Topklasse resumes with crucial double weekend
With just one point separating six sides and four rounds to be played, virtually every remaining match in this season’s Topklasse will have a vital impact on qualification for the top four.
That makes this weekend’s double round all the more significant, since half of those remaining games will be played in the next two days. That in itself has been a controversial point, the decision to transfer Saturday’s round from 22 July because of the likely absence of national team players on the latter date having been to the liking of some and equally strongly opposed by others.
It certainly works out unfortunately for leaders ACC, since they will miss four members of their first-choice team – Zulfiqar Ahmed and his triplet sons Asad, Saqib and Sikander – on both days, because they will be travelling to Guernsey on Saturday as coach and players in the European Under-15 championships.
They will be at home to bottom side VOC Rotterdam on Saturday, and travel to Schiedam on Sunday to take on Hermes-DVS in one of the most crucial games of the weekend. Club coach Anton Roux will fill the gap left by Zulfiqar senior, while Rehan Younis returns to the side and Ajit Kamboj will join his brother Maninder in the team.
The three-week break will have given VOC an opportunity to regroup around their new player-coach Cameron Delport, but they will be without 14-year-old spinner Daniel Doram, another who is in the party for Guernsey. With three matches against their rivals in the lower half of the table to follow the completion of the double round-robin phase, VOC have seven matches to escape the relegation spot, and every defeat from now on will make it increasingly likely that they will be playing in the Hoofdklasse next season.
Their opponents on Sunday are Excelsior ’20 Schiedam, just outside the top four at this point but a side which will be determined to ensure that they do not miss the play-offs for the second year in succession, and it will come as a surprise if VOC are able to reverse their form against either ACC or Excelsior.
Excelsior meet HCC at home on Saturday in what seems certain to be one of the weekend’s biggest games, and even without Cameron Borgas, who has departed for the Sri Lanka Premier League, the Hagenaars will be a handful for the Schiedam club. The latter won comfortably enough at De Diepput back in June, but they will miss injured opener Stephan Myburgh, and the outcome may well be closer this time.
For Excelsior’s Schiedam rivals, Hermes-DVS, it promises to be a very tough weekend indeed, but one which could see them take a big step towards reaching the semi-finals. They visit Sportpark Drieberg on Saturday to face Dosti Amsterdam, unbeaten at home, before taking on ACC at Sportpark Harga on Sunday.
Dosti’s form so far may have been a little inconsistent, but Sportpark Drieberg has been something of a fortress for them, and Hermes will do extremely well to break that unbeaten record. Like HCC, the Amsterdam side are one point outside the top four at present, and should they beat Hermes and then repeat their victory over VRA earlier in the season, they will stake a strong claim to one of those semi-final spots.
VRA are, of course, a difficult side to beat at home, and their encounter with Dosti on Sunday promises to be another of the weekend’s more engrossing matches. Like ACC, they have a game in hand over their rivals, giving them a crucial advantage in the battle for the top two places, and with their array of current and former internationals they may well be too strong for Dosti at the newly-renamed ABN-AMRO International Cricket Center.
Their opponents on Saturday will be Quick Haag at Nieuw Hanenburg, a side who seem certain to miss out on the four and whose chief preoccupation will be maintain, and if possible to extend, their four-point advantage over VOC.
But matches between Quick and VRA have often been hard-fought encounters, and while Quick are not the force they once were their victory over Excelsior on 7 July demonstrated that they are not a side to be taken lightly.
That will be in the minds, too, of HCC, who meet Quick at De Diepput on Sunday. The ‘Haagse derby’ has also seen some very good games of cricket in recent seasons, and despite the relative positions of the two teams this one seems likely to be no exception.
This week’s (very unconfident) tips: