Pressure builds before Topklasse break
With the KNCB having deided to move the SMT Shipping Topklasse fixtures for 22 July to Saturday, 4 August because the former date is the reserve day for the first WCL Championship match against the United Arab Emirates, falling in the middle of one of the most hectic fortnights in Dutch international cricket history, this Saturday’s games will be the last before a three-week hiatus in the programme.
When the competition resumes there will be only four rounds left to play, so for the six sides contesting the play-off places this week’s matches have even more significance than usual.
As it happens, two of the games are real ‘four-pointers’, with play-off candidates confronting one another in key matches.
VRA Amsterdam will be at home to Excelsior ’20 Schiedam, who are just outside the four after last Sunday’s tie with Dosti. VRA won when the sides met at Thurlede and will have home advantage this time, but the teams are evenly matched and the outcome is hard to predict.
Excelsior will, of course, be without Stephan Myburgh after he suffered a broken hand against Leicestershire on Wednesday, and with Peter Borren also sustaining a hand injury in that game it must be doubtful whether the VRA captain will be able to take his place in the side.
The defending champions won a high-scoring game against HCC last time they played in Amstelveen, and with Excelsior’s batsmen still not firing on all cylinders, even before the loss of the free-scoring Myburgh – who has also been a valuable member of the attack in recent weeks – the odds must marginally favour VRA.
Ahead of the champions on net run rate and the rest on average points as well, ACC travel to Den Haag to take on HCC.
The leaders won fairly comfortably at Het Loopveld West back in June, but De Diepput is a different proposition, and the fitness of international Mudassar Bukhari remains an issue. He did not play last weekend, and did not bowl the week before, and there is no doubt that ACC miss his allround ability.
With seamer Reinier Bijloos in his best-ever form with the ball, a balanced attack, and a classy top order, HCC deserve their current third place, which they grabbed by winning twice last weekend. ACC are likely to prove tougher opponents than either Hermes-DVS or VOC, however, and this, too, looks like being a hard-fought encounter.
Dosti Amsterdam maintained their unbeaten home record by beating ACC last Saturday, and will fancy their chances of doing so again this week when they face Quick Haag.
Both sides were reportedly involved in disciplinary problems last week, and the Quick cricket committee has gone so far as to issue a public reprimand to its two overseas players, Tim Clarke and Amol Muzumdar. Whatever the provocation – and Quick and Dosti appear not to have been the only sides whose conduct left something to be desired – behaviour of the kind reported cannot be condoned, and it is to be hoped that the umpires and above all the captains will be able to prevent a repetition.
For Dosti, a win would carry them into the top four while Quick, having surprised Excelsior last Saturday before losing narrowly to Hermes-DVS the following day, urgently need the points to stay clear of bottom-placed VOC Rotterdam.
Having introduced their new player-coach Cameron Delport and the 14-year-old St Maarten-born spinner Daniel Doram into their side, VOC will be hoping that they can begin the recovery they need if they are to stay in theTopklasse, but Quick’s victory over Excelsior has made the process all the more urgent.
The bottom four teams will play each other in a second phase at the end of the season (a fact which had, to be honest, escaped me until now), so VOC have a maximum of eight games to transform their season.
Their opponents on Saturday are Hermes-DVS Schiedam at Sportpark Harga, never an easy proposition, and despite losing to HCC last week Hermes showed in their last-over victory against Quick that they have plenty of fight and will not give up their top four aspirations lightly.
Defeat at the hands of VOC would be a serious blow to those aspirations, and this is likely to be a closer game than the form-book would suggest.
But still, this week’s tips: Hermes-DVS, Dosti, VRA, ACC.