Comfortably ensconced at the top of the table again, title-holders Dosti-United travel to Thurlede on Saturday to take on third-placed Excelsior '20 looking to extend their unbeaten record. Excelsior's young side have had a positive start to the season, having dropped only one game so far, and the arrival of Matt-Kai McGillivray adds somes solidity to the batting order. Sohail Bhatti has looked an entirely different player since moving from VRA, and with home advantage and plenty of confidence an upset cannot be ruled out, though as ever Dosti will start as heavy favourites.
Stiaan van Zyl returns from a brief soujourn in India with the South Africa team to strengthen an already imposing batting line-up, whilst fellow South African Colin Ackermann has looked in sublime touch all season and Robbie Frylinck has consistently piled on the runs in the later stages, as well as proving an extremely effective partner to Mudassar Bukhari with the new ball. New acquisition Ahsan Malik has had a quiet start for his new club but turned in a match-winning all-round peformance for the Seafarers on Wednesday, underlining the surfeit of match-winners that Dosti can boast. The closest the defending champions have come to defeat so far this season was their 86-run win over VRA two weeks ago, so safe to say the Excelsior have their work cut out.
Meanwhile fellow-Schiedammers Hermes-DVS head to Hazelaarweg to take on VOC, both sides looking for their second win of the season. Hermes will be strengthened by the arrival of Zimbabwean leg-spinning all-rounder Tendai Chitongo who's set to make his Topklasse debut on Saturday, but still look dependent on Stephan Myburgh, together with fellow seniors Haro Seelaar and Nick Statham for runs. Despite some impressive displays of obduracy from Hermes' younger batsmen, Hermes have not looked close to competitive when Myburgh has gone cheaply.
Conversely VOC are still awaiting the arrival of player-coach Jeandre Jumat, but Dirk van Baren seems to be growing into his new senior role in the interim, with fellow senior Pieter Seelaar looking in decent touch with the bat. Nonetheless the return of Bas Zuiderent underscores the extent to which the Rotterdam club are struggling to rebuild after a slew of departures over the winter. With both sides somewhat over-reliant on their senior players this looks like a match that could hinge on a couple of quick wickets one way or the other (more so even than for every other cricket match ever).
Similarly tough to call is ACC versus HCC at het Loopveld. Both sides have looked a trifle inconsistent thus far, and somewhat reliant on their player-coaches to turn in match-winning performances. Just as Sikander Zulfiqar returns from injury for ACC it seems that brother Saqib has picked up a matching hamstring complaint, missing the Pro-Series opener on Wednesday, with ACC likely to continue to rely on youth players to make up the numbers. Third triplet Asad has looked in decent touch however, having struck two consecutive fifties in his new role as opener, and skipper Usman Malik and JP de Villiers look an effective new ball pairing.
HCC will hope Tom de Grooth and player-coach Jonathan Vandiar recover some form to take the pressure off the middle order, and a bowling attack that has yet to perform to potential. The Haagenaars have yet to hold any of their opponents to under 200 this season, so a solid foundation from the top order looks key.
Quick Haag's home fixture against VRA has been moved to Sunday and to Amstelveen owing to ground availabiity issues at Nieuw Hanenburg, and the hosts will hope that home advantage lends them an edge as they look for their first win of the season. The Amsterdammers batting order has proven alarmingly fragile thus far, reliant on seniors Eric Szwarczynski and Peter Borren to contribute the bulk of the runs. The pair have both put in big scores this season, but yet to fire in the same match, relying on Quirijn Gunning making runs down the order to get them past 200. Gunning has had less success in his role as opening bower than with the bat so far, and new ball partner Sadiq Mahmood has likewise proven somewhat inconsistent.
Like HCC, VRA have yet to bowl anyone out for less than 200 this season whilst undefeated Quick are averaging totals of over 260. Quick's run so far this season is almost as impressive as Dosti's, a 48-run win over HCC the closest they've come to dropping points. Practically the entire Quick top-order has at least one fifty to their name already, and with overseas bowlers Cartwright and Kriel clearly taking to Dutch conditions another Quick-Dosti final is already beginning to look a safe bet.
Topklasse Round 5 Predictions:
Excelsior '20 v Dosti-United : Dosti
VOC v Hermes-DVS : VOC
ACC v HCC : HCC
VRA v Quick Haag : Quick
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