A big double weekend looms in the Topklasse
The second round of the Topklasse competition begins this weekend with matches on both Saturday and Sunday, and virtually every game is likely to have a crucial effect on the battle for placings in the eventual top four.
Leaders ACC, for example, face a tricky away match against Dosti Amsterdam on Saturday and will then take on VRA Amsterdam at home the following day, in what almost looks like two legs of an Amsterdam triangular tournament.
Two wins would effectively seal ACC’s place in the semi-finals and give them a very good chance of securing the double opportunity which comes from finishing in the top two, while for Dosti, one game outside the play-offs at the turn and facing a trip to Schiedam on Sunday to take on Excelsior ’20, at least one victory this weekend is vital if they are to maintain their challenge.
Currently third on net run rate and one of three sides who are two points behind the leaders, VRA are at home to VOC Rotterdam on Saturday before their excursion across Amstelveen to take on ACC, and they will be looking to make sure of at least those first two points before they tackle the leaders.
Having lost twice to ACC at Het Loopveld West last year and again on their own turf this season, the defending champions will certainly not be taking Sunday’s game lightly, but they will no doubt have been encouraged by a maiden Topklasse half-century last week from Matthijs Luten, which suggests that he is settling into a batting order which has been weakened by the loss of Tom Cooper.
For Dosti, too, there was an encouraging development in the century opening stand between Mohammad Wasim and Ehtesham Chaudhry Mohammed, and after a succession of top-order collapses they will be hoping that this will take some pressure off the hard-hitting David Wiese, currently the leading run-scorer in the competition.
Wiese played a key part in his team’s upset victory over Excelsior in their second Topklasse match of the season, and the Amsterdam side would greatly enhance their chances of making the semi-finals were they to repeat the trick at Thurlede on Sunday.
Excelsior, who have managed to claim second place in the table without striking anything like their best form, suffered more problems with their batting against Hermes-DVS last week, holding on to win by just one wicket, and they face a trip to Nieuw Hanenburg on Saturday, where Quick Haag pushed ACC fairly hard last Sunday.
Quick remain rather too dependent on their two in-form players, captain Henk-Jan Mol and player-coach Amol Muzumdar, and it would be a real upset if they were to beat Excelsior, but as the only side which has home advantage on both days they will be desperately keen to take something from the weekend.
Their opponents on Sunday will be the other Schiedam club, Hermes-DVS, who have undoubtedly been the surprise packet of the competition so far. Their narrow defeat by Excelsior was only their second of the season, and the first since they were demolished by HCC on the Topklasse’s opening day.
Hermes will certainly be looking to avenge that defeat when they face HCC again at Sportpark Harga on Saturday, in one of the many contests of the weekend which is effectively a four-pointer – like Dosti, HCC are just two points outside the top four at the halfway stage, and this is the sort of game they have to win if they are to make it to the semi-finals.
But Hermes have shown a level of consistency that has eluded HCC, who had a dream start against VRA last week, with skipper Tom de Grooth making a century only to see his middle order collapse and the bowling able to make little impression on the opposition’s batting as they chased down a target of 229.
HCC will be on the road again on Sunday, when they play VOC at the Hazelaarweg. The Rotterdammers’ long run of defeats grows more and more baffling, and one cannot help feeling that sooner or later someone is going to suffer for it.
The time is certainly becoming short if they are to have a realistic chance of avoiding relegation, and their only consolation may be the fact that Quick remain just two points ahead of them. They made the highest first-innings total of the day last week only to lose again, and their attack will need to be at its best if they are to have any chance of beating VRA in Amstelveen on Saturday.
VOC may have a slightly better chance of posting their first win against HCC at home on Sunday, but even there they will need to contain players like De Grooth, Rassie van der Dussen and Cameron Borgas if they are to give themselves a chance.
I actually managed four out of four with last week’s tips, but I’ll be very pleasantly surprised if I keep that rate up for these two rounds. Many of this weekend’s games are too close to call, but for what it’s worth: