Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 15/05/19
After just two rounds (or rather less, since VRA and VOC didn’t play last week), the Topklasse has already begun to take shape, with the stronger teams making their presence felt and a couple of early candidates for the looming relegation battle already looking over their shoulders. The presence of the largest overseas contingent in the history of Dutch cricket, however, is likely to have a powerful influence on the eventual outcome in what may be one of the closest competitions for many years.
RL: Having overcome Dosti in the final over last week, HCC will be full of confidence when they take on VRA Amsterdam at De Diepput. The Amsterdammers had a very unhappy start to their campaign, collapsing to 139 all out against ACC, and after a week off, need a quick reset. It took some splendid resistance from Peter Borren to get them even that far, and they will need a much better start from their top order, featuring Eric Szwarczynski, Ben Cooper and the promising Vikram Singh, if they are to trouble an HCC side in which Adam Wiffen and Bryce Street are already amongst the runs. The Hagenaars’ bowling has yet really to fire – Hidde Overdijk’s four-wicket haul against Dosti the exception – but the batting looks strong and will provide a significant test for VRA’s bowling.
BdJ: VRA will hope that they can break the habit of losing twice in their first two matches by the simple expedient of not playing in the second round, though with only a heavy loss to ACC under their belt the Amsterdammers head to de Diepput short of both momentum and match practice. They will take some comfort, however, from the return of opening bowler Quirijn Gunning, who took 6-47 against HCC last season across the two matches, and Ben Cooper also has also been in the runs, making an impressive (if far from chanceless) 135 for the Hurricanes in last week’s pro-series match. Wiffen and Street may be the two batsmen causing them the most concern, but HCC are hardly a 2-man show, with Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee both continuing to improve, and Douwe Walhain, as VRA will well remember, still packing a punch down the order. With both sides boasting batting line-ups capable of taking wayward bowlers to task, the winners at de Diepput will likely be whichever side does a better job of keeping the big guns quiet.
RL: HBS Craeyenhout have set out their stall pretty effectively in their first two outings, beating a promising HCC side at home and then accounting for Sparta 1888 at Bermweg last Saturday. After two tight finishes in as many games, though, Dosti United Amsterdam will be looking to upset the unbeaten Crows this week. The HBS top five of Zac Elkin, Tobias Visée, Sharn Gomes, Navjit Singh and Wesley Barresi is as menacing as any in the competition, and with a five-man seam attack and two spinners they have a well-balanced bowling unit as well. Dosti’s four overseas players are capable of demolishing any opposition if they all come off at the same time, but the Amsterdam side will have been encouraged by the early batting form of Rahil Ahmed and Vinoo Tewarie as well. This promises to be a great battle.
BdJ: Another match-up where one would expect bat to dominate ball, HBS racked up a record 356-run total against Dosti in the same fixture last season on their way to a 134-run victory. This time round the Crows are without Jaron Morgan, who hit a brutal 115 off 93 in that match, but this season’s top order is no less intimidating, and there is now a sizeable Mohammad Hafeez-shaped hole in Dosti’s bowling attack. Left arm spinner Kuldeep Diwan has stepped up admirably in his place however, with the relaxation of overseas restrictions meaning the former Himachal Pradesh all-rounder is set to play a more significant role for the Amsterdam club this season. The key man for Dosti remains Taruwar Kohli, however, his string of three-figure scores underpinned their early top-table challenge last season, and another one looks a crucial ingredient to any potential upset on Saturday.
RL: The most attractive fixture of the round, however, is probably the clash between early leaders ACC and promoted side Voorburg, whose batting collapse against Excelsior last week will have concentrated their minds considerably. One of the big stories of the first two weeks has been the success of 16-year-old ACC batsman Shirase Rasool, who may have become the youngest top-flight centurion in history last week with his unbeaten 117 against Quick Haag (we’re still checking that one!). His side have been untroubled in their opening matches, but Voorburg are likely to provide a rather stiffer test. In Brandon Glover and Viv Kingma they have the sharpest pace attack of all, and Clayton Floyd’s spin will trouble opposing batsmen with greater success than he enjoyed against Excelsior. This, too, should be an absorbing contest, and the outcome may depend on whether it’s Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde who turns up at Het Loopveld.
BdJ: A maiden fifty in round one, a maiden century in round two, by simple extrapolation one would expect that this week or next young Rasool will hit the Topklasse’s first double ton since Ben Cooper’s 202 against Hermes in 2013. Reversion to the mean is probably rather more likely of course, but the performances of Rasool and the equally young Arjan Kumar suggest that ACC’s habit of blooding youngsters early may finally pay off for them this season. Whether it will do so on Saturday specifically is rather a different question of course, and despite VCC’s collapse against Excelsior last weekend they remain among the favourites for the title this year, and Glover and Kingma are a big reason why. Kingma’s continued fitness issues have meant that he’s bowled only 5 overs in the Topklasse so far, missing the first match and bowling 2nd change against Excelsior, but he looked back in form in the Pro-Series on Sunday, taking 3-22 in 6 for the Seafarers whilst Glover bagged 3-44 for the other side. The pair will likely prove a tougher test for ACC’s top order, which will be without Sikander Zulfiqar again this week owing to a side strain. Zulfiqar’s benching also leave ACC’s attack looking rather thinner, though Brady Barends looks to have taken to Dutch conditions well.
RL: Having upset the Voorburg apple-cart last Saturday, Excelsior ’20 Schiedam return to Thurlede to take on Sparta 1888, who have been disappointing in their two games so far. With the exception of Brenton Parchment the Schiedammers’ seam attack has yet to find its rhythm (or, indeed, its radar), but with spinners Lorenzo Ingram and Umar Baker bowling as well as they did last week that is less of a problem that it might otherwise be. Ingram and Parchment are also the core of the batting, although it was Tim Etman whose resilience saw the side through to their seven-wicket victory against Voorburg. The Sparta bowlers fought back well against HBS, but the batting has so far been too dependent on old stagers Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman, and they will be looking for a bigger contribution from overseas players Andrew Fletcher and Garrett Tarr.
BdJ: The performance of Parchment and Ingram for Excelsior is the principal reason the Schiedammers are two from two heading into the third round, whilst for Sparta slow starts for both their overseas goes a long way toward explaining their winless record thus far. In the circumstances Sparta’s home players have made a decent fist of picking up the slack, but without significant contributions from their pros it’s hard to see them competing this season. The batting, especially, looks fragile when Fletcher and Tarr fail. Though new signing Ali Raza remains a menace at the top of the order and Bukhari looks in fine nick coming in at six, Sparta will likely need one of Fletcher or Tarr to start earning their keep if they are to take point home from Thurlede.
RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam began the season among the favourites, and they were a little unfortunate to fall foul of the DLS system in their opening match against Dosti. After a week cooling their heels they return to the action at home to Quick Haag, who continue to miss their overseas players Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake. VOC’s international trio of Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards and Pieter Seelaar are crucial for their title hopes, but the attack looks somewhat diminished by the loss of Fred Klaassen. Pierce Fletcher, though, has a new new-ball partner in Ashiqullah Said, and they struck early against Dosti in a badly rain-affected opener. It’s much too soon to count them out of the running, and they should be too strong for a depleted Quick, notwithstanding the batting exploits of Rupert Young, whose century enlivened an otherwise feeble run chase against ACC.
BdJ: In the absence of Bista and Dake Quick will again start as underdogs on Saturday, though former skipper Tim Gruijters looks to have done his old club a fine favour by dispatching his Leeston-Southbridge CC team-mate from New Zealand as cover. Young’s defiant century was about the only positive Quick could take from their 3-figure defeat at the hands of ACC, and the bowling especially looks a worry with O’Dowd in particular looking in solid form, coming off the back of a Pro-Series 95 on Sunday. The loss of Klaassen to Kent, and to a lesser extent Baker to Excelsior, has certainly taken some of the sting from VOC’s attack this season, but against and understrength Quick they should be confident enough of avoiding a second home defeat.
Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, HBS, ACC, Excelsior, VOC.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VRA, HBS, VCC, Excelsior, VOC.