Dosti and Excelsior compete to make Dutch history
Saturday’s Topklasse final between Dosti Amsterdam and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam at Sportpark Drieburg brings together one of the dominant clubs of the past two decades and the newest force in Dutch cricket in what promises to be a thoroughly absorbing encounter.
Having won promotion to the top flight in 2010 only to be deprived of the Hoofdklasse title for having fielded two ineligible players, Dosti responded by winning again the following season, and the enforced delay has, if anything, made them into a stronger unit.
The issue at the start of the campaign was whether a group of very good individuals would meld into an effective team, and after a hesitant start in which they lost their opening match against ACC they have done that so successfully that they have lost only twice more on their way to the final.
The signs were already there in their first home game, against Excelsior on 27 May, which they won by seven wickets, and they have gone through the whole competition unbeaten at home, a daunting record which Excelsior will need to overturn if they are to claim their ninth championship in 22 years.
In David Wiese and Amit Uniyal Dosti have two outstanding overseas players who are capable of turning a match, although it is significant that in last week’s semi-final victory over ACC these two contributed just ten runs between them.
The hero that day was Mohammad Wasim, who had a quiet start to the season after joining Dosti from Sparta 1888, but whose unbeaten century brought his aggregate to 501 at an average of 41.75, just nine runs behind Wiese’s 510 at 51.00. With Uniyal contributing 334 at 37.11 the big guns have certainly done their share with the bat, but in fact no fewer than seven players have produced half-centuries in the course of the season.
Mehmood Sadiq and Mohammad Hafeez are reliable members of the middle order, while Dosti bat so deep that they had Ehtesham Chaudhry Mohammed batting at No. 9 last week, even without allrounder Victor Grandia in the side. Young wicketkeeper Rahil Ahmed has evolved into an effective opening partner for Wasim, and that batting depth is likely to be a key factor in Saturday’s final.
The bowling has also been spearheaded by Wiese and Uniyal, who have taken 44 wickets between them, with Grandia claiming 19 and Vimal Tewarie 12. That is a very useful seam department, which was augmented by captain Shafiek Panchu last week, bringing himself into the attack for the first time in the campaign and responding with a nagging spell of medium pace.
Hafeez’s left-arm spin is the main source of variation, and he has taken 17 wickets so far, with Mahesh Hans giving valuable support with his limited opportunities.
Having squeezed into the top four by a single point, Excelsior have beaten VRA Amsterdam and ACC in the play-offs, and thoroughly deserve their crack at the title.
They rely, if anything, on their seam attack to an even greater degree than Dosti, with Dutch international Tom Heggelman and young New Zealander Brett Hampton their leading wicket-takers with 23 apiece. They are backed up by veteran former international Seb Gokke, Haider Khan and Julien Halkes, all of whom have played a key role in one or more of the side’s recent victories.
Spin is largely provided by Stephan Myburgh, with Adam Woutersen and Joost Kroesen having dropped out of the picture in recent weeks, while former Dutch skipper Luuk van Troost also bowls occasional spells.
A shoulder injury has kept South African allrounder Rudi Hillermann out of the attack since 8 July, but his batting remains an important element in the side’s success, with his century in a losing cause against Hermes-DVS in the final round-robin match one of the highlights of the season.
A key factor, however, could be the return to his best form of captain Daan van Bunge, whose 556 runs at 50.55 make him the third most prolific batsman in the competition: only VRA’s Wesley Barresi (582) and Hermes’ Greg Todd (574) have made more. Excelsior will need him to produce another big score on Saturday if they are to upset Dosti and claim the title.
Another crucial element will be the role of Van Bunge’s former colleague with the MCC Young Cricketers, Fred Klokker, who has been in Kuala Lumpur this week playing for Denmark in the World Cricket League Division 4 tournament. If, as anticipated, he flies back early to take part in the Dutch final, there will inevitably be a question about how quickly he recovers from the journey, and with him and Van Bunge having shared a series of major partnerships during the season, that could be vital for Excelsior’s chances.
While the Schiedam side do not, perhaps, enjoy quite the same depth of batting as Dosti, they have one potential trump card in left-handed opener Stephan Myburgh, whose onslaughts on new ball attacks have troubled both Topklasse opponents and county sides this season. Recently recovered from injury, Myburgh has the capacity to knock opposing bowlers off their stride and get his team away to a great start.
They also have enormous experience in the persons of Van Troost and keeper Marcel Schewe, veterans of more than 850 matches in the top flight between them; although both have had a quiet season with the bat, but they are still capable of playing an important knock if necessary.
Add in Heggelman and Hampton, and Excelsior’s batting can be expected to provide as serious test for Dosti’s bowlers as they have faced all season. One thing is certain: with Dosti aiming to claim the national championship at the first attempt and Excelsior attempting to become the first side to take the title after reaching the play-offs in fourth place, Dutch cricket history will be made at Sportpark Drieburg on Saturday – weather, of course, permitting.