2023 Preview: Sparta, ACC look for improvement

Rod Lyall 08/04/2023

The two sides that finished closest to relegation last season, ACC and Sparta, have both had some significant gains over the winter, and will be hoping to stay well clear of the drop this time round.

Sparta will be without Samit Gohil, whose batting often seemed to the only thing standing between the Capelle side and relegation last season, but they will be delighted to see the return of South African Garnett Tarr, who made 632 runs at 39.91 in 2021 and may again be the mainstay of the top order.

Joost-Martijn Snoep’s side will also be reinforced by the arrival of two New Zealanders, both from Central Districts: William Clark, a former New Zealand Under-19 international is a right-handed batter and medium pace bowler, while opener Sam Ferguson reportedly combines seam bowling with leg breaks and googlies.

The Spartans have further picked up Joost Kroesen from Excelsior, and his arrival at the Bermweg will add add extra substance to the middle order as well as providing another bowling option with his leg spin.

There were rumours towards the end of last season that Mudassar Bukhari might be thinking of calling a halt to his outstanding career, but with those four acquisitions he may feel that he will be able to play under less pressure than he has in the past couple of years, and there is no doubt that Snoep would welcome his aggressive batting and hostile bowling, both of which are still capable of turning games.

Wicketkeeper-batter Ali Raza is another who was below his best last year, and he too could bat with more freedom if the rest of the batting pulls its weight; no-one in the Topklasse can be more devastating when he is in the mood.

Khalid Ahmadi and former international Ahsan Malik both took 28 wickets last season, Malik’s average of 15.50 marginally better than Ahmadi’s 17.00, and both will be crucial to Sparta’s chances of moving up the table.

Add in Manminder Singh and Nasratullah Ibrahimkhil, together with Bukhari and the two New Zealanders, and Sparta will have an attack capable of putting most sides under pressure.

ACC, too, will welcome back a familiar face in Heino Kuhn, who played three seasons at Het Loopveld between 2011 and 2014, making 1547 runs at 61.88 in his 32 matches.

Now 39, Kuhn has made over 10,000 first-class runs for a variety of South African sides and for Kent, and he will bring massive experience to ACC’s young Topklasse outfit.

Thomas Hobson will be back, and the Amsterdammers have picked up two players from relegated side Dosti, in wicketkeeper and opening batter Rahil Ahmed and off-spinner Mahesh Hans; both have been among the better players of the long-struggling Drieburg club, and their experience will give ACC a welcome boost.

Other newcomers at Het Loopveld will be South African Pienaar Buys, until recently director of cricket at Grace College High School, and New Zealander Zac Konlechner.

The other overseas players from last year, Robin Smith and Robert Ackermann are not returning, but Kuhn, Hobson, Buys and Konlechner, not to mention Ahmed and Hans, will provide plenty of substance alongside Anis Raza, the reliable Devanshu Arya, and ACC’s crop of youngsters, Shreyas Potdar, Aryan Kumar, Ammar Zaidi and Zinesh Master.

In what is likely to be an intensely competitive Topklasse this season, both these clubs have put themselves in a position to earn themselves another year in the top flight.

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