HBS are riding high after two initial victories, and despite last week’s promising debut by Dosti fast man Corné Dry the home side’s top order is likely to cause the Amsterdammers some real problems. The Dosti batting looked brittle against Excelsior, admittedly in difficult circumstances, but on the other hand the artificial Craeyenhout outfield may suit Taruwar Kohli to a T. This one could be close, but HBS should edge it.
A tough one to call, but I'd back HBS too. It's a terrible clichée of course, but early wickets will be key for Dosti if they're going to contain an HBS top-order in belligerent form. Toby Visée especially has had an explosive start to the season not only in the Topklasse but also in the T20 and Wednesday's Pro-Series match. Dosti's bowling attack will be a sterner test than HBS have faced thus far, but the hosts remain slight favourites.
Punjab Rotterdam vs ACC (Zomercomplex)
Mixed results for Punjab so far, but as long as ACC are handicapped by the absence of overseas players it’s hard to see where their first win is going to come from. If the niggle which kept Sikander Zulfiqar out of Wednesday’s NSPS game also sidelines him here, the Amsterdam side will be weakened further. With Punjab up to full strength, another home win for the Topklasse newcomers seems to be on the cards.
Late word is ACC's keeper-coach has finally arrived today, in the form of Northern Cape's Zahir Kathrada, which ought to bolster the middle order somewhat and hopefully cut down on the extras, but it will likely take more than that to see off Punjab at home. Despite Saqib Zulfiqar being in fine form himself, his team have had a dispiriting start to the season and Punjab are taking no prisoners.
Hermes-DVS Schiedam vs HCC (Sportpark Harga)
The pre-season prediction that Hermes would struggle this year, especially in the batting, has been borne out so far, and HCC bounced back from their opening-day defeat in convincing fashion against Punjab last week. Tonny Staal’s maiden hundred suggests that he may be ready to fill the gap left by the departure of Tom de Grooth, and HCC should simply have too many guns for Hermes.
Yes, even at home Hermes go into the match as outsiders, though it's never safe to bet against a match-winning innings from Myburgh – and the HCC attack have shown their vulnerability to caution-to-the-wind aggression.
VRA Amsterdam vs Quick Haag (Amstelveen)
The rivalry between VRA and Quick has often produced classic encounters over the years, and this may well be the match of the round. VRA haven’t beaten Quick at home since 2013, but the return of Fred Klaassen from injury spearheaded a commanding victory over VOC last week, and Quick have not really clicked yet. Jean Bredenkamp and Wesley Barresi are both potential match-winners for the visitors, but VRA may take the points in what is likely to be a very tight game indeed.
I've a suspicion the toss may be key in the Bos tomorrow, with muggy and overcast conditions forecast early the ball may do plenty early, and both sides have bowlers that can take advantage, the hosts especially with the return of Klaassen. If the hosts field something close to a full strength team tomorrow I'd make them marginal favourites.
VOC Rotterdam vs Excelsior ’20 Schiedam (Hazelaarweg)
The continuing development of Excelsior’s youngsters and the experience of overseas players Lorenzo Ingram and James Hilditch make the champions a formidable outfit, and they will be a very tough side to beat. After a six-match run of defeats at home to Excelsior VOC have won the sides’ last two encounters at Hazelaarweg, but the Bloodhounds’ batting proved vulnerable against VRA last week and they will need to raise their game a notch or two if they are to make it three in a row.
Another tricky call this, between the champions and pre-season favourites, but I think the hosts may just edge it. A collapse against VRA orchestrated by Klaassen and Gunning on top form belies the strength of VOC's line-up, as van Baren and Seelaar demonstrated on Wednesday. Excelsior are a well balanced and cohesive outfit, but don't have quite the same firepower with the new ball.
Form Guide: [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:
HBS, Punjab, HCC, VRA, Excelsior.
Bertus de Jong’s predictions:
HBS, Punjab, HCC, VRA, VOC.