Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/05/19
The 2019 competition opens with a split round over the Liberation Day weekend, with three matches taking place as originally scheduled on Saturday and two moved to Sunday. In a further adjustment to the normal programme, Saturday’s matches will start at 10:00 in order to allow for the observance of the national commemoration in the evening, while those on Sunday will commence at 12:00.
RL: Much attention will focus on Voorburg’s Westvliet ground, which was in its first season when the club last played in the top flight. Their guests on their return will be Sparta 1888, who made a winning start last season on their own return to top-division cricket. Saturday’s match will give us a first glimpse of Voorburg’s side, impressive as it unquestionably is on paper, while Joost-Martijn Snoep and Mudassar Bukhari will have the task of quickly moulding their reshuffled outfit into a winning combination. The return of Viv Kingma to Westvliet adds a good deal to the Voorburg attack, and it would come as no surprise if the home side take the points.
BdJ: Also expecting a winning return to the Topklasse here for VCC, who have arguably just been biding their time in the second division in the last couple of seasons to build a side capable of making an immediate impact. Even with Bas de Leede’s departure for England this Voorburg side has the look of top four contenders rather than also-rans, though Sparta’s strength is perhaps tough to guage given the personnel changes over the winter. In Fletcher and Tarr they have two batsmen with proper first-class pedigree, and should they both take quickly to Dutch conditions Sparta may yet take an early lead again this season, but such rapid adjustment has generally been rare in batsmen new to the country.
RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam will be at home to Dosti Amsterdam at the Hazelaarweg on Saturday, and despite the loss of Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker from their attack they will start as clear favourites. They were not always completely convincing last season, especially with the bat and early in the season, but they settled into a formidable combination as the campaign went on, and although the pace attack will look different they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Dosti are likely to rely heavily on their overseas players, but will also be hoping that Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed among the batsmen and Mahesh Hans, Asief Hoseinbaks and Wahid Masood among the bowlers can play a greater role. If that happens this could be an intriguing game to watch.
BdJ: Hans and the wily Mohammad Hafeez will likely be key to Dosti’s hopes of upsetting the defending champions in the season opener as they memorably did a year ago, though this time they’re taking on the title holders in their own yard, where they went unbeaten last season. It remains to be seen whether VOC persist with their tactic of preparing dry, turning wickets again now that they are a spinner lighter, but either way if Vinoo Tewarie hopes to grab two points off the better-fancied VOC in the first game again, a good start might be winning the toss.
RL: Excelsior ‘20, who entertain Quick Haag at Thurlede in the third of Saturday’s matches, will be keen to put a slightly disappointing 2018 behind them and return to the winning ways which took them to the title in the two previous seasons. Lorenzo Ingram has been joined in Schiedam by West Indian Test batsman Brenton Parchment, who has the most distinguished credentials of any of this year’s overseas players, and surrounded by a talented bunch of young players who are now three years older and more experienced than they were when they first claimed the championship, they should prove too strong for a Quick side which tailed off badly last season.
BdJ: Well word is Quick are still waiting on overseas signings Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake, who are both apparently going under the hammer at the Mumbai T20 tomorrow when Quick might prefer them to be taking the field, while both Lorenzo Ingram and Brenton Parchment have arrived in good order for Excelsior. Given Bista kept Quick afloat more-or-less single-handedly last season it would be a remarkable upset if they were to knock over a full-strength Excelsior tomorrow without him. That said, it would presumably be a major confidence boost if they managed it. Skipper-in-exile Tim Gruijters has apparently arranged for his Canterbury Country team-mate Rupert Young to fly over and bolster the Quick batting, whilst the veteran Edgar Schiferli is understood to have taken the team in hand over the winter, subjecting them to a remorseless and unrelenting fitness program, and is reportedly mulling a return to competitive cricket to continue pushing his side on the field. They are still far from favourites tomorrow, but it could just be that the 2014 champions surprise everyone this season.
RL: On Sunday ACC, with South Africans Jean Marais and Brady Barends making their Topklasse debuts, will take on VRA Amsterdam at Het Loopveld in the first of this season’s traditional derbies. The Bos-dwellers turned out to be the strongest of VOC’s challengers last year, and although they will be without Daan ter Braak this season they have the most experienced outfit of all: Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski have more than 7000 top-flight runs each, and will again provide the core of the batting. Het Loopveld, though, can be a tricky place to visit, and the Amsterdam derby in recent years has generally been a hard-fought affair.
BdJ: Het Loopveld may take some getting used to for visitors, but this VRA side have generally felt quite at home there. Last season they skittled the home side for 112 and then knocked off the runs for the loss of just two wickets in half their allotted overs, despite a 3-ball duck for Peter Borren who generally makes hay on the ACC mat. Somewhat perversely, the visiting side will be more familiar with the “conditions” at ACC than two of the home side’s key players, with Marais and Barends likely having little experience on artificial pitches. That said, VRA are traditionally slow starters in the Topklasse and will be without Quirijn Guinning, who took 2-17 in the team’s last encounter at het Loopeveld.
RL: The other Sunday game pits HBS against HCC at Craeyenhout. The only first-round match which pits two teams from the top half of last season’s table against one another, this promises to be an absorbing duel. With New Zealander Zak Gibson and South African Zac Elkin joining Sharn Gomes at Craeyenhout HBS promise to be at least as strong as they were last year, while HCC will have Gibson’s compatriot Matt Hay joining Ryan Ninan to support their crop of young locally-produced players, led by allrounder Hidde Overdijk, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee in the batting and Ali Ahmed Qasim among the bowlers.
BdJ: HBS carry form and home advantage into their opening fixture after the match-up was belatedly relocated, and are firm favourites on paper. Despite the loss of Jaron Morgan, the Crows only look to have got stronger over the off-season, whilst HCC have put their faith in their maturing cohort of youth players. Word is that Ninan will not in fact be back at all for HCC this season, and indeed he was absent for both their warm-up matches. Heavy defeats in both suggest HCC’s young side has yet to really find their feet under new skipper Tonny Staal, and they will either need everything to click for them if they are to take home 2 points from Craeyenhout or Ali Ahmed Qasim to put on a repeat of his performance at the crows’ nest from last season.
Rod Lyall’s tips: Voorburg, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.