HBS, Bloemendaal vie for promotion
The battle for promotion to next season’s Topklasse has resolved itself into a two-horse race as the Hoofdklasse enters the second phase, with HBS Den Haag and Bloemendaal now the only teams in contention for the title.
They will be joined by Voorburg and Rood en Wit Haarlem, placed third and fourth respectively, in a three-match round robin, while at the other end of the table FC Amsterdam United are eight points adrift of their nearest rivals and certain to make a quick return to the Eerste Klasse. They will be replaced in the Hoofdklasse by United Haarlem, who beat VVV Amsterdam by a single point to claim the Eerste Klasse title.
Four points behind HBS but having played two matches fewer, Bloemendaal will need to win all three of their second phase games if they are to finish top of the Hoofdklasse. Were they to do so – and that would include beating HBS in what is effectively the championship decider at Craeyenhout next Sunday – they would end up 0.07 of a point ahead of their rivals on points average, even if HBS were to beat both Voorburg and Rood en Wit.
In a crucial double weekend, HBS will be at home to Rood en Wit next Saturday, while Bloemendaal will entertain Voorburg. Should both the top sides win, they would then go head to head the following day.
Even if Bloemendaal were to win that match, they would need to go on to repeat last Saturday’s victory over Rood en Wit on 1 September, with HBS needing to beat Voorburg at Westvliet to keep alive their hopes of profiting from a Bloemendaal defeat.
It has been a long wait for Bloemendaal, who last played in the top flight in 1990. They dropped down to the Overgangsklasse in 2003, returned to the then Eerste Klasse the next season, were again relegated, and again won promotion in 2007. They just squeezed into the Hoofdklasse when the league was reorganised in 2009, but this is the first time they have been contenders for the title.
HBS, on the other hand, dropped into the Hoofdklasse as a result of the reorganisation, and came close to reaching the Topklasse last year when they played a best-of-three series against neighbours Quick Haag after Dosti Amsterdam were stripped of their Hoofdklasse title.
Both sides have relied fairly heavily on their overseas players in getting this far: for HBS, former New Zealand international Grant Elliott has played a crucial role, making 578 runs at 52.55 and taking 23 wickets at 13.48, while South African keeper Brad Barnes has been equally significant with the bat, with 564 runs at 70.50.
Bloemendaal’s Douglas Hewitt has also passed 500 runs, with 570 at 71.25, and Tim McCormick is the side’s leading wicket-taker with 21 victims at 13.90. Australian opener Matthew Dance has also made a big contribution, having made 344 runs at 31.27 and taken 11 wickets at 20.18.
Among the locally-based players, HBS has a more varied attack, including veteran seamers Rasool Abed (19 wickets at 16.84) and Sjoerd Weurman (14 at 25.86), along with a younger brigade which includes Ollie de Geus (13 at 17.69), Ferdi Vink (18 at 18.72) and Dutch under-17 seamer Wessel Coster (14 at 18.43).
But Bloemendaal have former Dutch international leg-spinner Mangesh Panchal, who has claimed 20 wickets at 15.10, and Masood Khan (16 at 16.00). They also have a useful batting line-up, which includes allrounder Aldroy Powell, Pyke Gunning and Douwe Walhain, but the key to their chances is likely to be whether they can pick up Elliott and Barnes comparatively cheaply when the sides fight it out on Sunday.