a third successive championship, but also a possible and unprecedented three-in-a-row double of league and cup. That might seem daunting, but under Peter Borren’s captaincy VRA are an outstanding team as well as a group of outstanding individuals, and they must start as strong favourites to claim the points.
Having lost to ACC ten days ago, Dosti face a daunting challenge of their own as they take on Excelsior ’20 Schiedam in their first home Topklasse match. Excelsior did well to defend an indifferent total in their own opening match against Quick Haag, dismissing their opponents for 155 to win by 26 runs.
Their new ball attack of Brett Hampton and Rudi Hillermann will provide a stern test for the Dosti top order, but in experienced batsmen like Mohammad Wasim, Mehmood Sadiq and Mohammad Hafeez, the hitting power of David Wiese, and the consistency of young wicketkeeper-batsman Rahil Ahmed, the Amsterdam side will hope to put up a more convincing display than they were able to muster against ACC.
Having failed to fire against Quick, Excelsior’s star-studded batting will need to counter Dosti’s sharp opening attack of Wiese and his young Guyanese partner Keyron Fraser, backed up by the experience of Victor Grandia and the subtle skills of Sudhiram Sriram, and this game will provide important early evidence of whether Dosti will be able, not only to stay in the top flight, but even to mount a challenge for a place in the play-offs.
Two of their likely rivals in the latter case, HCC and VOC Rotterdam, meet on Sunday at De Diepput.
Like Excelsior, HCC’s effectiveness with the ball enabled them to defend a modest total in the opening round, as they overpowered Hermes-DVS and won by 76 runs. Left-armer Reinier Bijloos was the destroyer then with a career-best five for 29, but with Logan van Beek, Mark and Maurits Jonkman and Willem de Kempenaer also in the seam attack and the spin of Rassie van der Dussen and Cameron Borgas, HCC have an imposing and varied bowling side.
But then, so do VOC, with the Dutch new-ball pairing of Timm van der Gugten and Ahsan Malik Jamil, backed up by the much-improved left-armer Dirk van Baren, Jelte Schoonheim and Bobby Hanif, together with the spin of Sherry Butt and Wade Townsend.
There’s plenty of batting in both sides as well, especially when Bas Zuiderent is available for VOC, and this promises to be a great battle between two of the stronger outfits in the competition.
For Hermes-DVS and Quick Haag, who meet at Sportpark Harga, this will also be a crucial game, since they both lost on Ascension Day and they have an equal need to recover quickly and get their campaign back on track. It’s too soon to speak of a relegation zone four-pointer, but both sides will be aware of how competitive the Topklasse is likely to be, and this is the sort of match that they really have to win.
In both cases, the bowlers did very well against powerful batting sides, only for the batsmen to crumble to defeat: skipper Pieter Seelaar, Sebastiaan Braat and Greg Todd were all among the wickets for Hermes against HCC, while it was the Mol brothers, backed up by spinner Lesley Stokkers, who did most of the damage for Quick against Excelsior.
With Todd and Mark Craig as well as experienced former international Nick Statham in the Hermes side and Amol Muzumdar, Tim Clarke and the Mols in the Quick top order, there is no shortage of batting talent in either team, but the outcome may depend on how much support these players receive from their rest of the batting.
This week’s tips: VRA, HCC, Excelsior, Quick.