After a group phase badly affected by late withdrawals, weakened team selections and adverse weather the Dutch T20 Cup has at last reached the quarter-final stage, the last eight teams due to battle it out on Saturday for places at the finals day at Hazelaarweg, Rotterdam on 28 August.
The most absorbing match may be at Thurlede, where Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will be at home to Topklasse leaders Punjab Rotterdam.
With their powerful top order, led by Stephan Myburgh and Rehmat Zulfiqar, and a parsimonious bowling unit, Punjab have lost only four times all season, one of them to VOC Rotterdam in the very tough Group A in this competition.
That was despite a 42-ball knock of 104 from Teja Nidamanuru, who along with the four Zulfiqar brothers and Myburgh forms the engine-room of Punjab’s batting.
Through various circumstances Excelsior played only two games in the group phase, winning both of them to top Group D, but they will undoubtedly miss Tristan Stubbs, now back in South Africa, as they try to win the cup for the first time since 2009.
They still have Lorenzo Ingram, of course, and a group of talented young players under the mature leadership of Tom Heggelman; the question is whether they have the firepower to take on Punjab’s attack, or to tame their fearsome hitters.
Holders VRA Amsterdam face a tricky journey to Deventer to take on Salland, sole surviving representatives of the Hoofdklasse, who topped a Group C reduced to just three teams by the late withdrawal of Amsterdam sides Dosti and Groen en Wit.
VRA’s Topklasse form was initially patchy, but they have won their last six matches in that competition and the only group T20 game they played, against a severely-depleted Quick Haag (they did beat Ghausia Feijenoord as well, but that match became void when Ghausia also pulled out of the competition).
At their best they have a side which is the equal of any in the country, but with the demanding trip to Deventer on the eve of a Topklasse semi-final against VOC Rotterdam it’s anybody’s guess how close to a full side they will field against Salland.
But in Ben Cooper, Peter Borren and Vikram Singh the Amsterdammers have three hard-hitting batters, while Leon Turmaine’s offspin, backing up the pace of Quirijn Gunning and Ashir Abid, may prove a key factor.
Their opponents will, of course, be something of an unknown quantity, although skipper Victor Lubbers broke into the top flight as a teenager with VRA, and the side is riding high in the Hoofdklasse, one of the main contenders for a place in next season’s expanded Topklasse.
For Salland, too, there may be selection issues with a visit to HCC to play their second side on the agenda for Sunday, but with Victor Lubbers, his brother Reinder, allrounder Akhil Gopinath and batter Talha Ahmed Khan they have the capability to cause an upset, and to become the first Hoofdklasse side to reach the finals day since Rood en Wit Haarlem in 2018.
VRA’s opponents on Sunday, VOC Rotterdam, are at home to last year’s beaten finalists, Sparta 1888.
Both sides have proven match-winners: winners in 2019, VOC rely heavily for quick runs on Dutch internationals Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards, while for Sparta former international allrounder Mudassar Bukhari is still capable of playing a crucial innings or capturing vital wickets.
Sparta have had a miserable Topklasse season, marked by sudden batting collapses, although it will not be lost on either side that their best 50-over performance of the year was against VOC, when they made 316 for eight and won by 95 runs.
Overseas player Garnett Tarr was their hero with the bat that day, making 99-ball 103, and Sparta will need him to repeat that form on Saturday if they are to pose a serious threat to a VOC side which came through the demands of Group A unbeaten.
The return of Pieter Seelaar from injury has made a big difference to the Rotterdammers, and patchy as their form as been there is no doubt that they have the capacity in both batting and bowling to claim the cup for the second time.
The same applies to HBS Craeyenhout, who won all four of their Group B matches and who will be very keen to cap their season with some silverware after narrowing missing out on the Topklasse play-offs.
First they must beat ACC, who will come to Craeyenhout after finishing second in the decimated Group C and who, like Sparta, have largely had a season to forget.
But here too there will be the recollection that on their last visit to HBS, on 13 May, they pulled off a surprise 10-run victory, admittedly in a rain-affected match against opponents who were missing two key players.
It was Sahil Kothari’s century which set up that victory, and while he has struggled to reproduce that form, ACC will need him to do so on Saturday if they are to have any chance of making enough runs quickly enough to trouble HBS.
As in all these games, much will depend on who actually plays, but with Tobias Visée, Tayo Walbrugh, Navjit Singh and Wesley Barresi with the bat and Ryan Klein with the ball, a full-strength HBS has the potential to beat any of the remaining sides.
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