Preview Round 9

And so we are left with the denouement. With a decisive win over their last rivals, Punjab Rotterdam, HCC secured an unassailable place at the top of the 2020 Topklasse table. They will have to do without any actual silverware, but do have a shot at going through the season undefeated.

BdJ: Standing in their way are VOC Rotterdam, who will travel to De Diepput for their final match of the season. Last week they scored a surprise win over 2019 Champions Excelsior ‘20, Ahsan Malik and Arnav Jain providing the bulk of a modest 160-run total before so utterly stifling the Schiedammers’ young top order that even that target provided more than enough pressure to see the lower order balk at the asking rate. Whether the same strategy of containment can work at De Diepput against a more experienced HCC line-up is a different question, but Corey Rutgers has proved himself an astute understudy to the absent Seelaar and VOC’s fortunes have been trending upwards. HCC are where they are for a reason however (not least the form of Hidde Overdijk) and with the top spot in the bag may be expected to adopt a more cavalier approach than the overcautious attitude that doomed Excelsior at last Sunday’s block party.

RL: The fragility of VOC’s batting, despite Rutgers’ stickability and Ahsan Malik’s reinvention as a middle-order batsman, has been their major problem throughout the season, and it’s hard to see them dealing effectively with the campaign’s outstanding attack. The confrontation between Malik, Bobby Hanif and Jelte Schoonheim and HCC’s top order, on the other hand, looks like a more even contest; but whether the Rotterdammers have the batting resources either setting or chasing seems extremely doubtful. Even with the foot off the pedal, were HCC to lose this one it would undoubtedly be the upset of the season.

BdJ: For the vanquished Punjab, what might have been a decisive showdown against VRA is now just a chance to bag the runners-up spot. They will at least have a chance to familiarise themselves with conditions at the Bos with a T20 quarter final against the same opposition the evening before, and while Punjab’s feared top order rather wilted last week, Sikander Zulfiqar’s defiant 99 from number six was a reminder of the depth that took the Rotterdammers to within shouting distance of the top spot. Their opponents also had the look of contenders for much of the season, but an implosion against HCC effectively killed their ambitions and last week’s showing against Sparta rather suggests the fire has gone out of the Amsterdam side for this season at least.

RL: This, though, could scarcely be more open or more attractive: with Myburgh, the Zulfiqars and Nidamanuru on one side and Singh, Cooper and Borren on the other, the bowlers could be in for a very tough time if conditions are in any way favourable to batting. Neither attack quite measures up to the quality of the batting, but both have a good balance of pace and spin. For the home side, the experience of Quirijn Gunning, Adeel Raja and Leon Turmaine will be crucial, but bowling to the Punjab top order will be a severe test for the likes of Ashir Abid and Luke Hartsink. For the visitors, the seaming Sikander and the spinning Saqib of the House of Zulfiqar are key figures, along with skipper Suleiman Tariq and allrounder Nidamanuru. Home advantage could work for VRA, but then again, it’s a brave man who bets against this Punjab side.

BdJ: Also in contention for the number two spot are Voorburg CC, who take on HBS Craeyenhout in their final match of the season. HBS will be without skipper Toby Visée again, the explosive keeper-opener sidelined with a severed tendon in his hand, but in his absence Julian de Mey has seemingly reinvented himself as a steady batting all-rounder, his unbeaten 71 guiding the Crows to victory last week after coming close to a maiden century the week before. For their part VCC will be missing ten overs of quality leg spin with Flip Boissevain currently out with ankle trouble, but remain favourites to go to 14 points come Sunday.

RL: HBS have rather blown hot and cold all season, but victories in their last two games – due to a large extent to De Mey’s efforts with the bat – will have given them confidence going into this one. They’ll need it facing Kingma, Qasim and De Leede, even without Boissevain, but if De Mey can make it three in a row his side might be able to do so as well. Voorburg’s batting has been lot more consistent, but it has relied heavily on De Leede, and with seamers Coster, Geenevasen and Ferdi Vink HBS have a sufficiently incisive attack to put the visitors under pressure.

BdJ: Into the mid-table, the unfancied ACC may have gone down to an understrength HBS last weekend, but they’re still in the running for a top-five finish. With last year’s champions Excelsior ‘20 seemingly treating the season as an extended training session, the fact that the Schiedammers are probably the stronger side on paper may tell less than ACC’s apparent will to win. Excelsior’s young side have done themselves some credit this season in terms of individual performances, but in contrast to previous seasons they have looked rather less than the sum of their parts.

RL: Two young sides which point firmly towards the future, Excelsior and ACC may provide another hard-fought contest. On the side of experience, the home side have skipper Tom Heggelman and the redoubtable Lorenzo Ingram, while Joost Kroesen, Rens van Troost and Roel Verhagen have all played more than a hundred Topklasse games. No-one in the ACC line-up has played more than Anis Raza’s 73, though Chris Knoll and Charles McInerney do bring experience from elsewhere. But, as m’learned colleague notes, ACC have tended to punch above their collective weight, while Excelsior have perhaps performed a tad below it. There’s enough talent there, though, to persuade me to opt for Excelsior this time.

BdJ: For Dosti-United meanwhile, Sunday’s final fixture against Sparta 1888 represents a last chance to avoid a total write-off of a season. In their defence, the summer was always likely to be a tough one, with overseas players unavailable, Rahil Ahmed suspended ahead of the first match, Anees Davids unable to make time and skipper Vinoo Tewarie missing the last few matches, Dosti’s line-up has to be assembled week-by-week. Add to that a lack of home advantage and it’s a credit to the Amsterdam side that they have occasionally looked competitive. There’s still talent to be found, Mahesh Hans and Waheed Masood have both stepped up in the absence of the rest of the core squad and former bit-parters have shone at times, but none from nine still looks the most likely outcome. Lenert van Wyk may have failed for Sparta last week but he remains a menace, and the Capelenaars have shown they can win without him. Their win against VRA last week may not have been the best cricket either side have played this season, but even a below-par Sparta will be heavily favoured to deliver Dosti yet another defeat.

RL: Can Dosti redeem something from this train wreck of a season? In Lenert van Wyk and Mudassar Bukhari Sparta have two proven match-winners, while the attack is a threatening unit, especially at the Bermweg (where this game will be played because Dosti have been without a ground all season). Mahesh Hans, Dosti’s captain in the absence of Tewarie, has seen his side turn in improved performances in recent weeks, but without ever – with the exception of their match against VOC – really looking like breaking their duck. It would be a surprise it they did so here.

BdeJ’s tips: HCC, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, Sparta

RL’s tips: HCC, Punjab, Voorburg, Excelsior, Sparta.

Round 8 Preview

Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 20/08/20

It’s not difficult to spot the Match of the Day this week, with the top two sides meeting in what would effectively be the championship decider if there were a championship to decide. But there are some other tasty encounters on the agenda as well, if you’re a real cricket lover or – a more numerous species in the Netherlands – a passionate enthusiast for your club.

RL: Just one point ahead after last Sunday’s DLS tie, leaders HCC make the challenging trip to the Zomercomplex to take on Punjab Rotterdam. The game pits the best batting combination in the competition, which slaughtered the Sparta bowling last week, against the most effective attack, while the corresponding match-up between HCC’s top and middle order and Punjab’s bowlers is less imposing but nevertheless potentially decisive. Even the toss whets the appetite: if Suleiman Tariq wins if for the home side, should he opt for runs on the board or rely on his batters’ awesome chasing capacity; should Tonny Staal call correctly, would it be better to try to get amongst the Punjab top order early and risk a massive chase, or to look to set a target his bowlers can defend? Either way, I know where I would want to be on Sunday if it didn’t involve a 24-hour journey!

BdJ:HCC’s attack has unquestionably impressed thus far, but containing a rampant Myburgh, especially within the limited confines of the Zomercomplex, will prove a tougher task than they have faced thus far, and with an enviably deep batting order behind him avoiding a Myburgh onslaught will likely be necessary but not sufficient to keep Punjab to a manageable total. The point HCC took from Thurlede last week effectively overturned Punjab’s considerable net run rate advantage, however, and with the Rotterdammers facing the tougher final fixture away at VRA next week the hosts will arguably be under the greater pressure come Sunday.

RL: It’s a real test of character to come back from a mauling like the one Sparta 1888’s Bukhari-less attack was handed by Punjab last Sunday, although the batters will have been given heart by their display and especially by the century from Lenert van Wyk. They return to the Bermweg to entertain VRA Amsterdam, who fought all the way against Voorburg but whose batting had ultimately not given the bowlers enough to play with. Capelle a/d IJssel is never an easy place for visiting teams, but VRA will hope to get more from their top order against the Sparta attack, while the home side will be hoping that Ben Cooper doesn’t decide to cut loose in the way that Myburgh and Nidamanuru did for Punjab last week.

BdJ: With the weight of runs he’d accumulated in the T20 competition it seemed almost inevitable that van Wyk would start cashing in in the longer format soon enough, and there’s little reason to believe he’s run out of steam. Yet VRA’s chief strength has been the batting quality of some of their youngsters, and perhaps as much the adequacy of the rest, coupled with the fact that their Pros are both Dutch and Dutch-based. Thus even another ton from van Wyk may not be enough, though with weather expected to play a role VRA’s greater depth may not be as influential as they might hope.

RL: Voorburg had a couple of unquiet moments towards the end of their modest run chase in the Amsterdamse Bos but their attack proved its strength against Borren and Co. and will expect to find Dosti-United Amsterdam a considerably less menacing proposition. The Amsterdammers put up their best batting performance of the season against ACC, both Shahdab Ghori and Mahesh Hans making half-centuries, but the new-ball pairing of Kingma and Qasim, not to mention Philippe Boissevain’s leg spin, will give them plenty to think about as they try to consolidate the progress they have gradually made. The solidity of Voorburg’s batting, especially in the absence of Tom de Grooth, remains a cause for concern, but the question is whether Dosti have the bowlers to exploit that weakness.

BdJ: It would be easy to make too much of Dosti’s first serious total last week given that it came against and ACC side bowling to defend, and comfortably defending, a much higher target. But nonetheless the Amsterdammers showed a capacity to make runs even in the absence of skipper Vinoo Tewarie, and both Waheed Masood and Mahesh Hans continued to prove themselves capable of taking wickets. Dosti’s performances have been trending irregularly upwards since their admittedly abject start, having come close to finding their first points against VOC the week before. They remain underdogs against VCC of course, coming up against an attack that undid VRA’s much more resilient line-up last week, but at least don’t look like rolling over just yet.

RL: Both winners last week, HBS Craeyenhout and ACC meet in Den Haag with a chance of finishing in the right half of the table. ACC are currently fifth, but their margin over their hosts is just one win, and on paper they look pretty evenly matched. The fact that HBS got to 251 last Sunday despite the early loss of Tobias Visée should encourage them enormously, and it’s a good sign that Julian de Mey and Navjit Singh were able to bat with so much self-possession. ACC, on the other hand, saw Charles McInerney and Chris Knoll do the same job for them, while both sides have attacks which are hard-working rather than spectacular. Sander Geenevasen can scarcely expect ACC’s top order to thrash about as accommodatingly as VOC’s did last Sunday, but the combination of his seam bowling with that of Wessel Coster and Singh, along with the spin of De Mey and Adil Ahmed, may be enough to give HBS the edge.

BdJ: ACC have continued to outperform expectations through the season, most notably with the bat. The likes of Ramesh Babu, McInerney, Potdar, Kothari and now Knoll have all stepped up in turn to plug the holes left by the Zulfiqar exodus, but the bowling remains a vulnerability. Last week Dosti tripled their tally of half-centuries for the season against them, while Marcus Andrew and Stephan Myburgh have shown that a suitably aggressive bat, with good luck and a following wind, can take the ACC attack entirely apart. Such a one is Toby Visee, and with the rest of the HBS line up looking somewhat less vulnerable the skipper may allow himself a measure of freedom come Sunday. “Gotta get Visee early” is such a Topklasse truism at this point that it’s scarcely worth saying, but one feels it is doubly true for ACC.

RL: Both VOC Rotterdam and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam were chasing hard last Sunday when the weather closed in, but the Rotterdammers had to leave Craeyenhout empty- handed while Excelsior were able to escape with a point from their tie at De Diepput. Last season’s encounter between these sides at Hazelaarweg was a hard-fought, ill-tempered affair, and it is to be hoped that the atmosphere is a little more congenial this time. Excelsior owed their point last week to Lorenzo Ingram’s mastery in a tight situation, and they will be hoping he can continue in that vein against VOC, for whom Corey Rutgers’ contributions with the bat are scarcely less crucial. But Ahsan Malik was also impressive against HBS in the unfamiliar role of middle-order batter, while Jelte Schoonheim has been bowling as well as ever. The Schiedammers, of course, are a very young side, but their bowling unit maintained the pressure well against HCC, and if the batters are still gaining experience they have done enough to show that they will eventually blend into a significant line-up.

BdJ: Coming into the season missing the majority of their first team, VOC were keen to downplay their ambitions for the Summer, and fair to say they have lived down to those low expectations. That said, on return from semi-retirement, Rutgers has done a decent job of marshaling the resources available to him. Even if their sole points thus far have come against Dosti, the Belgium head coach has stepped up admirably in the absence of Pieter Seelaar and with Hanif and Malik back for the tail end of the season the Rotterdammers no longer look like walkovers. That said, Seelaar’s absence does rather undermine VOC’s traditional home advantage at the spin-friendly Hazelaarweg, and with Inrgam and Umar Baker (who has plenty of experience at his former home ground) the visitors arguably have an attack better suited to the conditions.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Punjab, Sparta, Voorburg, HBS, Excelsior.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Punjab, VRA, Voorburg, HBS, Excelsior.

Round 7 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 14/08/20

Just like that, the final-phase is upon us. It may seem like the 2020 Topklasse is just barely heating up, but with just three games to go (if that, given the weather forecast) we are very much entering the end-game.

BdJ: Once again the lack of a home ground forces Dosti-United to play a home game at their opponents’ ground, and to move it to Saturday. In this case ACC will be hoping for a positive outcome in the other Amsterdam Derby, when Dosti cross the Amstel to take them on at Het Loopveld. Vinoo Tewarie’s side are still looking for their first win this season, despite the skipper’s own best efforts. Tewarie had another fine game with bat and ball last week but again found little support from his team-mates. An occasional exception has been Waheed Masood, who has become almost as crucial with bat as with ball to his struggling side, but Tewarie will need both him and Mahesh Hans on form, or contribution from an unaccustomed corner if Dosti are to find their first points this Sunday.

RL: ACC are one of clubs who are benefiting from the opportunity to allow their crop of youngsters to flourish, and they will have ample opportunity to do so this week against a less-than-imposing Dosti attack. Not that the Drieburgers can be written off entirely: the pace of Masood and Tewarie’s leg-spin caused VOC problems last week, and with varied spin from Touseef Ahmad, Hans and Asief Hoseinbaks the likes of Shreyas Potdar and Jamieson Mulready will have the chance to practise their technique against slower bowling. ACC’s own attack has shown, notably against Sparta and VOC, that it can run through opposing sides, and Dosti’s capacity for spectacular collapse has been evident on a weekly basis. If Messrs. Duckworth, Lewis and Stern manage to generate a finish, you’d expect it to be in ACC’s favour.

BdJ: In pole position, HCC will be looking to extend their unbeaten streak when they welcome title-holders Excelsior ‘20 Schiedam to de Diepput. Excelsior’s young side are beginning to claw their way back into the mid-table after a tough start to the season, young Stan van Troost recording a maiden top-flight fifty as they saw off HBS last week. The win will doubtless restore some of the Schiedammers’ old confidence, not least in that it was accomplished even without any decisive contribution from Lorenzo Ingram. Nonetheless there’s a reason that HCC are yet to drop a point this season, as illustrated by their utter demolition of Sparta last week. Hidde Overdijk has been in particularly fine form, both with the ball last Sunday and the bat during the “Pro” Series games during the week. Though as with all the games this weekend the weather is the most likely winner, HCC remain solid second-favourites.

RL: HCC’s attack has been the key to their success so far, and Excelsior’s youthful batting line-up is likely to face a stern examination if the weather permits. But Ingram is always lurking in the background, and this could be an occasion for him to turn around what has been by his standards a fairly modest season up to now. By comparison with the bowlers the home side’s batsmen have been less consistent, but Staal, Ahmad, Crowley, Gorlee and Overdijk constitute a menacing top five, and with Felix Vecchi and Yash Patel also having runs under their belts they, too, represent a challenge for Excelsior’s attack.

BdJ: Both HBS Craeyenhout and VOC Rotterdam are playing for pride at this point on one win apiece, both over the hapless Dosti-United. Both sides have been hit hard by the availability issues caused in part by the ongoing pandemic, and the Rotterdammers are also missing skipper Pieter Seelaar. Corey Rutgers has stepped admirably into the gap, and the return of Ahsan Malik and Bobby Hanif have bolstered the bowling at least, but VOC retain the air of a rather cobbled-together outfit. HBS, for their part, have looked persistently reliant on captain Toby Visée, who remains a menace at the top of the order, but his wicket usually signals deep trouble for the Crows. With both sides lacking for any real depth this season one suspects this game may turn on a single stand-out innings or spell, and though it’s hard to predict where it may come from one feels there’s a couple more candidates on the Rotterdam roster, that said, with the rain likely to eat up most if not all the overs, HBS’ top-heavy batting may yet prove an advantage.

RL: Enigmatic seems the best word to described both these outfits: perhaps the absence of any real stakes in this season’s half-competition (read that ‘half’ any way you want) and the fact that both have a preference for the T20 format explain their stuttering efforts as much as the loss of key players, but it may be that the weather plays into their hands by cutting this game to the sort of length they avowedly prefer. Should that happen, as m’learned colleague avers, a Visée or a Jelte Schoonheim, a Ferdi Vink or an Ahsan Malik – whose T20 record is as good as anyone’s – could swing the match either way. Rutgers will no doubt have plenty of ideas about how to neutralise the threat of Visée, but this should be an occasion for cool heads and wise counsels.

BdJ: After being handed their first defeat at Westvliet on Sunday Punjab Rotterdam will be hoping to get back to their winning ways against Sparta 1888 at the Zomercomplex. Two points adrift of HCC, Punjab can’t afford to drop a game now, but despite their shambolic showing against the frontrunners last week Sparta remain something of a banana peel. Lenert van Wyk has mostly shown his stuff in the T20 comp thus far, but his threatening form together with that of Mudassar Bukhari means it will be tough for Punjab to judge what might be a safe score. Nonetheless the Rotterdammers enjoy considerably more depth in the batting at least, and it would be brave to bet against them taking HCC to the line at the business end of the season.

RL: Even more than VOC or HBS, Sparta have blown hot and cold this season, to the extent that it almost seems unpredictable which side will show up. If Bukhari’s in the mood against Punjab at the Zomercomplex there could be fireworks, especially if he can find some batting to keep him company. Ali Raza, too, may start eyeing the shorter boundaries, while Van Wyk adds class to any batting line-up he’s part of. There’s less doubt about the bowling, but even they will be tested by a Punjab side which is equally explosive at the outset and has a solid middle order as well. But yes, even in losing to Voorburg Punjab demonstrated the power of their batting, and Sparta will need to be at their best if they are to compete.

BdJ: Also still in the hunt are VRA, who will be welcoming Voorburg CC to the Bos to watch the rain. They’ll be keen to get on the field if they can though, finally having assembled something close to a full strength side. VCC meanwhile will be missing Tom de Grooth and Stef Mulder, so weather permitting Bas de Leede’s side will be facing a genuine test of depth. De Leede himself has been in fine form, but marshalling a young side as genuine underdogs will be a stiff challenge for the FCoH.

RL: Being more of a glass-half-full sort of person, I persist in the belief that cricket will prevail. That being the case, this looks like the game of the day, with Voorburg, having seen off Punjab, taking on a side which, apart from one aberration against HCC, has also looked the part despite the absence of Peter Borren. Much depends, though, on who is available: it’s a big ask when 17-year-old skipper Vikram Singh is one of the most experienced players in the VRA side, and the attack undoubtedly benefits if Leon Turmaine and/or Adeel Raja is present alongside Quirijn Gunning and the youthful cohort. Voorburg will certainly be weakened by the loss of De Grooth and Mulder, but the new ball attack of Viv Kingma and Ali Ahmed Qasim will put the home side to the test. The hardest of this week’s match-ups to call, but I worry when we’re in total agreement. So . . .

Bertus de Jong’s tips: Rain or ACC, Rain or HCC, Rain or HBS, Rain or Punjab, Rain or VRA.

Rod Lyall’s tips: ACC, HCC, HBS, Punjab, Voorburg.

Round 5 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 31/07/20

Four rounds in to the curtailed 2020 Topklasse season and already the half-way mark is upon us. The fifth round kicks off early this weekend with Excelsior and Dosti’s match moved up to the Saturday, and by the end of Sunday’s matches we should have a clear idea of who is in the running for such honours as can be claimed in lieu of a title, and who is at risk of the consequence-free ignominy of finishing bottom of the pile.

BdJ: Both Dosti-United and, perhaps surprisingly, title-holders Excelsior ‘20 Schiedam are in the running for the wooden spoon, with neither having found a win yet this season. Excelsior have seen a few encouraging individual performances this season, with Rens van Troost and Niels Etman both seeming comfortable with the responsibility thrust on them in the absence of senior players, but the 2019 champions nonetheless look a shadow of the side that won the last two titles. That said, they should fancy their chances of taking two points off this hapless Dosti side, whose total of 117 against Punjab last week was the best they’ve managed all season. Their breaking three figures last week was in large part thanks to skipper Vinoo Tewarie’s 45 from the top of the order, itself the Amsterdammers’ best individual score thus far, but Tewarie will need some degree of support if his team are to register their first win come Saturday.
RL: The dependence of Excelsior’s batting on Lorenzo Ingram and an overseas colleague has been an issue for the Schiedammers in the past, and this year, with Tim Etman gone to Australia and no other overseas in the line-up, his modest yield of 64 runs in three innings has left a youthful batting side even more exposed. The absence of skipper Tom Heggelman for the past two weeks hasn’t helped, and neither has the fact that they’ve so far had to face three of the stronger sides in Punjab, VRA and Voorburg. But fellow-strugglers Dosti should be a much fairer test of what this transformed version of the defending champions has to offer. As for Dosti, while their effort against Punjab may, one hopes, have represented an up-turn in their fortunes, another batting collapse after a decent start must be entered on the other side of the balance sheet. How well Excelsior are able to cope with Touseef Ahmed may well turn out to be the key to this game, but at this stage you have to fancy them to take the points back south.

BdJ: Also looking for their first win will be VOC Rotterdam, who will take on VRA Amsterdam at the Amsterdamse Bos the next day. VOC looked a much-improved side in their narrow loss to ACC last week, and will be bolstered by the return of former Netherlands international Ahsan Malik, but have been hit hard by the injury to skipper Pieter Seelaar compounding their already substantial availability issues. VRA meanwhile will be closer to full strength with Quirijn Gunning and Leon Turmaine coming back into the side, though it remains to be seen how readily they will bounce back from their shellacking at the hands of HCC last round.
RL: There’s a massive difference between giving youth a chance and exposing an undercooked side to a humiliating defeat, and circumstances conspired to prove that fact at De Diepput last Sunday. That it was a contest of men against boys was not the fault of either VRA or skipper Peter Borren, but it is further evidence of what an abnormal season this is. A somewhat stiffened team will take on a VOC side which seems gradually to be recovering its mojo, and while the loss of Seelaar is a significant blow with both bat and ball, Corey Rutgers’ presence in the middle order is a steadying factor in a batting line-up which has struggled to set scores the attack can defend. That they almost did so last week was more testimony to ACC’s limitations than their own strengths, and VRA will have every incentive to demonstrate that last week’s debacle was an aberration.

BdJ: HCC themselves remain undefeated so far this season, and will be looking to consolidate when they take on local rivals HBS Craeyenhout at De Diepput. The Crows have given a creditable account of themselves this season in the circumstances, but have remained reliant on the mercurial Toby Visée for runs and will be a long shot for points taking on what looks a well-rounded HCC outfit. Hidde Overdijk and Reinier Bijloos made short work of VRA’s line-up last week, and with Damien Crowley proving a shrewd acquisition HCC look to have weathered the loss of their overseas better than most, all the more remarkable given the role Bryce Street played last season.
RL: From an HCC point of view, of course, their demolition of VRA was confirmation of the fact that they have a well-balanced side, with their experienced three-pronged seam attack of Overdijk, Bijloos and Olivier Klaus backed up by the spin of Clayton Floyd, and a batting line-up including Tonny Staal, Crowley and the steadily-maturing Boris Gorlee. HBS are not far short of being a decent side, but they were outclassed by a rampant Mudassar Bukhari last week and they may struggle against the Lions in an encounter with Aesopic dimensions. They are missing Sharn Gomes’s batting much more than HCC are missing Street, but their attack is normally one of the better units in the competition and is capable of giving the home side a severe test.

BdJ: HCC’s main rivals for the top spot are Punjab Rotterdam, who will welcome ACC to the Zomercomplex come Sunday. Having acquired another three Zulfiqars from their opponents over the winter, Punjab have an enviable depth to their batting and have looked relatively untroubled so far this season. ACC can nonetheless be pleased with the team they’ve managed to put together, and have surprised many by holding their own in the mid-table thus far and if Aryan Kumar is cleared fit to play he will doubtless have a point to prove against his erstwhile teammates.
RL: The meeting between a quartet of Zulfiqars and their former team-mates (and in some cases protégés) adds a good deal of spice to this one, and with Stef Myburgh and Teja Nidamanuru also in the Punjab outfit and evergreen skipper and arch docker-of-tails Suleiman Tariq currently the competition’s leading wicket-taker, the Rotterdammers have been untroubled in retaining their unbeaten record so far. They seem likely to be a class too strong for ACC, whose batting had to work hard to stagger over the line against VOC. But there’s plenty of potential there, and this is after all a season for letting potential flourish. It will need a couple of seriously mature performances here, though, if ACC are to have any chance against a team well on the way to becoming non-title favourites.

BdJ: The day’s final game is probably the toughest to call, with fourth-placed Voorburg CC taking on Sparta 1888 at Bermweg. The hosts will be on something of a high after skipper Mudassar Bukhari led them to a crushing win over HBS last week with a brutal, unbeaten 120, and with the addition of Lenert van Wyk they may feel comparatively confident of their batting even in the face of VCC’s formidable pace attack. Much will depend on how Voorburg’s talented but comparatively inexperienced batting line-up goes about their business; with a relatively long tail the tourists will hope skipper Bas de Leede can extend his enviable run of form.
RL: This could be a match to savour, although a similar remark last week put the kiss of death on the game at De Diepput. With players of the quality of De Leede, Viv Kingma and Ali Ahmed Qasim taking on the likes of Bukhari and Van Wyk, not to mention Philippe Boissevain on one side and Ali Raza, Max Hoornweg and Martijn Snoep on the other, this could turn out to be one hell of a scrap. You can’t expect Bukhari to be as dominant two weeks in a row and Sparta are far from being a consistent outfit, but the advent of an in-form Van Wyk adds solidity to their batting and is a great foil to the aggression of Raza and the captain. Voorburg’s four-man seam attack will need to strike early to put the pressure on, but at the Bermweg their bowling may be enough to tip the balance in their favour.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, VRA, HCC, Punjab, Sparta
Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, VRA, HCC, Punjab, Voorburg.

Round 4 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 23/07/20

There will be a maximum of two Topklasse sides with a perfect record after this Sunday’s fourth round matches, as the abbreviated competition begins to take shape. But several of this week’s fixtures are very tricky to read, and it looks like another absorbing day’s cricket.

RL: The match of the day is undoubtedly that between HCC and VRA Amsterdam at De Diepput. The home side will have been greatly encouraged by their victory over Voorburg last Sunday, but VRA have been untroubled in their three wins so far and everything looks set for a highly entertaining encounter on the Hagenaars’ pocket-sized ground. VRA are able to pursue their policy of rotating youth players in the knowledge that in Vikram Singh, Ben Cooper, Peter Borren and now the returning Eric Szwarczynski they have a richly-experienced batting line-up, while Quirijn Gunning’s form with the ball against Excelsior lent a real cutting edge to the attack. But HCC, too, have well-balanced side, augmented this year by the arrival of Musa Ahmad and Damien Crowley, and if there are some questions about the solidity of their batting they were answered in part last week by the good form of Boris Gorlee and Hidde Overdijk. One for the connoisseurs, this!

BdJ: The games’ top-table status may make it the one to watch this week, but VRA at least are unlikely to be fielding a full-strength line-up on the day. With this round falling on what was to be the cricket-free weekend and travel restrictions beginning to ease across the continent, pre-booked holidays are taking their toll across the league and VRA look likely to be particularly hard hit. Most notable expected absentees are the above-mentioned Szwarczynski and Gunning, and with a couple of the youngsters also granted the week off, expect some new (or old!) faces when the Amsterdammers take the field. The core of the batting line-up in Singh, Cooper and Borren at least willl ensure HCC won’t have the easiest time of it, and themselves will have to find a replacement opener for Musa Nadeem who is out with a suspected fractured jaw courtesy a bouncer from Singh in the nets earlier in the weak, but nonetheless they may just have reason to be glad of the way the schedule has shaken out.

RL: Also with three wins out of three, Punjab Rotterdam have what looks like a rather less challenging task, at home to struggling Dosti-United Amsterdam. Punjab have a strong case for being the best batting line-up in the competition, with Stef Myburgh joined by a quartet of Zulfiqars and Anil Nidamanuru, while Dosti have managed a total of just 195 runs in three completed innings; Punjab made more in beating VOC last Sunday, for the loss of four wickets. It seems that nothing can go right at the moment for the Amsterdammers, and it will be a real test of character for them to turn this season around. Touseef Ahmed remains a potential trump card, but there’s a limit to how much he can be expected to do on his own.

BdJ: Fair to say that Dosti will at least have little to lose when they arrive at het Zomercomplex, and one might argue that simple reversion to mean is reason enough to expect them to put three figures on the board at some point, but there’s little further reason to expect a turnaround when they go up against a near-full-strength Punjab who will be looking to cement their place at the top end of the table.

RL: Two sides with a strong youth component, Voorburg and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam meet at Westvliet in what could be another absorbing game. Excelsior’s limitations were ruthlessly exposed by VRA last Sunday, and one senses that it is more important than ever that Lorenzo Ingram comes off if Excelsior are to be competitive. Their batsmen will face the test of Voorburg’s seam quartet of Viv Kingma, Ali Ahmed Qasim, Bas de Leede and Stef Mulder this week, and while Voorburg’s batting crumbled against HCC they can be expected to perform better against the Excelsior attack. But a key aspect of this season is the opportunity it affords for the youngsters to prove their mettle, and there is plenty of youthful talent in both these sides.

BdJ: The title-holders’ will doubtless be displeased to find themselves at an unfamiliar end of the table three rounds in, but one wonders if they might be more determined to do something about it were their title under threat. The Schiedammers have looked comparatively unconcerned with their disappointing season, seemingly happy to give their youth a run-out at senior level. At times it’s looked like it might even pay dividends, Rens van Troost looking increasingly comfortable batting up the order and Niels Etman showing some promise, but they’ve yet to come close to a win. Despite last week’s defeat, several of VCC’s own home-grown contingent have had the benefit of greater experience at a higher level, and one suspects that may tell again come Sunday.

RL: Another outfit with plenty of youth is ACC, as seamer Mees van Vliet demonstrated last Sunday and batsman Shreyas Potdar the week before. They will take on a VOC Rotterdam side for whom national captain Pieter Seelaar showed renewed appetite for runs in the defeat by Punjab, and despite that loss the Rotterdammers looked a lot more competitive than they had in their first two games. Again on their own patch at Het Loopveld, ACC will be looking to repeat last week’s success against Sparta, a fine team effort by a side with half-a-dozen changes from last season. Bobby Hanif’s return gives the VOC attack a more stable look, but the batting is yet to cohere into a unit, and although they are capable of springing a surprise my guess is that ACC will have the better of this battle between two mid-table sides.

BdJ: VOC have been struggling with player availability throughout the season and it has been reflected in their results, so the news of Seelaar’s sidelining (due to a back injury rather than a city break) will come as a still heavier blow. It was Seelaar’s unbeaten 93 that proved the backbone (sorry) of their first half-decent score of the season, and his absence will further unsettle an already unstable line-up, as well as depriving them of ten overs of quality left arm spin. ACC meanwhile, despite extensive personnel changes, seem to have gelled into something resembling a steady if unshowy side. In a competition where few teams can say the same, the Amsterdammers may yet give a better account of themselves than many predicted.

RL: After their demolition of VOC Sparta 1888 were brought back to earth by ACC, and now return to the Bermweg to face a HBS Craeyenhout side which may have been put back on the rails by their comprehensive win over Dosti. Here we have two seam attacks well suited to the traditionally bowler-friendly conditions in Capelle, but equally both sides have explosive batsmen who can, if they come off, transform a game remarkably quickly. Sparta will be hoping that they can grab the wicket of Tobias Visée before he does too much damage, while HBS will know that they need to neutralise the threat posed by Mudassar Bukhari and Ali Raza. Whoever achieves that goal quicker will probably win, but on all-round strength it may be HBS who just about have the edge.

BdJ: Probably the toughest game to call this round, with both sides fortunes tending to hinge on the performance of rather mercurial match-winners. Among players returning this season, Mudassar Bukhari was unarguably the stand-out performer of 2019 (unless of course you happen to be on the KNCB Player of the Year panel, in which case it was apparently was entirely arguable). Bukhari hasn’t really come off so far this season, but remains a real threat with both bat and ball. Conversely Tobias Visée reminded everyone last week of why he is one of the few in the league to attract interest from T20 franchises abroad with a brutal 67 off 24, though as with Sparta the rest of the HBS line-up looks rather threadbare, especially when Tim Drummond is unavailable. All told it’s a match up that could produce a tight game or blow out wildly either way, which obviously isn’t much of a prediction, so for the sake of being sporting I’ll back Sparta this time.

Rod Lyall’s tips: VRA, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, Sparta

Round 3 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 16/07/20

We’re still just two rounds into the 2020 Topklasse season, but with only seven games to go the early running carries rather more weight than it would under normal circumstances, and as we look ahead to round three the table is already starkly divided between winners and losers, with five teams undefeated and five yet to put a point on the board.

BdJ: At the top of the table by virtue of net run rate are Sparta 1888 courtesy their demolition of VOC last week, though their position remains somewhat precarious as a wash-out at Thurlede in the opening round means their lead is based only on that single game. They take on the still-winless ACC on Sunday away at Het Loopveld and will be looking to consolidate against an experimental Amsterdam side that’s missing the majority of their 2019 first XI. Nonetheless the Amsterdammers can be expected to put up stiffer resistance than did VOC last week, with the new opening pair of Burnett and McInerney having shown their quality in the first game, and Ramesh and Potdar demonstrating that the middle order is not entirely hollowed out when the new openers failed last week. Sparta remain favourites going into the game, but expect a closer contest than we saw on Sunday.

RL: Poor as VOC were last Sunday, the Sparta bowlers were seriously impressive on their own patch, getting good movement and never easing the pressure through the 24 overs of their opponents’ innings. Het Loopveld is another venue which is traditionally bowler-friendly, and they will go into this game with plenty of confidence; as m’learned colleague observes, however, ACC are likely to be less of a pushover than VOC, especially if Burnett and McInerney manage to avoid the fate that befell them at Voorburg. If 2020 is mostly a nursery for the future, it is the growing maturity of players like Sparta’s Max Hoornweg and ACC’s Shreyas Potdar which is the most significant feature of this season, and their fortunes will be followed closely on Sunday and beyond.

BdJ: Likewise a tougher game to call will be HCC’s match against Voorburg at Westvliet. Both sides are still undefeated thus far, though neither have looked exactly dominant either. VCC were given something of a scare by ACC last week, needing Philippe Boissevain to pull them back from the brink after a top order collapse threatened to squander the good work of Bas de Leede and Rigchardt Pieterse at the top of the order. HCC nonetheless look the more vulnerable of the two, after Dosti’s new acquisition Touseef Ahmed exposed the brittleness of their batting on Sunday. Facing arguably the best pace attack in the competition in Vivian Kingma, Ali Ahmed and the in-form Stef Mulder, HCC will need someone to step into Bryce Street’s sizeable shoes if they’re to take points home from Westvliet.

RL: This shapes to be one of the most competitive match-ups of the season, with both Voorburg and HCC looking like potential title candidates were there to be a title to be claimed. Both are more solid in the bowling than in the batting, but HCC have more experience in the latter dimension than their hosts, whose middle order is perhaps the youngest in the competition. Voorburg did extremely well to see off ACC in the absence of skipper Tom de Grooth last Sunday, but Bas de Leede, like his father before him, is a potential match-winner, while Ali Ahmed Qasim will fancy the prospect of taking on his former team-mates from De Diepput. The same applies in reverse to Clayton Floyd, who returns to Westvliet in the gold of HCC rather than the home side’s blue-and-red. And don’t underestimate the skills of Italian international Damien Crowley. A tough call, but I think HCC might shade it.

BdJ: The hapless VOC Rotterdam meanwhile face the unenviable prospect of a visit from fellow Rotterdammers Punjab CC, who saw off the title-holders to go two from two last week. Few would bet against them making that three from three on Sunday, with a batting line-up lent enviable depth by the arrival of three more Zulfiqars added to the persistent menace of Myburgh at the top of the order. If Punjab’s bowling has looked a little reliant on Mubashar Hussain and skipper Tariq, they will nonetheless back themselves to see off VOC’s hitherto flimsy line-up without too much trouble, barring a remarkable turnaround for Pieter Seelaar’s men.

RL: Punjab, too, are riding high after good wins against HBS Craeyenhout and Excelsior ’20, and unless VOC can raise their game considerably they should be untroubled in making it three out of three after their visit to the Hazelaarweg. The Bloodhounds may be helped by the rumoured return of Bobby Hanif and Ahsan Malik to the attack, but it’s the batting which has been truly awful, Pieter Seelaar and Jelte Schoonheim having so far managed two runs between them in their four innings. Should they recover their appetite for the game they have the ability to provide a real test for Punjab, although in a competition largely without overseas players Anil Nidamanuru may prove a trump card; his unbeaten innings last Sunday certainly put paid to Excelsior’s challenge.

BdJ: Meanwhile Dosti-United will be looking to break their duck when they head down to the Hague to take on the similarly winless HBS Craeyenhout. The arrival of Ahmed has added some teeth to the Dosti attack, and with Wahid Masood and Mahesh Hans both bowling creditably Dosti remain a threat with the ball, but the batting has been utterly abject so far. With just 105 runs on the board across two matches, Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need to show some application, even in the face of HBS’ second-string attack.

RL: With seamers Ferdi Vink, Wessel Coster and Navjit Singh and spinner Julian de Mey still in the HBS attack it’s perhaps a little more threatening than m’learned colleague gives it credit for, and they may have been unfortunate in having faced the batting strength of Punjab and VRA on their first two outings. Dosti are a very different prospect, at least on their form so far, and they have undoubtedly been set back by the absence of Anees Davids and the side-lining of Rahil Ahmed. Tobias Visée has yet to fire for HBS, and his battle with Touseef Ahmed could be a highlight of Sunday’s encounter.

BdJ: The day’s final fixture will see VRA travel down to Schiedam to take on title-holders Excelsior ‘20 who will be looking for their first win after a wash-out against Sparta and last week’s defeat at the hands of Punjab. Excelsior’s chief concern will be their continued reliance on Lorenzo Ingram for runs, the Jamaican’s half-century last week being the only significant score for the Schiedammers, despite some useful contributions from Rens van Troost and Niels Etman in the middle order. VRA meanwhile have looked serious contenders this season, not least thanks to the development of their youth players, who have stepped up admirably in the circumstances. Vikram Singh, most notably, looks increasingly comfortable at senior level, even if VRA might hope for a little more intent from the youngster given the weight of batting behind him. In what promises to be probably the weekend’s most engaging encounter, it may well come down to which of the two sides’ new faces most ably support the old guard, and in this respect the Amsterdammers look to have the advantage.

RL: Another fascinating match-up between two sides with a healthy mix of experience and youth, and two fine captains in Tom Heggelman and Peter Borren. Excelsior have had the wood on VRA lately, winning seven of their past ten meetings, and with Lorenzo Ingram still in their side they are always a serious threat. But they are using this season to blood more youngsters – scions of the Van Troost and Schewe dynasties – and they may take some time to settle into the side. In opener Vikram Singh VRA have one of the undoubted rising stars whose confidence is growing in what is now his third season in the top flight, and with Shirase Rasool added to the middle order the Amsterdammers’ younger brigade is already beginning to flourish. I would also expect VRA to have the edge, but one should never underestimate the Schiedammers’ ability to prevail in a tight battle.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.

Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.

Season Preview – Part 2

Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 04-07-2020

This may be the first year since 1945 that there will be no Dutch national champion, but that doesn’t mean that clubs won’t be keen to finish as high on the Topklasse table as possible, and that last season’s top five won’t be doing their level best to hold on those positions.
‘Level best’ is, of course, the operative term, since Covid-19, the closing of the borders and the virtual collapse of international air travel have combined to reverse the effects of the successful challenge to the KNCB’s attempt to limit the number of overseas players in the top divisions of Dutch cricket.

DostiLike Punjab Rotterdam, Voorburg and some others, Dosti Amsterdam will clearly feel the effects of these changes, and will be forced to rely more on the contribution of locally-based players.
At its core the Sportpark Drieburg club has a seasoned group of experienced Topklasse players, not least key all-rounder Anees Davids, South African-born but now a Dutch citizen and one of the most dangerous contributors in the competition with both bat and ball.
But Davids will need more consistent support with the bat from the openers, skipper Vinoo Tewarie and wicketkeeper Rahil Ahmed, while spinner Mahesh Hans has recently demonstrated that his work on his batting is bearing fruit and is likely to assume a greater role in a middle order which otherwise seems pretty threadbare.
In the attack, seamer Masood Wahid bowled some very effective spells in 2019 and he, too, is likely to play a more significant part in the absence of the likes of Taruwar Kohli, while the same applies to spinner Asief Hoseinbaks.
The big question for Dosti, though, will be the ability of a number of fringe players who have had their chances in the side without ever really establishing themselves: Shadaab Ghori, Rishal Varma, Raj Verma and Arjun Atwarie, not forgetting the youthful Arghem Khan.
If two or three of this group step up to the challenge, it could have positive consequences not only for this season, but also for Dosti into the future.

LogoHBSHBS Craeyenhout likewise will need some former fringe players to step up as they head into the abbreviated season missing a number of big names. The absence of last year’s overseas Zac Elkin and Zak Gibson leaves a gap to fill both in terms of runs and wickets, exacerbated by the retirement of Berend Wesdijk – who took 31 wickets at 17 for the Crows last season.
Also missing will be Sharn Gomes, who has departed for the UK and there is also some uncertainty regarding how much of a role Wesley Barresi will play this season, potentially leaving HBS without their three top scorers from last season as well as their lead wicket-taker, and with Farshad Khan also understood to have taken retirement HBS will be missing more than half their first choice XI from 2019.
The arrival of former KwaZulu-Natal bat (and sometime South Africa hockey international) Tim Drummond will likely go some way toward bolstering an otherwise brittle-looking batting card, though the extent of his availability is also in question.
The Crows will be looking to skipper Toby Visee to score big as well as fast, while all-rounder Navjit Singh, as the only sure surviving middle order bat form last season, will also have a significant role to play. Ferdi Vink will likely move up the order whilst Wessel Coster will assume the role of leader of the pace attack, with Julian de Mey the key figure in the slow-bowling department.
Visee was downbeat about the teams’ambitions and sceptical of the format, but nonetheless positive about getting back into the action. “It’s obviously good to be playing any kind of cricket again, though we would have preferred a T20 competition, if only because it might have helped with player availability. A lot of the guys have other commitments now and especially some of the younger guys who have been without work for a while will have other priorities. We’ve just had intra-squad games by way of preparation, but we’ll look to get as much out of the season as we can, some of the guys from the seconds will be getting a chance and hopefully we can win a few games.”

LogoACCNot much is known about what is happening at ACC, beyond the fact that the Loopveld club has lost the services of its three remaining Zulfiqars (who have decamped to Punjab) and of Shirase Rasool (now with VRA).
Without overseas players into the bargain, that will throw huge responsibility onto the shoulders of the club’s (even) younger brigade, along with Anis Raza, Devanshu Arya and Chris Knoll.
The most successful of the youngsters up to now has been seamer Aryan Kumar, while others who may now have a more significant role are Jamieson Mulready, Areeb Shoaib, Shreyas Potdar, Ammar Zaidi, Beau de Boekhorst, and perhaps Mees van Vliet.
This latter group never had more than a walk-on part in a side dominated by the Zulfiqars and the overseas players, but the club has at least ensured that they have tasted the demands of Topklasse cricket.
It would also not be surprising if some of ACC’s old hands, like Bas van der Heyde and Rehan Younis, who made occasional first-team appearances last year, played more regularly in this very unusual season.

Logo HCCConversely HCC, despite the absence of Adam Wiffen, his planned replacement Zac Worden, and last seasons’ stand-out performer Bryce Street, look in decent shape ahead of the 2020 season. Skipper Tonny Staal will himself be under a degree of pressure to perform consistently in the absence of his overseas bats, but the experience of Itagi at the top of the order will offer some reassurance, as will the continued development of the young Boris Gorlee coming in behind him, who has looked in fine form during intra-squad training games with the national set-up. Gorlee is joined by another promising youngster in the form of Musa Nadeem (formerly of Goen Wit), whilst VCC’s spin all-rounder Clayton Floyd has also come over to HCC for the coming season.
Another new face will be Italian international Damian Crowely, who joins HCC having emigrated to the Netherlands. A top-order bat and useful left-arm spinner, Crowley will doubtless add some welcome experience to the top order. The departure of Ali Ahmed nonetheless leaves the pace attack looking a little underpowered, and HCC will hope Netherlands occasional Hidde Overdijk is fit and firing throughwhat remains of the Summer. Stall will also look to Regulars Douwe Walhain and Ollie Klaus to contribute more consistently with bat and ball, but is also positive about the introduction of some younger prospects.
“We will try and get our young guys in as well. I think this will be a great learning curve for youngsters like Boris Gorlee, Ditmar Hennop and Felix Vecchi.” Staal told Tkcricket. “We have trained since we were allowed and have been playing loads of intra-club games against each other. I would say this has been one of our better season preparations so far and I think it will show when we get going.”

LogoExcelsiorReigning champions Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will have to wait until next season to mount an official title defence, but will nonetheless be looking to continue their winning ways. They will be without Brenton Parchment, who remains in the Caribbean, and Tim Etman, who has departed for Australia. First team regular David Woutersen is also understood to be injured at present, but the core of the 2019 champion side remains intact.
Crucially, the evergreen Lorenzo Ingram is in-country, haviing made the trip early to take up his coaching duties. The spinning all-rounder led the Schiedammers in both runs and wickets in 2019 and will remain indispensible if they are to come out on top again in their centennial year. Skipper Tom Heggelman himself will likewise be key to their hopes both with bat and ball, with Sohail Bhatti and Rens van Troost rounding out the seam attack.
Filling in for the absentees will be an assortment of Ingram’s young charges from the youth programme, with young bat Luuk Kroesen expected to join Joost and Gijs as a regular fixture in the senior side. Heggelman is cautiously optimistic about his team’s hopes of topping the table again, and confident they’ll be as well prepared as any.
Before the Corona lockdown we had trained a couple of times at VOC and a selection of the team have been working on fitness at the Perfect Performance Sport Center (PPSC), one of our sponsors. After lockdown we resumed training as soon as it was permitted, and in the run up to the season we’ve been training twice a week as well as doing Wednesday fitness sessions at PPSC. The first three weeks we didn’t have training games, but we now have a 40-over game and a T20 under our belts.”
“We’ll be playing every game to win and look to continue the momentum from previous years, albeit with a team that will look a bit different. As is known we think it’s important that team mostly comprises Excelsior-produced players, and we’ll be using the coming games to give some of the youth Topklasse experience. We’ve a large group of youngsters coming through, and while it’s maybe a bit early to say they’ll make an immediate impact, but we’ll be looking to offer them a platform to perform and contribute for the club, our first team and hopefully for Dutch cricket.”

Read Part One here

Season Preview – part 1

Bertus de Jong and Rod Lyall 03-07-2020

Nothing is normal in the world we now find ourselves inhabiting, and even by normal standards this year’s abbreviated – and in a certain sense unofficial – Topklasse is difficult to predict.

The most obvious source of uncertainty, of course, is the absence of overseas players, with or without a Dutch passport, from the ranks of most teams. That means that those who are around, like Excelsior ‘20’s Lorenzo Ingram, may well be even more influential than usual.

But other than that, the 2020 competition will be an unusually clear indication of clubs’ strength in depth, and of emerging players’ true ability to make their mark.

logo punjabFew clubs will be more greatly affected by the situation than promoted side Punjab Rotterdam, whose Hoofdklasse win last year owed a great deal to a quintet of South Africans, led by former HCC coach Jonathan Vandiar.

The Rotterdammers will, however, be compensated for that loss by the acquisition of Saqib, Sikander and Rehmat Zulfiqar, who have joined family voortrekker Asad at the Zomercomplex.

With international opener Stef Myburgh also in the line-up Punjab will have a powerful, hard-hitting top five, while Sikander’s lively fast-medium bowling will complement long-serving captain Sulaiman Tariq in the attack.

Then there’s evergreen Muhammad Hafeez, still scoring runs and bamboozling batsmen, the utility players’ utility player Ashan Bamunusinghe, who can slot into the side in almost any capacity, a well as brothers Mohsin and Faizan Bajwa, and Punjab should be capable of giving any team in the competition a run for their money.

SpartaOver at the Bermweg in Capelle a/d Ijssel, Sparta 1888’s principal gain is the transfer of top-order batsman Lenert van Wyk from Excelsior ’20.

A former Boland, Cape Cobras and Free State player with 2000 first-class runs to his credit, Van Wyk appeared in four matches for the Schiedam club last season after taking a job in the Netherlands.

His arrival will compensate Sparta to some degree for the absence of overseas players, as well as the return of Tim de Kok to VOC.

New skipper Mudassar Bukhari will have a strong attack at his disposal, with Martijn Snoep, Manminder Singh and youngster Max Hoornweg joined by Punjab’s Mamoon Latif and the returning Faisal Iqbal.

Bukhari, of course, is a powerful force with both bat and ball, and with Ali Raza at the top of the order former international keeper Atse Buurman still valuable in the middle order as well as behind the stumps, and 16-year-old Prithvy Balwantsingh showing real promise with the bat, Sparta will be hoping for a better season than they managed in 2019.

Former skipper (and now Chairman) Snoep was upbeat about his club’s preparation and prospects despite the absent overseas players, “We’ve been training, had some intra-club and intra-squad games, and we also took the initiative to play in Belgium against Antwerp, we good contacts there and outdoor sports where allowed there. Missing Ter Braak en Hampton makes a big difference for obvious reasons. Still with an experienced team with Bukhari, Van Wyk, Ali Raza, Buurman, Manin Singh Myself and with Latif coming over from Punjab as well as Max Hoornweg who’s in the KNCB setup we feel we have a decent local squad to pick from, Faisal Iqbal back as well. New players Van Wyk, Latif, Iqbal and young players Maxi and 16-year old Prithvi Balwantsingh (who scored 28 of 20 against Antwerp) will get some games. Ivo Hoornweg (Max’s youngest brother) will get opportunities, hes a medium pacer. We’ll be looking to win every game and develop the team into a better one for next season.”

LogoVOCOne of the biggest disappointments of least season was the form of defending champions VOC Rotterdam, who slumped to eighth, and they will not be helped this time by the absence of international star Max O’Dowd and the (mostly) retired seamer Bobby Hanif.

They had hoped to have the services of international keeper-batsman Scott Edwards, but word is the Netherlands gloveman has run into difficulties securing permission to fly from Australia. Top-order batsman Corey Rutgers did manage to return to the Netherlands just before the borders closed however, and will have an increased role in the first team in O’Dowd’s absence.

His experience will be valuable support for skipper Pieter Seelaar, who is likely to find his bowling assumes even greater importance without not only Hanif but also Pierce Fletcher, Dirk van Baren and Ashiqullah Said.

On the other hand, there will be a good deal of interest in the progress of teenager Siebe van Wingerden, who made his Topklasse debut last season and who now has the opportunity to establish himself in the side.

Seelaar was understandably keen to downplay expectations somewhat ahead of the opening round, telling Tkcricket; Thursday will be our first and only practice of the year. When the season was cancelled earlier, there was hardly any commitment to training or practice games, that is was decided to pretty much cancel this year … Our ambition is to enjoy what is left of the cricket season. For some players it will be good to see how they will develop.”

logo VRAConversely VRA’s roster is comparatively unaffected by the continued travel restrictions, but nonetheless the Amsterdam club has seen more than a few departures over the winter, and will be fielding a somewhat new-look side this season. Pre-season talks with Adam Wiffen were eventually nixed in part due to the virus, Brandon Graber will not be returning and left arm quick Haseeb Gul is also understood to be seeking his fortune in England. Former skipper Emile van den Burg also departs for Nijmegen, while seamer Tom Long’s work commitments have taken him to Germany.

Veterans Adeel Raja and Eric Szwarczynski remain on the roster, though it’s unclear how regular a role the latter especially will play. Young Vikram Singh will consequently have to shoulder a greater share of responsibility at the top of the order, where he will likely open with Dutch international Ben Cooper. Skipper Peter Borren will likely also call upon Singh to contribute with ball in hand, alongside senior seamer Quirijn Gunning and offspinner Leon Turmaine, and indeed with the latter pair also likely to miss a couple of games owing to prior commitments, Singh’s reportedly much-improved bowling may prove crucial to his team’s considerable ambitions.

Despite the departures the VRA club look in better shape than many for the abridged season, with a bevy of promising youngsters expected to follow Singh into the senior side.

“We have a great bunch of u18s most if whom are in the Dutch u18 side.” Borren told Tkcricket,As well as Vikram Singh we have Udit Nashier, Zamaan Khan, Shirase Rasool, Luke Hartsink, Ashir Abid, Debrup Dasgupta. They are a group who has been together for a while and I’m looking forward to seeing them all getting opportunities to grow and learn at this level. Our ambition is to win the competition. I don’t think it is an unrealistic goal. Also exposing some young talented guys to a decent standard of cricket. These guys will all be future Topklasse stars, to get this chance to get used to that standard is a win in itself.”

VCCLikewise Voorburg CC will be looking to improve on their 6th place finish despite a number of last season’s first choice side being stranded abroad. Absent will be keeper-bat Noah Croes as well as the Smit brothers, whilst pace spearhead Brandon Glover has been snapped up by Gloucestershire and Clayton Floyd by HCC.

HCC’s Ali Ahmed has made the trip in the opposite direction, however, and Voorburg are also bolstered by the return of Bas de Leede from the UK, whist national legspinning prospect Philippe Boissevain will also be sticking with the club in liueu of a planned stint at MCC Young Cricketers. Aryan Dutt also returns to Westvliet after a stint at Kampong, and together skipper Tom de Grooth VCC will be looking to returnees Dutt and de Leede to plug the run-gap left by the absent Croes and Smit brothers.

Much will also depend on the fiery but fragile Viv Kingma as he steps back into the spearhead role, but de Grooth is bullish about his side’s chances. “We were back at training pretty much straight away. We’ve been playing (an intra-club) T20 comp with four competitive teams and a league with four social teams. Last round of that will be this Friday. So should all have some games behind us. Will be great to have Bas back in the side and see how he has develops. Aryan Dutt is back from Kampong and is looking the part and young keeper Tobias Nota is one to look out for with the gloves. I think there is a great opportunity to show that we can play competitive cricket without the big overseas stars. Hopefully a season where young players can step up and as a club to show out depth. Lots of chances for coming players to shine and grab their chances.”

Preview Round 18

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 23/08/19

So we arrive at the denouement of this season’s Topklasse, the championship decided last week with Excelsior reclaiming the title with a convincing win over an understrength Dosti side, and all that remains to be resolved is which of Quick and Sparta will be replaced by Punjab Rotterdam next season.

BdJ: Sparta 1888 still need a win, a tie or a washout against HCC at Bermweg on Sunday to be sure of their Topklasse survival, having failed to put the question to bed when they sank to a 64-run loss against relegation rivals Quick Haag last week. Though Andrew Fletcher has finally found some form after a disappointing season, Max Hoornweg’s progress has proved sufficient to catch the eye of national selectors and Mudassar Bukhari is bowling as well as ever, going up against the second-placed HCC is an unenviable final fixture for a side in Sparta’s position. The Cappelle side has won just one match in the second half of the season, whilst HCC are six from eight. The form of Bryce Street has been a major factor in HCC’s success thus far, currently leading the batting averages as well as boasting 20 wickets and 15 catches so far this season. Adam Wiffen has had a fine season with the bat, and comes off a couple of solid performances for Netherlands A against Jersey in the past week. It’s been an all-round effort from HCC to keep in the title hunt for as long as they did however, and Sparta will have to hope that they arrive at Bermweg somewhat deflated after falling short in the quest for the championship.

RL: No question that HCC have the edge over Sparta, who were distinctly the weaker party in their match against Quick Haag last week. They do have a potential match-winner in Mudassar Bukhari, who shares the season’s leading wicket-taker spot with Dosti’s Kuldeep Diwaan at 32, and who remains a threatening presence in the batting line-up. Sparta are, of course, a tougher proposition at home, where their bowlers are a more imposing unit than elsewhere, but HCC’s batting is both strong and relatively deep; although Hidde Overdijk didn’t come off last Sunday he is also capable of scoring quickly should circumstances demand it. Sparta will want to ensure that events at Westvliet are irrelevant to their survival, but it will take a much improved effort if they are end their season with a win.

BdJ: Also in contention for the wooden spoon are Quick Haag, currently languishing at the bottom of the table on 9 points from 17 games. They will need both HCC to best Sparta on Sunday as well as taking two points home themselves when they face VCC at Westvliet. Their win over Sparta last week kept their hopes alive one more week, though it again rather underscored the importance of Jay Bista to the side. Though Bob van Gigch and Jeroen Brand came through with half-centuries in support, it was Bista’s six wickets in the second innings that sealed the win. That said, VCC will not have forgotten the 194 that the Mumbaiker racked up against them in their previous encounter. Though one might hope Quick will be the more motivated of the two sides come Sunday, VCC bounced back from a string of poor results to find an unlikely last ball win away at VRA last week, perhaps enjoying some cricket with the pressure off.

RL: One of the season’s great enigmas is Voorburg’s failure to have a more significant impact on their return to the Topklasse: they have undoubtedly missed the contribution of Bas de Leede, but their batting has consistently been unable to fulfil its promise and they have only intermittently shown what they ought to be capable of. Quick, on the other hand, demonstrated last week that even without Geert Maarten Mol they can produce a convincing effort when it is needed, and it will never be more acutely needed than it is this week at Westvliet. They could turn on another winning performance only to find that Sparta have squeezed them out; but they know that without such a performance it won’t matter what happens in Capelle. Voorburg have the bowlers to cut through Quick’s batting, but if the latter show the resilience they did against Sparta this is a relegation battle which could go all the way to the wire.

BdJ: Meanwhile VRA have the chance to put a bit of a downer on the party at Thurlede when they take on the newly-crowned <b.Excelsior ‘20. Despite a rather sloppy performance against VCC that saw them concede some 29 extras and eventually the game, they remain entirely capable of bringing the champions down to earth. The loss of Quirijn Gunning to injury takes some of the sting from the attack, but on the batting side of things the Amsterdammers are beginning to live up to their paper strength. Vikram Singh continues to mature, crossing 500 runs for the season last week and looking in good nick for Netherlands A, and together with Peter Borren and Ben Cooper VRA now have three players with 500 runs to their name, whilst Excelsior, quite remarkably, have none. That stat is of course something of a testament to Excelsior’s strength in the field, and indeed the Schiedam side has looked more than the sum of its parts throughout the season.

RL: Brenton Parchment and Lorenzo Ingram may have had relatively quiet seasons for Excelsior with the bat, but they are massive presences in the side, and their efforts in the field far outweigh their mere statistics. With skipper Tom Heggelman and Rens van Troost in great form with the ball the Schiedammers’ demolition of Dosti last week was a fitting climax to their pursuit of the title, but the whole team will be keen to ensure that the season doesn’t end in anti-climax at home to VRA. The Amsterdam side are, of course, extremely dependent on a few outstanding players, including the rapidly-emerging Singh, and their batting will provide a stiff test for Excelsior’s attack.

BdJ: What remains for the rest is mid-table positional play, though for last year’s champions VOC Rotterdam even a top-five finish is more than they can now hope for. They welcome fourth-placed HBS Craeyenhout to Hazelaarweg on Sunday, though one expects both sides will be more concerned with events the preceding day when they contest the final round of the T20 competition along with ACC and HCC. One suspects if one side or other can carry some momentum in from Saturday’s contest at VCC it may prove decisive for the final 50-over contest of the season for these two underperforming sides.

RL: Every game of cricket matters, or ought to, and there will at least be pride at stake when HBS take on VOC on Sunday. Some of the individual battles, too, are intriguing: HBS’s battery of seamers against O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards, for example, and Seelaar’s spin against that powerful HBS batting line-up. If that suggests that HBS have the edge in both departments that’s because they do, but if VOC’s international trio perform as they are capable of doing, or other key team-members like Dirk van Baren and Bobby Hanif play their part, then this could be a closer match than form indicates.

BdJ: And finally ACC, who rather fell away after making the early running in the Topklasse, will take on the wildly erratic Dosti-United at Het Loopveld, again largely for bragging rights. ACC staged something of a resurgence after their late season slump, besting HBS at De Diepput last week to ensure they’d finish top of the Amsterdam clubs this season, whilst Dosti collapsed to 61 all-out against Excelsior to hand the Schiedammers the title on a platter. Dosti were rather understrength last week, with Kohli long gone and Bali and Davids also absent, but there is little indication they will field a substantially stronger outfit come Saturday. Though both Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed have stepped up on occasion to produce some fine innings over the season, Dosti will need both to fire and the rest of the regulars to offer some support if they’re to finish on a high this season.

RL: It’s been a difficult season for Dosti, and not only in the Topklasse, and this was underlined very firmly by last week’s disappointing effort against Excelsior. With Amitoze Singh also missing from the teamsheet and Waheed Masood forced out of the attack after bowling just ten deliveries, the attrition of resources is reaching critical levels, while ACC’s roller-coaster season has at last seen the emergence of some of their younger talents, especially Aryan Kumar and, to a degree, Shirase Rasool. But Brady Barends has been the star of their show, and with the Zulfiqar brothers making runs last week they look a much more impressive outfit than they did a month or so ago.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, VCC, VRA, HBS, ACC

Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Quick, Excelsior, HBS, ACC.

Preview Round 17

With just two rounds left to play, both the ultimate destination of the trophy and who will play in the Hoofdklasse next season remain in doubt, although both questions could be resolved this Sunday. There will be time once the dust has settled to debate whether this reflects positively on the current competition structure and the eligibility rules, but for the moment attention will be centred on Sportpark Drieburg, De Diepput and Nieuw Hanenburg, where crucial battles are scheduled to be fought.

RL: Needing just one more win to make sure of the title, Excelsior ‘20 travel to Amsterdam to take on Dosti United, whose convincing victory over Voorburg last Sunday demonstrated that they are still a force to be reckoned with. With Kuldeep Diwan not only the competition’s leading wicket-taker but also adding great destructive power to the lower order, the Amsterdammers are more capable than most of testing the nerve of Tom Heggelman’s side, and once again a great deal may depend on the toss. Both teams are more effective batting first, though for different reasons: Dosti can set challenging targets, while Excelsior have proved outstanding at defending modest ones. Excelsior haven’t lost since the end of May, but if Dosti win the toss they might just find themselves needing to win their final match at Thurlede to clinch the championship.
BdJ: Excelsior still have two shots at reclaiming the title, but nice as it would be to bag it in front of a home crowd they’ll be keen to put the competition to bed come Sunday rather than letting it come down to the last-round with a resurgent VRA headed to Thurlede. It’s worth noting though that Excelsior’s recent successes in defence of modest totals has come against sides that still had skin in the game, so to speak. It may be a tougher ask to apply that same pressure to a Dosti side with nothing in particular on the line. Even without Taruwar Kohli Dosti’s batting line up has proved capable of running up serious scores, though if Excelsior can maintain the expemplary disciplinethat’s got them this far they’re still odds-on to take home the silverware on Sunday.

RL: For second-placed HCC it is no longer enough to see off VOC Rotterdam; they must hope that Dosti do them a favour as well. Perhaps thrown off their stride somewhat by the collapse of Dirk van Baren, the Rotterdammers fell apart against Sparta last Sunday despite another half-century from Pieter Seelaar, and there must be serious doubts about their attack’s ability to contain an HCC line-up in which Tonny Staal, Adam Wiffen, Bryce Street and now Hidde Overdijk are all among the runs, the latter ending the season with a flourish with the bat, as he began it with the ball. VOC’s chances will depend, again, on whether Max O’Dowd, Seelaar and Scott Edwards are able to match HCC’s growing confidence with the bat, but De Diepput’s tight square boundaries will offer both sides plenty of incentive for some hard hitting.
BdJ: HCC’s championship hopes have indeed slipped out of their hands now, but VOC’s title defence never really got started. The focus of the European Champions, one suspects, has turned to the T20 competition through which they’ll be looking to book a ticket back to La Manga. Nonetheless they remain a formidable 50-over side when their trio of internationals fire, and will of course be the less nervy of the two sides on Sunday. The return of Bobby Hanif has gone some way toward shoring up VOC’s attack after the departure of Fletcher, but despite a creditable first season at Rotterdam for Ashiqullah Said the absence of Fred Klaassen is still keenly felt. If Excelsior are to take the title this weekend, one suspects they’ll have to win it themselves.

RL: Sparta 1888’s defeat of VOC last week relieved the pressure on them a little, but Quick Haag could still overhaul them – by 0.02 of a point – by winning their last two matches, including the clash between the two sides on Sunday, if the Capelle side also lost to HCC the following week. Sparta again owed a lot to Mudassar Bukhari, whose 71 and four for 36 was a fine all-round effort, and they will need him to be at his best again this week to neutralise the danger of Jay Bista, whose importance for Quick’s hopes of survival is even greater. There are plenty of reasons why these two sides are at the foot of the table, but one must hope that the immediate prospect of relegation will inspire them to raise their game at Nieuw Hanenburg on Sunday and produce a match worthy of the top flight.
BdJ: The weight of carrying Quick’s survival hopes on his shoulders seems to be finally taking its toll on Bista, whose run-a-ball fifty against VRA last week looked streakier than usual and again proved insufficient to set up a win. Though Geert-Maarten Mol has again been offering Bista steady support over the season the Hanen nonetheless find themselves in a worst position even than last year, Sparta having stolen a march on them last round and now needing two wins and a little luck if they are to avoid relegation. Neutral fans may be hoping for a Quick win for the sake of the competition, setting up a potential championship/relegation decider at Bermweg in the final round, whilst keeping fully three of the final five fixtures relevant to the title or relegation, but the most likely outcome on form at least is that both will be settled this Sunday.

RL: Despite their rather hollow defeat by Excelsior last week, HBS Craeyenhout could still finish as runners-up if results go their way in the final two rounds, and they will welcome Tobias Visée back from his Canadian exploits for their match against ACC — again scheduled for the second ground at De Diepput. Both these sides have fallen upon hard times in recent weeks after a storming start to the campaign, but they include some of the undoubted stars of the season: Brady Barends for ACC, for example, and Sharn Gomes and Wesley Barresi, as well as Visée, for HBS. The HBS seam attack, Farshad Khan excepted, underperformed against Excelsior, and ACC’s inexplicably fragile top order will be hoping that the same applies this week. If not, it may take more heroics from Barends and Sikander Zulfiqar with the bat to keep the Amsterdammers in the hunt.
BdJ: Both HBS and ACC have looked rather deflated after falling out of contention for the top spot, though it’s difficult to guage how much that has been due to the absence of Toby Visée and Jean Marais at the top of their respective batting orders.The return of the HBS captain after a typically enterprising display at the GT20 will be a boost for HBS, though with three of the top four scorers in the league also to be found in the Crows’ line up one would think a big innings from the skipper looks like a sufficient but not necessary condition for victory.

RL: Quick’s defeat by VRA saved Voorburg from any remaining threat of a quick return to the Hoofdklasse, and they will travel to the Amsterdamse Bos on Sunday knowing that this is a game on which relatively little is riding. For their hosts, however, there is a real possibility that despite their appalling start to the season they could still finish in the top half of the table, having won six of their nine games since Peter Borren resumed the captaincy. On paper it’s a lopsided contest: Voorburg’s tottering batting against a limited VRA attack, VRA’s potentially powerful line-up of Singh, Szwarczynski, Cooper and Borren against a more than useful Voorburg bowling unit. The momentum is decidedly with the home side, and despite Voorburg’s win at Westvliet back in June it would come as something of a surprise if they were to take the points this time.
BdJ: It’s perhaps a surprise that there’s nothing but bragging rights on the line at this game in the end, with both sides starting the season widely regarded as potential title contenders and then both looking like relegation candidates by five games in. VCC did the hard work to put distance between themselves and the wooden spoon in the mid-season, whilst VRA left it a little later. Both sides are now safe, but whilst VRA’s recent form has seen them win five of their last six games, VCC’s last victory came five rounds ago. That said, VRA’s already rickety attack will be further weakened by the loss of a lately in-form Quirijn Gunning, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken hand. An opportunity perhaps for an underperforming VCC line-up to repair their season averages, though given how Dosti dealt with the more celebrated VCC attack last week VRA’s batsmen may well be thinking the same thing.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, Quick, HBS, VCC.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, Sparta, HBS, VCC.