With all the main issues settled and at least some player-coaches already back home, all this week’s matches are supposedly ‘dead’ rubbers. One would hope, however, that Hermes take on runners-up VRA determined to redeem themselves for last week’s ignominious collapse against Excelsior, while for the visitors this is an opportunity to end the season on a high and to remind everyone how much we’re missing a final series between themselves and the champions. Oh, and it’s also a chance for Peter Borren to get the three runs he needs to post 1000 for the season, and for Fred Klaassen to become the leading wicket-taker, where he’s currently tied with HCC’s Mark Jonkman.
A last chance for Hermes to go out on a high tomorrow, but VRA have only improved as the season's gone on. Harga has in the past served as something of an equaliser, but with VRA on something of a roll - undefeated so far under new skipper Emile van den Burg - it's the Amsterdammer's match to lose.
Dosti Unted Amsterdam vs HCC (Sportpark Drieburg)
Jonkman brings his HCC side to Amsterdam looking to maintain their third spot in the table, with Den Haag rivals HBS and Quick Haag breathing down their necks (one relatively unnoticed point is how the three teams from the Hofstad have clustered in the top half of the table). Jonathan Vandiar’s 79 last week brought his aggregate to 1123, tenth in the alltime list and 134 short of Nathan Astle’s 1994 record, so one might expect Jonkman to bat first if he wins the toss. Either way, Dosti seem unlikely to be able to gain the upper hand in this match, especially if replacement coach Kuldeep Diwan continues to reinforce the seconds.
This match-up was something of a one-sided blow-out at de Diepput last time round, with HCC rolling Dosti for 87 and chasing down the runs inside 22 overs - though it's safe to say Jonathan Vandiar will be a tad put out if it turns out that way again. Against a depleted Dosti side it's fairly telling that the prospect of personal milestones for HCCers is the most interesting aspect of the match for neutrals.
HBS Den Haag vs Quick Haag (Craeyenhout)
This could be the most competitive match of the round, depending of course on what sort of sides the participants are able to put out, and if a derby in the Bosjes van Pex doesn’t have quite as much razzamatazz associated with it as its Schiedam equivalent, this one has the additional piquancy that only two points separate the sides. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, if there were a final four it would be one of the most important games of the season. As it is, HBS know that a win could, depending on what happens at Sportpark Drieburg, edge them into third place, while Quick would move level with their rivals if they took the points. And Jaron Morgan needs 52 for his 1000 runs.
Having already lost the services of Asief Hoseibaks and Henk Mol, Quick will be further weakened tomorrow by the absence of Jean Bredenkamp - the Namibian selectors seemingly haven taken note of his fine form this season. Conversely HBS retain the services of Rutgers and Morgan, and with their dangerous top order again complete thei'll back themselves to pick up the points in the season closer.
Punjab Rotterdam vs VOC Rotterdam (Het Zomercomplex)
The departure of several key players means that Punjab end the season a shadow of their former selves, and their performance against VRA last week, while gutsy, does not bode well for this final game. VOC have been disappointing too, and even with a fine allround effort from Max O’Dowd last Sunday they were outplayed by HBS. So this Rotterdam derby has a diminuendo feel to it, although for VOC it will be an opportunity to end the season on a winning note.
Neither side will be fielding anything like a full strength team for this dead rubber, though for VOC of course that's been the case for most of the season. Though the Rotterdammers will be disappointed with how their season's worked out, O'Dowd's form and Punjab's lack of bench strength points to only one likely outcome.
ACC vs Excelsior ’20 Schiedam (Het Loopveld West)
The championship cup safely back at Thurlede, Excelsior travel to Amstelveen for the last time this season with a chance to finish their campaign in style, while ACC could gain some pride from springing a surprise against the champions. But the limitations of the Amsterdammers’ young side – especially in the absence of Sikander Zulfiqar – were underlined by HCC last week, and another win for Excelsior is the most likely outcome.
The progress of Asad and Saqib Zulfiqar with the bat has been one of the most encouraging stories of this season's Topklasse, but Sikander's absence does leave a hole in the side and especially in the bowling ACC have looked undewhelming this year. With only Usman Malik having taken more than 20 wickets this season, ACC have managed to bowl their opposition out only five times in 17 attempts. Excelsior meanwhile have taken ten wickets in seven of their last eight matches, and though the title may already be in the bag the momentum is still very much with the champions.
[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, HCC, HBS, VOC, Excelsior.
Bertus de Jong’s predictions: VRA, HCC, HBS, VOC, Excelsior.