Topklasse issues mostly settled on eve of play-offs
As it happens, Saturday’s final round-robin matches in the Topklasse pit the top four against the rest, but for at least two of the semi-finalists the outcome of these games will be of considerable importance.
Currently second on points average by the narrowest of margins, VRA Amsterdam will need to beat HCC at De Diepput to be sure of retaining that position and earning a double crack at reaching the championship final, while Dosti Amsterdam will go into their match against VOC Rotterdam at the Hazelaarweg knowing that should they win and VRA lose, they will move into second place.
Having lost three games on the trot since the competition resumed, HCC will be playing for pride from now on, and may be tempted to use their remaining four games to experiment for next season. The loss of Cameron Borgas has made a significant hole in their batting, and while VRA, too, have been weakened by departures, they were able to withstand the challenge of Hermes-DVS last week.
These two sides, though, are among the Topklasse’s keenest rivals, and they have turned on some terrific matches over the years. HCC still have a strong attack, and they will certainly be out to exploit any weakness in a VRA batting line-up which, Wesley Barresi apart, has itself shown signs of vulnerability in recent weeks.
Dosti have evolved into a powerful unit in the course of the season, and thoroughly deserve their place in the top four. In David Wiese and Amit Uniyal they have two outstanding overseas allrounders, but there have also been significant contributions with the bat from Mohammad Wasim, Mehmood Sadiq and Mohammad Hafeez, and with the ball from seamer Victor Grandia and left-arm spinner Hafeez.
VOC, on the other hand, at last hit match-winning form last week to claim their first points with a convincing victory over Quick Haag, and gave themselves the slimmest of slim chances of avoiding relegation. They essentially need to win at least three, and probably all four, of their remaining games, and it would be a huge boost to their confidence if they were able to pull off a shock against Dosti.
Leaders ACC, already guaranteed home advantage in the first semi-final, are the only one of the top four to play at home this week, and will meet Quick Haag at Het Loopveld West.
The absence of the four Zulfiqars made little difference to the Amsterdammers’ winning form over the past two weeks, and their squad was boosted by the recall of seamer Zishan Akram, who claimed four wickets in their demolition of Excelsior ’20 last Saturday.
Coach Anton Roux will be able to return to the other side of the boundary this week, and he will be keen to see his side finish the round-robin with a strong performance as they aim for the championship which eluded them last season.
Quick are undoubtedly a better side than their results suggest, but too much depends upon their captain Henk-Jan Mol, who incidentally requires, after his fine unbeaten 60 last week, just 23 runs to become only the third contemporary player with 6000 runs and 300 wickets in the top flight.
Excelsior ’20 Schiedam are already certain of fourth place, and know that they face a semi-final trip to Amsterdam to face either Dosti or VRA. First, however, they make the short journey to Sportpark Harga to take on Hermes-DVS in the final Schiedam derby of the season.
These are matches which have a special history and a special atmosphere, and even though this one has less riding on it than most, with Excelsior’s fourth place settled and Hermes-DVS outside the four but safe from any thought of relegation, it will certainly be keenly contested.
For Excelsior, the match is an opportunity to solve some of the problems which have been plaguing their batting, and to prepare themselves for a do-or-die effort in next week’s elimination semi-final. But the sides’ encounter back in June was a low-scoring thriller, with Excelsior winning by just one wicket, and Hermes will be determined to turn the tables this time.
This week’s tips are going to be really boring, and go with form: ACC, Dosti, VRA, Excelsior. Which probably ensures there’ll be an upset somewhere . . .