Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyalll 25/04/23
While the April weather got the best of round one, with Voorburg versus HCC the only fixture that managed to beat the rain, the forecast looks somewhat more promising for the first of what now looks likely to be several doubled-up rounds this coming weekend. The four washed-out match from last Saturday will likely be replayed on Sunday the 7th, by which time we ought to have three more rounds on the board and a fair idea of how the season’s shaping up. For now though it’s still all to play for.
BdJ: Having closed out a convincing 8-wicket win over the defending champions on Saturday, Voorburg will be looking to extend their early lead when they make the trip out to Deventer to take on Salland on Saturday. Though the abbreviated match against HCC didn’t give us much to go on, it’s fair to say the bowling unit at least looks in decent shape, with the four man seam section all bagging at least one wicket and the twin leggies looking good before the rain came. The diminutive target meant the batting wasn’t truly tested, though if Salland can’t improve on last week’s performance that may be be the case again come Saturday. Salland’s batting was never their strength of course, and their bowlers didn’t get a chance to try to defend the handful of runs they’d scraped together. Both Venkat Ganesan and Victor Lubbers showed some admirable obstinacy with the bat, but they will need more from their overseas than a pair of first-ball ducks if they’re to get points on the board on Saturday.
RJL: If this Voorburg has a weak spot, it’s fair to say that HCC didn’t find it last week, and there was little in Salland’s effort in Amstelveen to suggest that their chances of doing so are any better. That said, conditions in the Bos – and everywhere else – were hardly ideal for cricket last Saturday, and on their own turf Victor Lubbers’ outfit may be able to put up a more sustained performance. But with Noah Croes looking to be in ominous form and Michael Levitt clearly capable of playing big innings, the Deventer-based side will need to fire on all cylinders if they are to treat their home supporters to a win. They showed occasionally last season that they are capable of springing a surprise, and in the end they stayed up comfortably enough, but it would be a brave prediction to anticipate anything other than a Voorburg victory here.
BdJ: Though VRA will be frustrated to miss out on the points against Salland, they’ll nonetheless have taken plenty of encouragement from their performance with the ball last Saturday. Southpaw spearhead Ashir Abid proved incisive with the new ball, while the offpin combination of Aryan Dutt and Leon Turmaine looked a potent one, Dutt barely going for a run an over and Turmaine bagging three wickets on his debut as captain. They may have a tougher job when they arrive at Thurlede of course, though Excelsior ‘20’s batting line up looks both shorter and more fragile than it has in seasons past. The Schiedammers will draw some encouragement from newcomer Michael Hart’s showing with the new ball alongside Niels Etman, though they will be hoping he can also replicate his predecessor Brett Hampton’s contributions with the bat last season.
RJL: Tom Heggelman’s side has long been better than the sum of its parts, due in no small measure to the captain’s own contributions with both bat and ball as well as his canny tactical sense. Whether that will be enough to overcome a VRA side which showed every sign last week of shrugging off the departure of Peter Borren is another matter, and the Amsterdammers’ visits to Thurlede have had an extra edge since the days when they seemed to take turns in claiming the championship. Two well-balanced attacks will provide serious tests for the opposing batting line-ups, both of which will be looking for decent starts from their seasoned opening pairings of Roel Verhagen and Tim Etman for the home side and Vikram Singh and Shirase Rasool for the visitors. VRA look to have more fire-power in the middle order, but much may depend on whether Hart is able to impose himself with the bat. This one is, especially in our current state of knowledge (very little), too close to call.
BdJ: The big news at Bermweg last week was of course the evident non-retirement of both Mudassar Bukari and Ahsan Malik, meaning Sparta 1888’s line-up looks more formidable that might have been expected. Bukhari’s measure innings at number four alongside an impressive debut for William Clarke suggests the Spartan top six could be a force this season, despite being reduced to 13-3 on Saturday as Mahmoon Latif, second overseas Sam Ferguson and the returning Garnett Tarr all fell cheaply. They’ll likely have an easier time at Craeyenhout against a rather green HBS attack hollowed out by departure and retirements, though they will still need to contain the Crows’ potentially dangerous batting line up. Tayo Walbrugh and Wes Barresi both failed at ACC last week but they’re unlikely to stay quiet for long, and an impressive outing for debutant Swapnil Pote suggests HBS may have deeper reserves than some suspected.
RJL: Sparta certainly look like a much stronger side on paper than that which has often struggled to stay up in recent seasons, but the question may be how well that group of talented – and in some cases, very experienced – individuals cohere as a team. There was some evidence pointing in both directions in the abortive game against Excelsior, but we should get a clearer idea from their visit to Craeyenhout to take on an HBS side which seems – again, on paper – to be heading in the opposite direction. Batting at ‘t Loopveld is admittedly never a straightforward proposition, especially on a damp early-season morning, and the Crows can be expected to give a much better account of themselves on their own astroturf in front of their own support. Failures by both Walbrugh and Barresi don’t come along very often, and Sparta will want to see the back of both of them to give themselves a decent chance of two very significant points.
BdJ: Despite the rain precluding a result, VOC Rotterdam will also have been reasonably pleased with their efforts last Saturday, even if only three players were called upon to do anything. Max O’Dowd looked to be cruising toward another Topklasse century when the rain came, and new opening partner Arnav Jain supported him ably to see of the threat of the new ball. Lane Berry’s Topklasse debut was also more than encouraging, a brisk unbeaten 59 off 45 balls suggesting plenty more runs to come. The re-jigged top order allows skipper Scott Edwards to assume the floating role he plays so well for the Dutch, and may serve well in countering HCC’s spin threat (that is to say, Clayton Floyd) when they welcome the Lions to Hazelaarweg. VOC’s chief concern on Saturday (and likely through the season) will be their bowling, specifically how to deal with the threat of Jonathan Vandiar, who alone of HCC’s line-up looked in good nick against VCC.
RJL: Having faced five Dutch internationals at Voorburg last week, the defending champions will have to take on two more in O’Dowd and Scott Edwards on Saturday, along with the already-menacing Berry, and they are entitled to feel that the draw has done them few initial favours. Their own international batters, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee barely got a start and Hidde Overdijk, although he gave Vandiar some support, was also unable to impose himself on Voorburg’s outstanding attack. Their own bowling looked steady rather than incisive, albeit with the odds atacked against them, but Daniel Crowley bowled an encouraging spell, enough to suggest that he could be a useful new-ball partner for Overdijk. Whether VOC’s bowling unit will measure up to the power of their top order remains uncertain, but they will face a genuine test against an HCC line-up which has a lot more to offer than it was able to show against Voorburg.
BdJ: Finally ACC head down to the Zomercomplex to take on a Punjab side that looked rather stuck for ideas against VOC last week. In the absence of Salarazai and Said the Punjab attack rather lacks for firepower this season, and though Sulaiman Tariq remains a canny operator both with the ball and as skipper, the problem of how to deal with Thomas Hobson and Heino Kuhn in the ACC middle order remains a thorny one. The simplest option may simply be to out-hit them of course, and Punjab have shown in pre-season that even without the likes of Myburgh and Vandiar they are more than capable of racking up big scores. The early running suggests ACC’s chief bowling threat looks to be their slow-bowling section, and how well the ACC spinners can contain Punjab in spite of the grounds dimensions may prove decisive on Saturday.
RJL: ACC are another outfit which seems to have dealt itself an improved hand over the winter, with Heino Kuhn in a key leadership role and the arrival of Rahil Ahmed and Mahesh Hans from Dosti. They will, of course, miss Mees van Vliet, their leading wicket-taker last season, but Joseph Reddy looked like a useful new-ball partner for Aryan Kumar; the test will be whether they are able to make early inroads into a Zulfiqar-heavy Punjab top order which also now includes the undoubted skills of the returning Shoaib Minhas. We don’t yet know what the ACC batting line-up will actually look like, but even in the reduced state of the Punjab attack they are likely to face a stern test at ‘t Zomercomplex. Again, not easy to pick this one, but in the end home advantage and greater experience as a unit may tell in Punjab’s favour.
BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, VRA, Sparta, VOC, Punjab
RL’s picks: Voorburg, Excelsior, Sparta, VOC, Punjab.