HCC face Excelsior in key Topklasse clash
After three rounds of matches this season’s Topklasse is already showing signs of glorious unpredictability, and it seems clear that the battle for final four places, and for the championship, will be a lot more even this year.
Sunday’s games will see unbeaten leaders ACC travel to Rotterdam to take on VOC, and with the Amsterdammers’ two South Africans, Graeme van Buuren and François Le Clus, having arrived in great form, and VOC currently without a win, a victory for ACC might appear a safe bet.
But VOC have a much better side than their results so far suggest, and despite the injury which kept Ahsan Malik Jamil out of Friday’s CB40 match against Worcestershire, their pace attack, with Timm van der Gugten and A internationals Bobby Hanif and Dirk van Baren, is strong enough to trouble any side.
Australian left-arm spinner Trent Keep made a very successful Topklasse debut for VOC last week, and he adds valuable variety to the attack. But the batting has yet to live up to its potential, and the form book indicates that ACC should return to Amsterdam with the points.
Having both lost last week, HCC and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will be keen to get back onto a winning track. Both are strong contenders for a place in the play-offs, and with two defeats in their first three games Excelsior in particular will be under pressure to turn things round quickly.
With five and two wickets respectively, the Schiedammers’ new-ball attack of Brett Hampton and Rudi Hillermann have not yet been able to reproduce in the 50-over competition the effectiveness they showed in the Twenty20 Cup, but it is the batting, apart from solid performances from Fred Klokker and half-centuries by Stephan Myburgh and the skipper himself last week, which will be giving Daan van Bunge greater concern.
For HCC, too, last week’s defeat by ACC will have underlined how vital it is that their overseas players, Rassie van der Dussen, Cameron Borgas and Logan van Beek, along with skipper Tom de Grooth, all contribute with the bat. This game, however it pans out, seems likely to be one of the most attractive fixtures of the week.
After a wobble against ACC a fortnight ago, VRA Amsterdam produced a much more convincing effort to beat Excelsior last Saturday, and they will go into their game against Quick Haag in Amstelveen with renewed confidence.
Player-coach Barry Rhodes contributed a fine all-round performance to that win, making 81 and taking vital wickets, and the return of Amil Prasad to the new-ball attack has lent the VRA bowling an added degree of menace. Peter Borren was able to employ nine bowlers against Excelsior, and with Matthijs Luten coming in at No. 8 it is clear that the side has remarkable depth in both departments.
For Quick, Amol Muzumdar has been in great early-season form with the bat, but it was the all-round effort of skipper Henk-Jan Mol which was ultimately decisive in his side’s victory over Dosti Amsterdam. The whole team, though, will need to be at their best if they are to mount a serious challenge to the defending champions, whose record on their home turf – that defeat by ACC notwithstanding – is genuinely intimidating.
After a terrible start against HCC Hermes-DVS Schiedam have beaten Quick and VOC, and their encounter with Dosti at Sportpark Harga will be a key test of whether they are indeed contenders for a semi-final spot. Having won just one of their first three games, the visitors also need to claim the points if they are to stay in touch with the early leaders.
It is the Dosti top order which gives real cause for concern: they have been on 39 for five, 7 for three and 49 for seven in their first three innings, and although overseas players David Wiese, Sridharan Sriram and, on his return last week, Amit Uniyal have enabled them to recover on the last two occasions, and Rahil Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez shared a valuable partnership in their opening game, the Amsterdammers need much better starts if they are to hold their own in this competition.
Hermes, of course, have an attack which is capable of causing any batting side problems, but the question is how well their batting will stand up to a Dosti attack led by Wiese, Victor Grandia and Uniyal, and also including the spin of Hafeez and Mohammad Rafi. Hermes stumbled over the line against VOC, but they are very dependent on New Zealanders Greg Todd and Mark Craig, and like their opponents, they need a bigger contribution from their Dutch-based players if they are to go on winning.
With none out of four last week (believe me, it takes years of honing one’s skills to produce results like that), I’m considering contracting out the tipstering to a Ukrainian psychic pig, or the Artis orang-utans. But for what it’s worth, this week I‘m going for: VRA, ACC, Dosti, and Excelsior. So nip out and put your money on Quick, VOC, Hermes-DVS, and HCC!