Still having the slimmest mathematical chance of overhauling Excelsior, VRA will travel to The Hague for the last time this season with every motivation to beat HBS. The hosts themselves have an outside chance of finishing second if they win their last three matches and VRA lose all theirs, and with Tobias Visée back from a week’s suspension they will fancy their chances on their own patch. Key subplot: Jaron Morgan needs 64 runs to reach 1000 for the season, and Peter Borren 98. You can’t rule out both happening at Craeyenhout this week.
With HBS' top order at full strength th crows wil likely pose a sterner test for VRA in new captain van den Burg's second game in charge. VRA's own top order have been a weakness all season, with Borren and Szwarczynski having to dig them out of a hole on more than one occasion. The hosts lack similar depth in the batting however, and if with VRA new-ball pair Gunning and Klaassen on song the smart money will be on the Amsterdammers.
Punjab Rotterdam vs Hermes-DVS Schiedam (Het Zomercomplex)
Imagine the significance of this – and several other matches this week – if there were top four play-offs. As it is, a defeat for Hermes-DVS would put their relegation mathematically beyond question, while Punjab’s chances of finishing in the top half of the table will be greatly enhanced if they take the points here. They are a highly-motivated, tough proposition at home, and after another Hermes collapse against HBS last week it’s hard to see the Schiedammers emulating their championship-seeking neighbours’ victory at ‘t Zomercomplex.
Punjab won't be quite at full strength tomorrow, with Spain international Yasir Ali having departed, but nonetheless it looks likely that Hermes ' relegation will be put beyond doubt at het Zomerzomplex tomorrow. Another collapse from a winning position last week can only have had a further demoralising effect on the Schiedammers, who seem to have been resigned to a stint in the Hoofdklasse for some time.
Excelsior ’20 Schiedam vs HCC (Thurlede)
Excelsior have a very clear script: they win this one and seal their second successive title. The champagne is on ice, one suspects the t-shirts are being printed. But HCC will no doubt be intent on spoiling the party, and extending what is a largely theoretical competition for another week, possibly even forcing Excelsior to become champions on alien turf. And here, too, there’s a subplot: Jonathan Vandiar leads the race to 1000 runs, needing just 33 to reach that milestone. Once all’s said and done, though, the resilience of Excelsior when the pressure is on has been one of the most striking features of the season, and it will surprise no-one if it’s their celebration which takes centre stage on Sunday evening.
Whilst Excelsior have had a near-perfect season on paper, a few of their victories have been less than convincing and certainly far from nerveless. Now in touching distance of the cup, it's possible that Heggelman's young side will put needless pressure on themselves. That said, they're clear at the top for good reason, and in Hilditch and Ingram have two cool heads that can be relied upon. HCC certainly have the potential to keep them waiting another week, but are far from favourites to spoil the party.
ACC vs Quick Haag (Het Loopveld West)
ACC have not had a great season overall, although the continued emergence of the four Zulfiqar brothers was marked by another milestone with Saqib’s maiden Topklasse century last week. Even that, though, wasn’t enough to guarantee victory against VOC, and Quick are another side who, after a very inconsistent campaign, would be fighting for a place in the top four if there were one. As it is, they will be hoping for a top-half finish, and that would be helped considerably by a win here. This should be a close one, with ACC’s youth perhaps ultimately prevailing over Quick’s experience.
Despite the impressive form of the Zulfiqar clan, I”m leaning the other way on this one. With Sikander still sidelined the hosts won't be quite at full strength, and with the exception of Usman Malik the ACC attack has rather lacked for penetration all season. Though the Hanen spectacularly fell apart against HCC last week, they have a deep and dangerous batting line-up more than capable of taking advantage.
Dosti United Amsterdam vs VOC Rotterdam (Sportpark Drieburg)
With the results-against-each-other rule dictating that both sides are already beyond the reach of any last-minute Hermes revival, nothing more than pride is at stake here. VOC’s top order has left it very late to produce the goods, but they will be hoping to repeat the trick when they take on a remodelled Dosti in Amsterdam, Kuldeep Diwan having replaced Taruwar Kohli in the line-up and Corné Dry also having gone home. Dosti’s thin resources will again be severely tested, and VOC start as favourites to take the points back to Rotterdam.
Dosti's replacement overseas players Diwan and Ahmadzai certainly looked a class below Dry and Kohli at VRA last week, but one suspects we've not seen the best of them yet. Nonetheless with VOC belatedly doing some justice to the pre-season hype and Max O'Dowd fresh from an unbeaten century in the three-dayer last week it's the Rotterdammers with form in their favour.
[Note: These tables show the results of this fixture over the past ten seasons. ‘W’ means a win for the home side, ‘L’ a defeat, ‘T’ a tie, ‘N’ no result. Matches played on the opponent’s ground or a neutral venue are shown in square brackets.]
Rod Lyall’s predictions: VRA, Punjab, Excelsior, ACC, VOC.
Bertus de Jong’s predictions: VRA, Punjab, Excelsior, Quick, VOC