Topklasse battle reaches the endgame
Six teams remain in contention for the four play-off spots in the Topklasse, but double defeats for HCC and Hermes-DVS Schiedam last weekend mean that they are now outsiders who need to win both their remaining games, and this Saturday’s results could settle the composition – though not the final order – of the top four.
HCC face the difficult trip to Sportpark Drieburg to face Dosti Amsterdam, whose two victories last week gave them an outstanding chance of reaching the semi-finals in their first season in the top flight.
The departure of Cameron Borgas has left the Hagenaars’ batting looking very brittle indeed, and the Dosti seam attack of Amit Uniyal, Victor Grandia, David Wiese, Ehtesham Chaudhry Mohammed and perhaps Vimal Tewarie, backed up by the spin of Mohammad Hafeez and Mahesh Hans is certainly capable of exploiting any weaknesses.
HCC are now very dependent on captain Tom de Grooth and player-coach Rassie van der Dussen, and although they, too, have a strong seam attack they may struggle to make enough runs against Dosti, who are, of course, still unbeaten at home.
Hermes, too, have a tough visit on their agenda as they take on VRA Amsterdam in Amstelveen. Defeats by Dosti and ACC have left the Schiedam side looking pretty vulnerable, despite Greg Todd’s sterling innings of 92 not out against the former.
The anticipated return of Mark Craig will strengthen both batting and bowling, but the bowlers also need more support from the fielders, who dropped five catches against ACC last Sunday.
VRA have problems of their own, and their loss to Dosti on Sunday leaves them needing at least one win from their last two games, against Hermes and HCC, to make them reasonably certain of reaching the semi-finals. Two wins might well give them the advantage of finishing in the top two, but that would depend on results elsewhere.
Even without Tom Cooper and Barry Rhodes the champions have plenty of batting, but it took two half-centuries from Wesley Barresi to save their blushes last weekend, and Peter Borren will be looking for a bigger contribution from the rest of the top and middle order as VRA enter the final straight.
The game of the day is likely to be the clash between leaders ACC and third-placed Excelsior ’20 Schiedam at Thurlede, with the Amsterdammers knowing that a win would guarantee them a place in the top two, with a double chance of reaching the championship final on 8 September.
Both sides won twice last weekend, and despite a couple of poor starts Excelsior’s batsmen showed signs of the kind of form they will need if they are to launch a convincing challenge for the championship. They will need to be at their best against an ACC attack in which Mudassar Bukhari was at his most effective against VOC and Hermes.
ACC rose to the challenge of being without four first-choice players – all of them Zulfiqars – with convincing victories over both opponents last week, and stand-in opener Graeme van Buuren’s unbeaten century was one of the highlights of the season. This game should be a titanic battle.
At the other end of the table, VOC Rotterdam will at last reach the Last Chance Saloon when they meet Quick Haag at Nieuw Hanenburg. Quick’s victory over HCC last Sunday stretched the gap between the sides to six points, and VOC’s only chance of survival certainly includes beating them in both their remaining encounters. Defeat on Saturday would leave the Rotterdam side eight points adrift with four games to play, and with a dramatically inferior net run rate that would effectively settle the relegation issue.
Last Sunday’s rain certainly did VOC no favours, but their batting has simply not been productive enough, with Bas Zuiderent, now back in the captaincy, the only player to have an aggregate of more than 200 runs. They have tried no fewer than 19 players in ten matches, and the loss of Timm van der Gugten through injury has undoubtedly been another hammer blow.
Quick, too, have had problems with their batting, but with Edgar Schiferli in great form with both bat and ball, player-coach Amol Muzumdar their leading run-scorer, and a varied attack, they are likely to prove too strong for VOC and cement their place in next season’s Topklasse.
This week’s prognostications: Quick, Dosti, VRA, ACC.